I was born, Eamonn Gerard O'Keefe, in Blackley (pronounced Blake-lee) in the north of Manchester, England. I wouldn't say it was tough growing up there but the bread vans had armed guards...
I lived with my mam, dad, gran (Dad's mam), three brothers, two sisters and Prince the dog. Prince eventually was taken to live on a farm and, although we kids initially missed him, we were old enough to understand that it was the best thing for him.
About thirty years on my oldest brother, Slunk, scornfully told me that he couldn't believe that I had honestly fallen for Dad's story of "he will have a great life there" - and that Prince had actually been put to sleep!
Incidentally, thinking about it now, I can't for the life of me work out how we all fitted into a three bedroom house - all I can recall is that I slept in the top bunk with Slunk below me... which wasn't great news for him as I continued to wet the bed until I was about fifteen years old.
I was taken to the doctor when I was ten or eleven because I was experiencing breathing problems - I could run all day outside but when I went home for my tea, later in the evenings I would find that I was really struggling for breath. Dad, expert that he was, decided that I had clearly developed some form of asthma and insisted that I should be covered with as many coats as possible at night to keep me warm - this just made me feel worse however. When things didn't improve we made an appointment...
The doctor, after carrying out various tests, informed us that I did, in fact, suffer with a dust mite allergy and that this would be improved if my mother turned the mattress once a day and also hoovered it thoroughly once a week.
"Crikey Mam", I said, when we left. "That's making an awful lot of extra work for you."
My mother shot me a look as if to say,
"If you think that's really going to happen, you are having a laugh!"
It was fair enough. As well as looking after her husband, mother-in-law and six children she also worked as a dinnerlady at St. Clare's Primary School - that mattress was never going to get a mention...
When my football career finally ended, I went to work for the Social Services and was based in residential units. I initially worked in a centre for adults with disabilities and special needs and then transferred, as a Group Leader, to work with children and young people who were looked after and living within the care system. Although often challenging, the job was immensely rewarding and I have some fantastic memories of the children that I met throughout the years - most of whom are now grown up with children of their own. I feel genuine pleasure and pride whenever one of the ex-residents makes contact (via facebook or the like) and this reassures me that I must have done something right! Hmmm... more than enough material there for another book I think...
I lived in Portugal with my wife Lorna, our four dogs and Charlie the cat for four years, before we all returned to the UK in 2011. The phrase "living the dream" was used a lot throughout my football career... I really believe that I am doing that now. Sincere thanks to everybody who helped me along the way - I couldn't have got here without you.