Chesterfield boss John Pemberton on playing against Brazil and Real Madrid legend Ronaldo, FA Cup final v Manchester United and admiring Pep Guardiola

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Chesterfield boss John Pemberton played more than 300 games during his career including an FA Cup final with Crystal Palace and European football with Leeds United.

The former defender had his career cut-short through injury when he was 33.

Here he talks us through his highs and lows...

Who are the best players you have played with?

“I would say the biggest standout players was when I went to Leeds United.

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“You are talking about good professionals like Gordan Strachan, Gary Speed and David O’Leary.

“Tony Yeboah would be up there as one of the best players I have played with, he was just exceptional.

“Ian Wright I played with at a great time at Crystal Palace.

Chesterfield caretaker manager John Pemberton.Chesterfield caretaker manager John Pemberton.
Chesterfield caretaker manager John Pemberton.

“I was at Manchester United as a kid and Mark Hughes was in my youth team and he was another level. He is one of the best players I have played with and against.”

Who are the best players you have played against?

“There are so many.

“Alan Shearer, Ian Wright, Jurgen Klinsmann.

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“I played against Ronaldo for Leeds in Europe when he was at PSV and I have got his shirt. He was just on another level. We played them home and away in the Uefa Cup. We ended up losing 5-3 on aggregate. I played centre-half and he was just something else. He wasn’t one of those players who would just run around all game, his runs were just quick and explosive but he was economical with them. Kilnsmann was someone who ran everywhere but Ronaldo wasn’t. He would just walk… and then explode.

“I remember playing against Real Madrid for Leeds and playing against Ivan Zamarano who was unbelievable in the air, quick, strong, powerful and Emilio Butragueñoho who was a Spanish striker and a little, stocky Mark Hughes-type of player.

“I played against Sonny Anderson, Philip Cocu, John Barnes, Ryan Giggs, Roy Keane.

“When I was playing there were a lot of really good strikers and the best strikers in the Premiership a lot of them were English. If you take Harry Kane out of the English set up there is not a lot behind that really I don’t think but in my era there was Shearer, Andy Cole, Wright, Teddy Sheringham, Robbie Fowler, Stan Collymore, there was so many unbelievable strikers that were English playing in the Premier League.”

Who are the best players you have coached?

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“I think one of the best players was Jermaine Jenas because he could play any position and he would play really well.

“I have played so many who have gone on to a good level.

“I coached Dominic Calvert-Lewin and you could see he had so much ability and he was such an athlete.

“Michael Dawson, Andy Reid, Jamaal Lascelles and Harry Maguire as well.”

Who is the best manager you played under during your career?

“That’s a tough one.

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“Growing up as a kid I had Eric Harrison at Manchester United. He was just unbelievably demanding and tough to play for.

“Then I went to Crewe and I played for Dario Gradi who improved me as a player. He was brilliant on the one-to-one stuff and improving my knowledge of the game and my technique.

“Then I went to Crystal Palace and played under Steve Coppell who was a very good technician.

“Dave Bassett at Sheffield United was just a brilliant man-manager, the best I have ever had bar none. He could get on every level with every player.

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“And then Howard Wilkinson was tactically very good and extremely professional.”

What is the best match you have played in?

“I loved the FA Cup final (3-3 v Manchester United in 1990) because it was the first time I had played in an FA Cup final which was a dream. I can’t tell you how I felt walking out at the old Wembley in front of that crowd. That was it for me, definitely.”

Who are the managers in the game now who you most admire?

“I love Pep and everything about him. I love how his teams play. I love his enthusiasm for the game.

“I used to love Arsene Wenger because I used to love watching his team play. I love watching that kind of football.

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“I used to love Alex Ferguson. The team of the 90s I played against and it was just so quick and energetic and attack-minded.”

What is the highlight of your career so far?

“Definitely the FA Cup final and playing in Europe because that is something I wanted to do.

“I was called up with England when Graham Taylor was manager but never played and then Mick McCarthy called me up with Republic of Ireland and I was going to play for them but I ended up smashing my knee in at Chelsea two weeks before the end of the season so I never played at international level.

“But the highlight would be playing in the Premiership for as long as I did and playing at the clubs I played at. I enjoyed every club I played at.”

What is the lowlight of your career so far?

“The lowlight for me was when I finished playing.

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“I was playing in the Premiership at 33 with Leeds United and I smashed my knee and I never played again and that was me done and I was not ready to retire. I found that so difficult. My head was not ready to retire but my body could just not do it.

“Me and Mark Hughes went in for a tackle and we just got caught up and my leg got stick between us and it just twisted the other way round and it ripped a chunk out of my bone which they said was like the size of a 10p.

“I had to have eight operations but I just never recovered from it and I ended up having a full knee replacement in 2016. It was the best thing I ever had, it completely changed my life. It had got to the stage where I could not walk and could not sleep at night.

“It was my biggest disappointment because I used to love training. I was such a fit guy and to have it wiped away because of an injury, psychologically and mentally that was the toughest time in football definitely.

If you could change one rule in football what would it be?

“If someone has to go off for stitches you should be able to replace them with someone else while they are getting treated. It is a stupid rule. “