Matthew Jones and Muzzy Izzet

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Matthew Jones, the former Leeds United and Leicester City player asked Birmingham City midfielder Muzzy Izzet about how he achieved his dreams.

Matt Jones: What inspired you to become a football player?

Muzzy Izzet: Going along, watching my local team at the time, West Ham, and seeing professional players playing. When you're a young kid and you're playing with your school mates, it's something that's in your blood, something inside and you think to yourself 'that's what I want to be when I get older'. Also seeing all your heroes, which for me were people like Tony Cottee, Frank MacAvennie and Trevor Brooking. You want to aspire to be something like that.

MJ: Did you watch them play and think 'oh that's what I want to be' like?

MI: I think the first ever time I went to a West Ham match and saw the pitch and the floodlights it just took my breath away. I thought to myself: 'This is it. That's what I want to be'. You always play football as a kid anyway. I loved it so it felt like the right thing for me to try and do.

MJ: Did you always have talent?

MI: I always enjoyed playing it. People used to comment 'He's a decent player' but it still took a lot of hard work. I think in football, to get to Premier League or any professional standard, you need a lot of discipline. You need a lot of hard work and you're going to get a lot of knocks on the way.

MJ: Do you find, being a professional player, that you miss out on some things in life?


Mustafa (Muzzy) Izzet

31 October 1974

Mile End, London

Birmingham City, Leicester City, Chelsea

27 June 2006

Full caps for Turkey
(Muzzy qualified through his Turkish-born Dad)

MI: There are things you miss out on. Like the Christmas', when you get busy playing schedules around that time. Also it was difficult when I was younger when I was an apprentice at Chelsea earning £29 a week. My mates were bricklayers or printers and were earning a couple of hundred quid. You can't afford to go out because as a kid you need to make sacrifices. You can't go out every weekend, for one you can't afford it, but also you know you have to look after your body as well.

MJ: You must have loved the game at the beginning, does that passion always stay there or does it get to a stage where you feel that it's turned into an every day job?'

MI: No, I think the passion is always there. I think this season and last with my injury you forget sometimes how much you do really love football. When you can't do something you crave for it and have to get yourself fit and playing again so you've got that release and you can enjoy something again.

MJ: Tell me about your training regime. What sort of training do you have to do to be a professional footballer?

MI: I think the pre-season training is the hardest part of training physically as a professional footballer. You have to do a lot of running to get your stamina up to the next level. But it's something you get used to, then the season starts, and you're training less because you're playing lots of games.

You might have a few knocks here and there so you can't do as much and once the season actually gets under way the training becomes a lot less. You get a day off in the week to recover and you play your game on the Saturday and sometimes you get the Sundays off.

MJ: What do you like most about training then?

MI: I enjoy coming in every day to train... just to kick a football about basically!

MJ: What makes for the special atmosphere between the players?

MI: I think it's the banter amongst the players that can make a good team. I honestly think if you've got a great team spirit it's worth 10 points a season.

I think if you've got everyone pushing in the right direction, you've got your goals and your targets at the beginning of the season and you've got a good team spirit, if everyone is thinking along the same sort of lines you can achieve quite a bit.

When we were at Leicester, I don't think we were the biggest club in the world, but we had such a great team spirit and a work ethic and everyone was pushing in the right direction so we achieved probably more than we should have.

Cop a couple of cups

Muzzy was twice part of Leicester City's League Cup-winning sides. He played in both the drawn final and the replay as Leicester triumphed over Middlesboro in 1997. He also starred in the 2-1 win over surprise finalists Tranmere Rovers in 2000.

MJ: You've got that dedication, you've got the right attitude as every player knows, you've got the atmosphere in the camp but how do you continue to motivate yourself before going into each and every game?

MI: That is tricky. I think you just have to get it into your head. You know you want to play well for a start and you don't want to go on in front of 40,000 or 50,000 people and embarrass yourself by having a bad performance. You want to show the rest of the public that you can play and I think that's what motivates you as well.

MJ: And what's been the best bit of advice you've had? Is there anything you can remember from the early part of your career or more recently that someone actually said to you and has stuck with you?

MI: I think never give up, especially when you're younger and coming through. You're going to come across a lot of people who say you're not good enough, you're too small, you can't run fast enough - you've just got to ignore it.

If you honestly think that you are good enough, you've just got to keep going and your dream's just around the corner. You can actually put criticism to one side, motivate yourself, work hard enough and it can happen. I honestly felt when I was younger that a lot of people were telling me I wasn't good enough. I'd like to think I proved a few people wrong...

MJ: What's more important talent or attitude?

MI: I do think you need ability and I definitely think you need a big heart to be able to take criticism. You need to be able to motivate yourself, you need to make sacrifices, there are big sacrifices in the way you prepare your life to become a professional footballer. If you do all that, you've got a great chance of making it.

Some people have fantastic ability. I remember when I was younger, there were kids with more ability than me playing but maybe they didn't have the desire I had. Sometimes when you're a kid and people turn around and say you're not good enough it can hurt, but it's how you respond to it, and I think that's what you have to drum into yourself.

MJ: We've seen many players, Muzzy, through our careers, players who have been gifted with talent and ability, players who were so determined or maybe tried too hard sometimes, what advice would you give to a youngster just starting off?

MI: Early on you have got to enjoy your football. Ask yourself do you really want to take it to that next level and are you prepared to make a lot of sacrifices in your life, because you'll have to. You'll have to do things you didn't think you'd have to do as a footballer.

It sounds strange now but cleaning football boots, cleaning stands and cleaning out toilets, vacuuming up, painting walls and things like that, are the types of things you are given as an apprentice. You think to yourself 'what's that got to do with football?' But I think it's there to test you as a person and you have to say 'Right, go on then I'll have a go at it'.

You've always got to be thinking and you've always got to plan ahead. You've got to prepare yourself for the worst and get the best!

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