Barnet striker Steve Kabba, who represented Sheffield United and Watford in the top flight, is steadily progressing in his comeback from injury but a certain choice of music doesn’t quite cut it for him as a source of motivation during those days in the gym.
The one-time Crystal Palace youngster has been sidelined since November with a knee injury and after a successful operation is taking it day by day.
“I don’t really look at it in terms of a timeframe for a return, it was only five weeks ago I had the operation but everything is going well so I’m looking at it as ‘each day I’m a day closer’. I’m on crutches still so I’m just trying to wean myself off those at the moment.
“I’ve got another couple of weeks on crutches but I can do things like the gym, leg work and weights but I’m just grateful to be getting back to walking you know, don’t take that for granted.”
The Bees’ popular Australian defender Daniel Leach recently announced his retirement due to injury but during rehabilitation sessions in the gym he had treated Steve to his choice of sounds, much to the frontman’s displeasure!
“Daniel Leach has been playing his iPod in the gym and it’s indie music, (Northern Irish midfielder) Mark Hughes is into it as well. To me that’s not motivating so I have to say ‘get that off’!”
Although Leach’s music doesn’t get the pulse racing for Steve when an adrenaline boost is needed, he generally appreciates most styles of music, as most interviewees on here seem to.
“I like everything really but I’m into hip-hop, some of the old school like Biggie, 2Pac, LL Cool J, as well as Lil Wayne, Drake, Common’s up there too.”
As a big fan of LL Cool J since childhood and the proud owner of all 13 of his albums, I took a portion of satisfaction when Steve mentioned him, especially as this is the 54th interview on here and only the first mention of one of hip-hop’s truest pioneers!
“Yeah he’s a lege, one of the first to do it, he’s more my era as well with him starting in the 80s, he’s decent.”
Lambeth-born Steve, 30, recalls one of the capital’s long-running underground stations (which gained an FM broadcasting licence in 2010 after 16 years) as featuring in his relatively early music-listening days, as well as describing the sounds that don’t feature highly on his list.
“I used to listen to a lot of pirate radio stations like Rinse FM, I was into a lot of the garage stuff as well. It wasn’t the first I bought but I can remember buying a Biggie album, a double CD, ‘Life After Death’.
“I don’t dislike it but I couldn’t go to a house rave and listen to that all night. At Barnet we’re a young team to be fair and there’s not that many bad music tastes, Sam Cox plays his iPod and it’s all up-to-date with the latest stuff.”
Barnet’s Izale McLeod recently spoke to the site along with his wife Laura and the club’s 19-goal top scorer’s ability in front of goal was praised highly by Steve, with some damning of his dress sense thrown in to counterbalance things!
“He’s so greedy! In a good way though because as a striker it’s what you need and that’s what he’s all about, he scores goals.
“It’s all ‘ifs and buts’ because maybe someone else might have come in and got the goals but if Barnet didn’t have him then we’d have been a lot worse off. He’s a top man to be fair, I know he had some injury problems before he came here but he was great last season and he’s continued it this time as well.
“Izale’s got some dodgy gear though, he comes in wearing tracksuit bottoms and a top that doesn’t match! Maybe it’s just me but he’ll wear Adidas trousers with Nike trainers and for me that doesn’t go, I’d have to wear all the same!
“Jude Stirling we had on loan last season from MK Dons as well, he’s got some bad gear, I think he’s going for a Michael Jackson look wearing black trainers and white socks!”
The mention of the late and lamented King of Pop brings us on to Steve’s time at Sheffield United, strangely enough.
“At Sheff U we were on pre-season in China and we were in a bar and I did Michael Jackson ‘Billie Jean’. I’m not a singer at all but yeah they were loving it!”
He joined the Blades in November 2002 from Crystal Palace following a goal-laden loan at fellow second tier side Grimsby Town where he scored six, including a double in a memorable 6-5 win over Burnley.
The 2002/03 season yielded 18 goals in total for Steve for the three clubs, 11 of which were for United in a campaign where they reached the Worthington Cup and FA Cup semi-finals, as well as the Division One play-off final.
“It was a dream move for me and a great season reaching the two semis, even though I was cup-tied for the Worthington Cup. Scoring one and setting up Chief (Wayne Allison) in the Steel City Derby, getting the winner in the FA Cup quarter-final against Leeds and as an Arsenal fanatic, playing against them in the semi at Old Trafford was a great day and achievement.
“Coming on as a sub at half-time against Forest in the play-off semi-final and changing the game! We got to the final against Wolves and were blown out of the water really and were three down in the first-half, Michael Brown missed a penalty and it was an awful day and the longest trip back to Sheffield.”
After 10 goals in 2005/06 as the team won promotion to the Premiership, Steve spent the following season in the top division at Bramall Lane as well as at Watford, joining the Hornets in the January transfer window to aid their ultimately unsuccessful fight against relegation back to the Championship.
“It wasn’t a good time at all, there were a few Championship clubs in for me but I thought if I went to Watford, who were around the bottom of the Premiership, I’d get some game time and help them out. I didn’t really play and only scored one goal in two and a half years there, my confidence was low and it was one of those where from the first day of training it didn’t happen, although it wasn’t for the want of trying.
“I sit screaming at the TV sometimes when I think players should be doing a certain thing, at Arshavin lately, but then I can understand that sometimes it just doesn’t work out. Like Robbie Keane and Harry Kewell when they went to Liverpool for example, you go out there with your best intentions.”
During his time at Sheffield United Steve played under the management of Neil Warnock and while the erstwhile Queens Park Rangers boss has ruffled more feathers than most during his long career Steve enthuses about him.
“I got on well with him, he bought me and he looks after his players. I was still quite young but he’s honest and as a player that’s what you want, if you’re not doing it he tells you.
“I think he liked me but there was one game where I’d scored in the previous two and then I was a sub. He brought me round to his house and put a video on of the game, half-way through he changed his mind and turned it off and said to me ‘maybe I was wrong’!
“He was pretty straight-forward and I appreciate that as if you’re going off track you want to be told before you fall off it. He lost his rag a few times on the touchline but never face-to-face with me, I could hear him screaming sometimes so I’d just pretend I couldn’t hear or run over to the other side!”
Steve was eligible to represent Sierra Leone at international level alongside Nigel Reo-Coker, but neither player would go on to make an appearance for the West African nation.
“When I was at Sheff U the (Sierra Leonean) FA were ringing up and wanted me to play in some friendlies and African Nations Cup qualifiers but it never materialised. I could have gone but at the time I was happy and just wanted to concentrate on my football in England.”
In addition to the aforementioned loan at Grimsby, he spent brief loans from Palace at Southend United (without playing) and Luton Town (three substitute appearances) before his move to South Yorkshire.
While he describes Sheffield United as the peak of his performance, his time at Palace is still an era that he looks upon as an important building block in his career, making his professional bow in December 1999 as an 18-year-old.
“I enjoyed it at Palace, it felt like my career was taking off and I learned a lot. I remember my debut away at Crewe, we lost 2-0 and it was hailstoning and I got subbed in the first half, Steve Coppell said ‘it wasn’t the game for you’.
“Winning a penalty in the Worthington Cup against Tranmere was a highlight as a young striker making the headlines, as well as scoring at Preston in the first game of the 2002 season.”
After loans from Watford to Oldham and Blackpool he left Vicarage Road in 2009, joining up with Brentford and then Burton Albion on loan before signing for current club Barnet in July 2010.
He hit 11 goals in 25 games last season as the Underhill side performed a breathtaking survival act to stay in the Football League, Steve scoring all four for the Bees in a crucial win at Burton in April.
Before injury curtailed his campaign he had scored three times in 12 games this season and he sees improvement on the horizon at the League Two club as they aim to push on from their current position of 20th.
“Basically it’s a bit better than last season, we’ve done really well in the JPT (Johnstone’s Paint Trophy) and are one game from the final. In the league, the 3-0 win at Accrington was a great result and if we can follow that kind of performance up we’ll be comfortable in mid-table.”
After giving his disapproving verdict on the dress sense of Chris Morgan and Ade Akinbiyi (Christmas jumpers all year round!), Steve chose his toughest opponents and the best players he has worked with in his career.
“(Jonathan) Woodgate at Middlesbrough was tough, he read the game well, as did Rio (Ferdinand) who was quite quick. Phil Jagielka was one of the best I’ve played with, obviously going on to play for England, Danny Webber and Michael Tonge as well.
“I learned a lot off a few at Palace, Dougie Freedman, Hayden Mullins, Clinton Morrison, all pals as well. Adam Johnson at Watford, he was one I was surprised Arsenal didn’t buy, a very good player.
“Neil Shipperley was good, Alan Quinn set up a lot for me at Sheffield United. I’ve had a lot of good coaches as well.”
The mention of Irish midfielder Quinn brings me to mention his time playing for both Sheffield clubs, myself as one of the blue and white persuasion I have seen him score for both Wednesday against United and vice versa.
Steve played alongside him, as well as Derek Geary and Leigh Bromby, all three of whom had been released by Wednesday in 2004 before eventually crossing the city to join United.
“He (Quinn) did tell me about one time when he was still at Wednesday and he came to watch a game at the Lane and all the United fans chased him!”
Listing ’24’ as one of his favourite television series Steve has one or two ideas about areas of interest he’d like to get into, although how serious he is about the last one I’m not so sure!
“I’d like to do some coaching with the kids, commentating or motivational speaking as I’m good at giving advice and I think I’m a good talker. I might start the blogging like you, ‘Days In The Life Of Steven Kabba’!”