Savage: People see the tan and the hair - they don't realise I love football!
Robbie Savage will be just where he likes to be on Saturday afternoon - at the centre of attention, when he faces his former club Birmingham in the fifth round of the FA Cup. The roots may be showing and there may not be as much energy in his legs, but he still talks a good game, as he proved to Neil Moxley this week. NM: How is life at Derby, Robbie? RS: I'm having the best spell since I left Birmingham, which was my best ever. I should have been sent off against Newcastle the other night, mind you. That was a bad tackle. I caught Wayne Routledge late. I'd have got to him five years ago. These days it feels like I'm running around with a caravan on my back. Plenty to say for himself: Savage enjoys his media work...and wants a spot on the Match of the Day sofa NM: You can smile now, but it's not always been easy for you at Derby. RS: I was brought in to make an impact. But I wasn't good enough for Paul Jewell. In a way I let him down a little bit. To spend nearly £2million on a 33-year-old and give me the contract they did - I couldn't believe it. But I didn't realise how poor the team was. The situation was horrendous. We had four or five points and went into every game knowing we weren't going to win. We lacked confidence. I feel I could have done more than I did. The funny thing is, I would have taken a pay-off. I would have taken whatever to get out of here because it wasn't working. I could have done more for Paul Jewell. NM: Drastic times call for drastic measures... RS: I was talking to Michael Tonge about it. I told him, this time last year I was going to Beirut! He thought I was joking but I had an offer to go out there and I was considering it. I thought I was finished. There were times that it looked like my legs had gone. I wasn't myself and I've only been allowed to be myself in the past year. Old foes: Savage and former Manchester United star Ronaldo clash NM: So what is it that Nigel Clough has done to get you playing again? RS: On day one he got us all out in the car park, even the injured players. That's old school. The injured ones are usually in the warm, having a nice cup of tea. It was freezing outside and he got everyone out. And I mean everyone. He said: 'I'm not going to go through the old clich?about a new start. It's up to you.' He's like Martin O'Neill. He doesn't want people in the comfort zone. He did save my career but most of that is down to me as well because if I'd performed like I did under Paul Jewell, I wouldn't have started under Nigel Clough. I have been magnificent! NM: What's Nigel like? RS: Very intelligent. Always watches Countdown. Never lets me include Welsh words though. Keeps insisting that only the ones in the Oxford English Dictionary are allowed. NM: As you near the end of your career, what are your thoughts now you look back on your time at Birmingham? You, the fans and the club seemed made for one another. 'Best times': Savage spent three years at Birmingham RS: My best times were at Birmingham. I want to talk about the positives of me being at Birmingham rather than the negatives. It's a great football club and the fans deserve success. I wasn't joking about being the second best player. I think if you asked David Sullivan or David Gold, in their tenure I was probably the second or third best player they had at the club. Christophe Dugarry made a huge impact. He made that big an impact he did well to come second in the Player of the Year vote that season. I had everything. I had a great manager in Steve Bruce and I was idolised. I probably didn't appreciate what I had at Birmingham at the time. You get offered the earth to stay -chauffeur-driven cars, every Monday off. But it was just the attraction of Mark Hughes at Blackburn. Brucie said to me: 'In years to come, you won't realise what you had here.' And he was right. It was something very special. NM: And you are broadcasting now. On the radio, television work. Robbie Savage the media darling. RS: Robbie Savage is the overall package. He likes doing the television, he likes doing the radio, likes being in the headlines. When all that's flowing it' s fantastic. I remember when I was doing a column in FourFourTwo magazine, Brucie said to me: 'Any chance of you concentrating on your football?' But it was the whole package. That's what it's like here now. I enjoy my media work but it doesn't affect my football. I love football, that's what people don't realise. They just see the hair and the teeth and the tan and the big house and the car and the Dolce & Gabbana clothes, the model wife and houses all over the world. What they don't see is when I go home. I go for a dip first in the indoor pool, look out over my golf course - what they don't see then is that I watch ESPN, Spanish, German football. everything. Since 1990 I just watch any league in the world, any football all the time. My knowledge of the game is up there with the best and that's why I want to stay in it. Derby v BIRMINGHAM: Christian Benitez provides cup boost for Alex McLeishDerby 3 Newcastle 0: Kris Commons' touch puts Rams in dreamlandYou've been savaged! Derby skipper Robbie Savage rips into reporter NM: What about management? RS: If you're successful, it's great; but I'm a bit insecure, I'm a terrible worrier, and whether I could handle all the expectations of all your players, all the club, I don't know. If you're the main man, it's your decision. Mark Bowen was a great No 2, Gary Crosby is, Eric Black is, but as No 2 you're always going to want to be the No 1. You're always relying on your mate and I'd have to be the one making the decisions. NM: So you'd like to be the next Alan Hansen? RS: Yes, I would. What Alan Hansen's done is unbelievable. He won loads of things and not many players have done that. I can speak for the majority of footballers. I have been an average Premier League player, or a Championship player, so I can speak for the majority because I know what they are going through. Not everybody's won Champions League titles. NM: So if I gave you the choice of managing Wales or being the next Alan Hansen, which one would you choose? RS: Be the new Alan Hansen. Anyone can manage Wales. It's been proven. NM: Do you think there's a danger that some Birmingham fans might change their opinions of you by reading this? RS: Not a chance. I can't wait. Five-and-a-half thousand Bluenoses. But I fancy us, I really do.
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