In his latest Q&A with former players, Daniel Smith had the pleasure of speaking with the Whites’ first £1m+ player, Paul Peschisolido. The diminutive Canadian was signed as a statement of intent at the outset of the Al Fayed era and went on to score many important goals during his 117 appearances for the club, as well as that cracker up at Anfield!
DS – How did you get your first opportunity in football?
PP – I represented Canada at every level at the age of 15 & I played in the under 16 World Cup which was held in Toronto, Canada. I was drafted by Toronto Blizzard as 1st overall pick and played in the Canadian Professional Soccer League. My manager at Toronto was Tony Taylor who moved on to Birmingham City with then-coach Terry Cooper. Tony recommended me to Terry as Birmingham were desperate for a striker. I flew over on trial and signed after 2 reserve matches and 2 goals may I add!!
DS – Did you find it easy to settle when you first arrived in England?
PP – When I arrived at Birmingham it was a bit of a culture shock, I spent time with Juventus at youth level and the professionalism and facilities were off the scale, Birmingham, on the other hand, was not great. The gym was a rusted multi gym under one of the stands with a single 40-watt bulb above it hanging on a wire. Our kit was a mismatch of the last 3 years kits. We had to clear the park of dog mess before we could train on it as we didn’t have a training ground! But the passion of the supporters was unbelievable and I loved it from day one despite all the other issues.
After a couple of years Birmingham were taken over by the Gold brothers and David Sullivan. They put Karren in to run the club. It was a bit of a shock at first that this very young woman was put in charge but we instantly could tell that the club was being transformed for the better and she didn’t take any crap from anyone.
DS – You mention your wife Karren who became the Managing Director at Birmingham City as you’ve explained. Within a season of her arrival, you were transferred to Stoke City. Did she sell you?!
PP – Karren and I did begin to see each other at Birmingham and yes she did sell me to Stoke (for a profit she would want me to add). In fairness, Birmingham were relegated that season and I guess they wanted to get some money in, and it suited me as I didn’t want to play in the lower league.
DS – How did the move to Fulham come about and were there other offers elsewhere? What made you want to sign for Fulham?
PP – The move to Fulham came about whilst I was at WBA. I was called into the office by the late Ray Harford who was the manager. He told me that the club had agreed a fee with Fulham and Kevin Keegan wanted to meet with me to discuss the move to London.
It was common knowledge that Mohammed Al Fayed had taken control of the club and had huge plans to transform the club into a Premier League side. I was whisked off to the Dorchester Hotel and sold the 3-year plan to get into the Premier League. Kevin was so enthusiastic and genuine. I just couldn’t turn the exciting offer down.
DS – You were the first million pound player in the third tier of English Football. How were you greeted by your teammates, (particularly the players who’d got us promoted) coming into the club as a record signing and did you feel extra pressure to perform?
PP – There is always a bit of pressure to perform when you join a new club and perhaps a bit more when you’re a record signing. I have to say Ray Wilkins and the lads at the club were fantastic and made me feel welcome from day one. It also helps when you score on your debut which I had a habit of doing.
DS – What was your relationship like with both Ray Wilkins & Kevin Keegan? Also, how did their styles differ?
PP – I had an amazing relationship with Ray Wilkins, he was a true gentleman and a pleasure to play for. He really was ‘one of the boys’ and probably could have still played.
Kevin was a motivator and loved to galvanise a team by organising loads of bonding sessions. Under Kevin we had a very close-knit group.
DS – We have to talk about your goal at Anfield. What a goal! Is it the best you’ve ever scored?
PP – The goal at Anfield was certainly my best and it wasn’t a cross as I’ve seen Cookie and Simon Morgan going on about for Fulham TV!!!
I managed to score a carbon copy of the goal a couple of weeks later vs Chesterfield (I think) just to prove it wasn’t a fluke.
DS – I suppose your worst moment in a Fulham shirt came in the playoffs v Grimsby when you were sent off for a somewhat “physical challenge!” Where does it rank in your career lows and what do you make of the challenge looking back?
PP – Yes the sending off vs Grimsby was a terrible low, Kevin’s team talk was about keeping our discipline which makes it even worse. I was so pumped for the match and I genuinely was trying to block the defender clearing the ball. I didn’t think I’d done anything wrong at the time and thought he had caught me on his follow through. I’ve seen the video since and it does look pretty bad but I wish there were as many cameras back then as there are today because I reckon from different angles and close-ups I might be right.
DS – You experienced promotion both as a Champion with Fulham and through the playoffs with Sheffield Utd & Derby. Which do you look back at as more special & why?
PP – Promotions are always an amazing achievement, I couldn’t possibly rate them to be honest.
DS – Was you surprised that Paul Bracewell was chosen to replace Keegan as manager and did how did your relationship with him change as he went from a teammate to the boss?
PP – We weren’t surprised with Paul Bracewell’s appointment as he was such a hugely experienced pro and very close to Kevin. So I’m sure the club wanted to maintain the momentum that we had gained with Kevin. As Brace was quite a bit older than us he was already a bit of a manager figure on the pitch so it didn’t really change.
DS – What was your relationship like with Jean Tigana & in your opinion were you given a fair chance to prove yourself under him?
PP – I had no relationship with Tigana at all. I can’t tell you how frustrated I felt when he came in. I could see that he was a very good manager and I could see that the club were going to be successful but he just would not give me a chance regardless of what I did. I would have loved the opportunity for just 90 mins in that team to show what I could do. He never spoke to me once while he was there.
DS – Who was the best player that you played with at Fulham?
PP – We had a lot of great players at Fulham. Chris Coleman was a great player and an even better captain, Steve Finnan who was Mr reliable and I formed a great partnership with Geoff Horsfield. Lee Clark was also a gifted footballer. I would have loved an opportunity to play up front with Louis Saha too.
DS – What was your favourite match for the Whites?
PP – I can’t remember any one particular game, I had such a great time there that it’s too difficult to single one out.
DS – Who were your closest mates at the club and do you keep in touch with anyone?
PP – As I mentioned earlier we had such a good team bond. When we would organise a night out, everyone would show up. I shared a flat with Stevie Hayward and we would share rides back to the Midlands so he and I were very close. I still play in the shooting stars charity match at Craven Cottage most years and it’s always nice catching up with Kit, Morgs, Rufus, Barry, Smudger & Cookie. All great lads.
DS – Did you enjoy your spell in charge of Burton Albion and is management something you’d like to get back into? What were the pros & cons of being a Football Manager?
PP – I loved my time managing Burton, it was a real learning curve and I enjoyed every minute of it. I think I did a pretty good job as well! It consumed my entire life and by the end, took its toll on me physically and mentally, not sure If I would like to get back into it but never say never.
DS – You made 53 appearances for Canada, what was it like to represent your country & how tough was it travelling back and forth for International duty?
PP – Representing your country is always an honour but it was challenging at times as most of our matches are played on the other side of the world. Playing for your club team on a Saturday, then flying 13 hours on economy to Central America, playing on a Wednesday, then returning on economy to play again on a Saturday takes its toll. But it was an honour!
DS – Do you have a favourite moment from your International career & how did it feel to be inducted into the Canadian Hall of Fame in 2013?
PP – In 2000 we won the CONCACAF Cup which is Canada’s best ever achievement to this day. I’m not sure how we did it but it was a magnificent achievement and to be inducted into the Canadian hall of fame was pretty special too.
DS – What are you up to now?
PP – I have been working for DAZN which is a on demand sports channel doing commentary and presenting work for their Canadian audience who are one of the subscribing nations.
DS – Finally Paul, pie or pasty, which filling
PP – I’m Canadian, I do really like pasty’s but I guess I would have an apple pie. Does that count?