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Football: Horsfield goes back to his roots and old friends for summer on building site; The Birmingham City striker tells James Nursey of the footballers' alternative break.

Byline: James Nursey

Birmingham City striker Geoff Horsfield must be the only Premiership footballer who plans to keep in shape this summer by working on a building site.

The 29-year-old from Barnsley used to work as a bricklayer in Yorkshire before making it as a professional footballer. But Horsfield still maintains strong ties with his former existence.

Consequently, while his contemporaries jet off to various exotic locations on holiday this summer, pounds 5,000-a-week Horsfield will hang out on a building site with some of his old mates.

He said: 'I'll just relax, play some golf and prepare because pre-season is not too far away. I'll go on a building site for a couple of weeks - I don't think the gaffer will be happy but I'll do a couple of patios and conservatories.

'It does keep you fit and I enjoy it really. I won't go into any dangerous situations and I'll just chill out with my friends. I look forward to going back to my roots.

'I did it last year and I've set up a company with my best mate restoring old houses.'

Horsfield, who joined Blues in 2000 for pounds 2.25 million, warmed up for his summer exertions last week by laying a patio for former Birmingham player Nicky Eden, and he is looking forward to a short break from football following his first season in the Premiership.

The 'Horse', as he is affectionately known to supporters, has played at every level in the English game.

He started out in the Conference with Halifax where the Shaymen won promotion to Division Three before he joined Kevin Keegan's revolution at Fulham.

Although Horsfield says the Premiership is the most enjoyable stage to perform on, he also admits his first season in the top-flight has been the toughest - mentally and physically. He said: 'It has been difficult but it has been good and I'm enjoying it. It has been an indifferent season, I've been sent off twice, scored against Villa twice and had a double hernia operation.

'It is difficult to score goals in the Premier League. It is only Thierry Henry and Ruud van Nistelrooy - with the exception of James Beattie - that have really scored lots of goals.

'There are not many players that can actually do that and they must be worth pounds 30-to-pounds 40 million each.'

Horsfield scored his fifth goal of the season against West Ham United in Birmingham's final Premiership match and surprisingly it was the first game this season he has started and scored in.

Indeed, manager Bruce has already labelled Horsfield his 'supersub', but after starting the last seven games of the season alongside Christophe Dugarry, Horsfield believes he and the Frenchman are building a formidable partnership which he hopes to continue next term.

Dugarry has committed himself to the club for the next two years but, with Bruce set to purchase another striker over the summer, Horsfield knows he must fight for his place again next season.

He said: 'I expect we will sign two or three players in the summer which is all good for the squad and good for the club. Personally, it makes me work harder in training and on the pitch.

'People are saying I must be gutted because Christophe is staying and might take my place but I think we need world-class players like him here to get better and to help the club.

'He has got God-like status here. He is a fantastic lad as well and his English is getting a lot better.

'I've enjoyed playing with him and I think my game has improved as a result. I do a lot of his running for him. He just laughs at me when I run past him into the channels.

'He is a fantastic player and it is great that we have signed him for another two years. He is on a different level and it is unbelievable what he can do with the ball. We know how much ability he has got.

'You should see him in training. He has a superb physique, too, and I am sure he will be able to do it over the whole of next season too.

'When he first came he hadn't played many games and he hadn't got his fitness and as soon as he gets his pre-season he'll do well. 'People think because he has been taken off a lot in games that he is struggling with the pace of the game but the gaffer tells us to put ourselves about for 70 or 80 minutes.

'He can always bring on someone else. That's what the gaffer likes to do - he likes you to run yourself into the ground.

'Having Christophe here will attract other players too. I think players will think that it has got to be a good club if Christophe plays for them. He's our biggest signing. If you look at his performances for five or six games he didn't score but he was excellent and towards the end of the season he scored goals which topped it off.'

Horsfield is one of Birmingham's most senior players these days following an influx of newcomers under Bruce. He is one of the few players brought in by Bruce's predecessor, Trevor Francis, who are still playing regularly, and it was no surprise when he assumed the role of captain for the second half at Newcastle in Blues' penultimate Premiership match.

Horsfield skippered Birmingham at St James' Park in the absence of Jeff Kenna and Robbie Savage and his tireless running and dedication to the cause make him an inspirational leader. However, Horsfield says he has no designs on Kenna's armband and is content just to be in the team and help Birmingham build on their 13th-position finish this season.

He said: 'Jeff Kenna's got it at the moment. I think the gaffer just gives it to me for the social side really.

'I am pretty sociable and he gave it to me in pre-season but I'm not bothered about that as long as I'm in that starting XI.

'That's all I am worried about and hopefully we can have a good season next year and build on what we have achieved.'

If Birmingham can maintain their form from the last 11 games of this season - they won seven and lost three - that should certainly be attainable. With Horsfield honing his construction skills over the summer, the Yorkshireman will be desperate to play a prominent role.

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Geoff Horsfield, a former bricklayer, has set up a company with best mate restoring old houses
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:May 19, 2003
Words:1100
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