“If you’ve ever been in a car and you mean to go from fifth gear into fourth, and you actually go into second, it hit you physically like that. You couldn’t get your head around it.”
Pat Nevin is describing the moment when, on Saturday, April 15, 1989, the sensation of sheer euphoria coursing through his veins was suppressed by that of utter desolation, and apogee was followed by nadir in an instant.
A waif-like winger in Colin Harvey’s ranks, Nevin had endured a stop-start first season at Goodison Park following a £925,000 summer move from relegated Chelsea aged 24. A blistering beginning was curtailed by injury in his third league game, which saw him miss the next three months of the campaign. Everton, having won two league titles, an FA Cup and a European Cup Winner’s Cup under Howard Kendall in the last five years, languished in mid-table.
But in an otherwise unspectacular campaign, another thrilling FA Cup run offered some respite. It took Everton to Villa Park on that sun-kissed April afternoon, where thanks to Nevin’s scrappy winner, Norwich City were seen off in the semi-final. After a season pockmarked by dressing-room schisms, this felt the day things finally clicked.
“We beat Norwich 1-0, but were by a distance the better team,” he says.
“There seemed to be a gel that day; it felt like it was coming together. Sharpy [Graeme Sharp] and TC [Tony Cottee] were working together, Trevor [Steven] and Sheeds [Kevin Sheedy] had really good games, I did alright. It just felt like a group.
“I remember thinking: ‘This is why I came here.’ I can’t tell you how happy I was coming off that pitch. My dad was there, my wife-to-be was there, her mum and dad were there; it was just glorious.”
Amid the full-time ecstasy, Nevin was yet to learn of the events at the other semi-final, which should have taken place simultaneously, at Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough Stadium between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.
Only after BBC reporter Mike Ingham told him prior to a post-match interview that dozens of fans had lost their lives at the ground, in a disaster which ultimately claimed the lives of 96 supporters, did he become conscious of the harrowing reality. It was, as Nevin poignantly describes in his newly-released memoirs, The Accidental Footballer, ‘the highest high of my time in football to the lowest low in less than twenty seconds.’
“At that point [the final whistle], I’m already thinking: ‘This is going to be an amazing final,’ ‘I bet it’s Liverpool,’ all that,” he says.
“That lasted five minutes. By the time I got off and did the interview, I was absolutely crushed. I couldn’t give a stuff about football at that point.
“It was a horrible time and it didn’t go away. It was still there by the time the final came round.”
Inevitably, the following weeks after the Hillsborough disaster were utterly draining emotionally. Nevin and his Everton team-mates attended countless funerals, which involved heart-rending renditions of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone,’ while he ardently believed the final should not be played to highlight the tragedy’s significance to the wider world.
Nonetheless, Liverpool triumphed against Forest in the re-arranged semi final at Old Trafford, booking a Merseyside derby at Wembley on May 20.
Twice, Everton fought back from behind that day thanks to substitute Stuart McCall’s brace, but it was the man who came off the Reds’ bench, Ian Rush, whose double condemned Harvey’s valiant side to a 3-2 defeat after extra time.
The disappointment for Nevin is that, despite truly believing he was part of a side on the cusp of restoring the club to its former glories, this cup final loss by a hair’s breadth was as good as it got during his four years at Everton.
“I wanted to blank everything and make it another game,” he says of his preparations before the final.
“We were always going to give our best, and you can’t get much closer than that. We played against a right good team with world-class players - slightly too many of them, especially coming off the bench.
“But I remember coming away from it and I had other things on my mind. I was getting married a week or two later and remember thinking: ‘Actually, we might have this now. Everton fans want us to go and win trophies. We were within an ace of it there. We’re going to get better.’
“The real sadness is that was the apex of it. I’d played in that league for a while and I knew we were good enough to be top two or three, easily.”
It is one of countless chapters of an illustrious playing career recounted vividly and eloquently in Nevin’s book, which chronicles his time as a fledgling young forward in his native Scotland, before moving south of the border from Clyde to Chelsea, and then on to Goodison.
Though a sense of joy and fulfilment envelops many of its pages, the book is not without its fair share of heavier, more sombre topics, either. Hillsborough was one of two subjects, Nevin says, which made him slow down while writing it. The other was allegations of sexual abuse made against coaches he knew from his time at Celtic Boys Club as a teenager, which Nevin, who was not a victim, felt a responsibility to write about.
He outlines his shocking experiences of racism and homophobia during his career; an anti-apartheid activist in Glasgow in his late teens, he was disgusted by the racial abuse his friend and Chelsea team-mate Paul Canoville, the club’s first black player, received, even from their own supporters at times. Homophobic abuse was also aimed Nevin’s way at matches on occasion.
These problems have far from vanished from the footballing landscape yet, but at least appear to be tackled and exposed more actively nowadays. How would Nevin, a constant voice in opposition to these issues and who even once met with far-right National Front members to try to reason with them, have felt if he were a footballer in today’s climate?
“I don’t think I’d have been any different. I’d still have been talking about them. We’ve not fixed racism; we’ve come a decent distance but we’ve not fixed it within society. We’ve certainly not fixed homophobia,” he says.
“But when a footballer comes out, that will normalise it further. There’ll be a hell of a lot of people like me, standing shoulder to shoulder, fighting for the cause. It will be great to see when it happens.
“I couldn’t not write about what happened at Celtic Boys. People were not educated in certain things and there was great ignorance then. They couldn’t help being ignorant about the lack of knowledge about paedophilia because they probably had never heard the word before, so there was no concept of it going on to a lot of people.
“That level of ignorance does not exist anymore, which is great, but it’s really sad that it took that to actually happen. I want to tell you what it felt like - that’s all I want to tell you - why it wasn’t spotted, who should have spotted it, what it felt like, and what specifically was happening. I think a lot of people of certain generations will look at it and go: ‘Yeah, that was my school, or my club’.
“The other thing to come out of it, one of the most important points, is that none of those kids are to blame. Certainly not the ones who suffered from it, but neither were the other kids who weren’t abused.
“They had no idea. Why should they? Paedophiles were hiding. That’s what they’re good at; they’re manipulative. So I had to write about it, although there were plenty of other things in the book I enjoyed writing about more than that.”
As he grew up living with his parents and five siblings in a three-bedroom tenement in Easterhouse, Glasgow, or later in a semi-detached council house in nearby Barlanark, Nevin’s love of playing football never translated into a burning desire to forge a career out of it. Even after scoring in Scotland Under-18s’ win over Czechoslovakia in the final of the 1982 European Championships, he flew straight back to Glasgow to sit an economics exam for his degree the following afternoon.
As the book reflects, there are plenty more facets to his character than merely Pat Nevin the footballer: this is a man who radiates a deep passion for music, for instance, as evidenced by his curry nights and ‘sitting in’ with iconic BBC DJ and idol John Peel, or the evening he spent at Morrissey’s house, or the time he asked not to play the second half of a Chelsea friendly so he could get to a New Order gig.
It’s his impeccable music taste which helped him instantly warm to Harvey, too. Disillusioned by a playing style which straitjacketed him at Chelsea, Nevin had been tempted by the advances of Paris Saint-Germain, and of the prospect of immersing himself in another cultural hotbed. Yet when Everton came calling in the summer of ‘88, the cachet of the club and admiration of Harvey made it easy for head to rule heart.
That, and a mixtape created by Harvey’s daughter Melanie playing in the car on the drive up to Liverpool with Harvey and his assistant, Terry Darracott.
“I was asked to go [to Everton] and it was just: ‘Yeah, alright!’ It feels like a different world, doesn’t it? I wasn’t turning up with bunches of agents, playing people off against each other. It was just me, in the back of a car with Colin and Terry Darracott, playing The Cure,” he says.
“Goodison might have been my favourite ground [before joining Everton]. There was something about Goodison which was hard to explain; it just felt real, closer, you felt involved with the fans. It’s what real football should feel like.
“The pitch was a dream. You’ve no idea how important that was; some of the pitches were rank, like a potato field most of the time. You try playing tiki-taka in a potato field - good luck with it, I don’t care who you are!
“I can remember a few times, when I dummied somebody or got round a player [while playing for Chelsea at Goodison] and played a pass, there would be this slight murmur of: ‘Yeah, that wasn’t bad’ from the fans. It’s not applauding it, it’s like: ‘Yeah fair enough, that’s alright.’ You got that at Goodison because it had that kind of feel.”
Nevin, one of the more honest footballers you’re likely to find (he starts our interview bemoaning the amount of screaming and wailing he’s heard from players in empty stadiums this season), reveals in his book that on only three occasions did he try to hurt an opponent on the pitch.
The first was for Chelsea at Goodison when, after a tackle with ‘Pyscho Pat’ Van Den Hauwe, Nevin was convinced the full-back had spat on him. When he retaliated with a two-footed lunge, he missed Van Den Hauwe and ended up careering towards fellow winger Trevor Steven.
Both Van Den Hauwe and Steven were still at Everton when Nevin upped sticks for Goodison - did that make for an awkward introduction with either player?
“Ha - no! Pat was kicking lumps out of everybody, you’ve got to remember,” he laughs.
“Pat is a dead interesting character - quite unusual in ways you wouldn’t suspect. He had no threshold for pain at all. I could remember once putting a firework under his bed - just ruining my image a wee bit - I sound like a footballer there!
“He was in getting treatment and Les [Helm, former Everton physio] was getting annoyed with big Pat because he thought he was staying in there too long. I thought: ‘I’ll see if I can get him out of the room,’ so I put a firework under the bed!
“Honestly, it went flying out and almost broke the roof - and the brilliant thing about it: he would never have thought it was me because I was Mr Sensible. I used to play this - ‘I wonder who’s done that… well, as the union rep, I’ll find out for you’ - it was me all along!”
Despite Steven being a beloved member of Everton’s golden era under Kendall, and a potential rival for Nevin’s place on the wing, Nevin insists there was no friction between him and Steven, who he calls ‘the sweetest guy’.
In fact, Nevin only wishes he’d spent longer playing with him than a year. Steven would depart for Rangers in 1989, where he later received a toupee in the post acquired from a joke shop, attached to a ‘missing’ note on official Everton notepaper, from Nevin and Neville Southall.
“Trevor probably moved a bit more central when I came. We were quite adaptable - left, right, off the striker, number ten - I could do any of them, and Trevor was very similar. We both started the cup final, so there was none of that,” he says.
“We had lots of similarities in personality as well. He came from Berwick-upon-Tweed; my wife came from about ten miles away from there, so before we came, we had lots in common, anyway.
“We were only there together for a year and I’d have loved it to have been more, because I think we could have dovetailed really well. But Rangers were massive at the time - they were in Europe, we weren’t allowed in Europe [due to the 1985 Heysel Disaster]. I absolutely didn’t blame Trevor for going, but I’d loved him to have stayed. He’d certainly have made our team even better.”
At Chelsea, Nevin was affectionately known as ‘Weirdo’ due to various idiosyncrasies (in the testosterone-fuelled footballing sphere, anyway) including going to the Royal Ballet and his interest in the writings of Camus and Dostoevsky.
The archetypal bohemian footballer, you’d likely spot him in a Joy Division shirt, leather jacket and ripped jeans off the pitch, and on away trips, he used to hide a second copy of NME (a magazine he wrote for and whose editor he shared a London flat with) at the bottom of his bag, given the first was invariably shredded.
That nickname didn’t stick at Goodison - “It’s kind of hard to be ‘Weirdo’ when Neville Southall’s there!” he says in jest about the legendary Everton goalkeeper, who in training proved one of many victims of Nevin’s trademark ‘scoops’ - but accepts he was still the outsider in a divided dressing room.
“The ‘Weirdo’ thing is funny because it was said with real affection. I remember at Chelsea, Colin Pates and John Bumpstead used to go: ‘Weirdo!’ ‘Oddball!’ in a python-esque way, but they were my best friends at the club,” he says.
“At Everton, the dynamic was different. It was more about the cliques growing in the team that were spoiling what I thought was a real possibility of maximising our potential.
“There was a moment, though, when Colin Harvey brings it up just at the end of his time. He said: ‘There’s two cliques in this team,’ and then he stopped and said: ‘There’s three - there’s Pat.’
“I always thought there were a number of people I worked with who, if they had more of my feeling about it, might be better players and certainly happier people. So I did try to help people along the way, especially those who were outsiders.
“But I try to underline to everyone that you could still have a laugh and enjoy it. I think back to the first days at Chelsea, when two players were standing stark naked fighting each other in the bath and I’m going: ‘You’re weird, you people!’
“For all that it was upsetting, I meet every one of those guys from either side and I get on great with them all. I’m easy to get on with. Being an outsider, I hoped I would be the glue, but I wasn’t able to be that. However hard Colin tried, he just couldn’t get it.”
Indeed, much as Nevin tried to help establish some synergy between those Everton factions, it was not to be for the club under Harvey. Finishes of fourth, eighth and sixth may appear respectable to the modern-day Evertonian, but to a fan base who had been spoilt for silverware in the mid-80s, the close of the decade felt somewhat a damp squib by comparison.
The 1990-91 season was then fraught with tension. Everton began the campaign with a home loss to newly-promoted Leeds, though the game may be best remembered for Southall sitting with his back to a Gwladys Street goalpost during half-time with Everton two down.
There was then a team outing to a Chinese restaurant, which later saw Martin Keown and Sheedy come to blows in a bar. After just one league win in their opening ten games left Everton 18th, a League Cup home defeat to bottom club Sheffield United in late October was the final straw for Harvey.
Yet Harvey was not gone long. Within a week, after spells at Athletic Bilbao and Manchester City in the intervening period, Kendall was back in charge, and in what feels an unfathomable move in today’s game, Harvey returned as his number two.
Nevin acknowledges the dynamic between him and the man he so admired and who had signed him changed thereafter, albeit in ways that are difficult to explain, and that Harvey could not help him win over Kendall, who appeared unsure about him.
“He [Harvey] would always be here for you and would always be honest and straight, but he was no longer the final decision-maker. He would do technical and training stuff, but Howard was the man at that point in time,” Nevin says.
“I knew Colin was on my side, but I also knew there was nothing much he could do about it to get me on Howard’s side. For the first period, Howard played me quite a lot of the time, and it was OK, but it was so easy to tell I was there under sufferance. I wanted to show him what a good pro I was, but I was slightly naïve - I don’t think he wanted a good pro!” he laughs.
“The dynamic was slightly different, but I didn’t feel in any way different about Colin, not for a millisecond, and never have to this day. I still think he’s fabulous.”
Kendall’s Everton return precipitated Nevin’s departure. It signalled a return to the sort of ‘drinking culture’ which Nevin, who has never drunk a beer and was ‘fined’ on a pre-season tour under Kendall for not being inebriated, had little interest in, while the football he describes in his book as ‘prescriptive’ and ‘regimented’.
The arrivals of wingers Robert Waryzcha and Mark Ward marginalised him further, while after Nevin scored a vital late equaliser in a draw at Oldham in December 1991, Kendall told him he ‘just got lucky’.
Asked if he wishes he’d been tried in a more central role under Harvey or Kendall, Nevin admits he felt that at every club, having never even played wide before joining Chelsea.
After a brief loan spell at second-tier Tranmere in the spring of 1992, the move was made permanent that summer, despite persistent interest from Turkish giants Galatasaray. He did his best to convince Kendall, in the same way he did with revered Scotland boss Jock Stein years earlier after a half-time rollicking in an under-21s game, but it ultimately proved futile. Indeed, if Nevin has one regret about his Everton spell, it’s that he didn’t leave earlier.
“The last year was wasted for me and them. I fought for a year and just thought: ‘I’m wasting my time. It doesn’t matter what I do.’ It hurt to go because I loved Everton, but it was the right thing to do,” he says.
“But is that really a regret? I played more times for Scotland when I was at Tranmere than in the rest of my career put together, so it can’t have been that bad. I loved it there; it was brilliant. Regret? Not really, but I hated not playing.”
Indeed, Nevin enjoyed an Indian summer at Prenton Park as part of a Tranmere side which, helped by John Aldridge’s flurry of goals, reached the Championship play-offs in three successive seasons.
An earlier memory of his time across the Mersey makes for one of his book’s most amusing anecdotes, when in a friendly for Tranmere against Everton, he was sent flying towards Kendall, his studs almost taking his former manager’s head off.
The two laughed about it, and stayed in touch up until Kendall’s passing in 2015. Nevin insists, despite their differences, he harboured no ill will towards the most successful manager in Everton’s history.
“I met him lots of times after that, even up to quite near his death,” he says. “He was at one of the Everton games with Colin, and Colin said: ‘Come in, come in!’
“I said: ‘How are you doing, Howard?’ and he kind of gave me a wee start, a kind of uncertainty, as if I was going to have a dig at him. I said: ‘Howard, we’ve talked to each other loads of times since then, it’s alright!’ and he just laughed.
“I think, if Howard had bought me, he would’ve actually really liked me and got on with me, and we would’ve laughed ourselves out of the place, because we had our weird senses of humour.
“I don’t have many enemies in this world. People I don’t see eye to eye with, I try to understand. I certainly knew what the situation was with Howard, but in the end, I think it mostly came down to that I wasn’t one of his gang.”
Even if there is a sense of what might have been about his Goodison spell, Nevin has only fond memories of Liverpool and its people. Though he lived in Chester, where he and wife Annabel became parents to their first child, Simon, you could still find him frequenting Liverpool’s cultural hotspots, be it the Tate art gallery, the Bluecoat, or wherever a good gig could be found.
He still chuckles now as he recalls being on stage as part of comedian Vic Reeves’ Liverpool show, or when an Evertonian told him in the players’ bar shortly after signing that he was a burglar and had already scouted out his house, or when a ticketless Toffee talked his way onto a seat on the substitutes’ bench for the 1989 FA Cup final.
“Only in Liverpool could that happen!” he smiles.
“If you’re walking down the street with Tom Cruise in Liverpool, and you play for Everton or Liverpool, they’d ignore Tom. There was something about Liverpool; it’s its own individual domain. They love and take care of their own.
“It’s a good place to be if you’re a footballer, because your fans are on your side, and it’s up to you to make a mess of it. I liked that attitude; it chimed with the way I felt about things.”
Even when Nevin moved back to Scotland, seeing out his career with Kilmarnock and later Motherwell, connections with Everton continued at the latter, where he served as a player, chief executive, and for two years, both at once.
He had already come across one future Everton manager in David Moyes, who once chastised him for shirking a tackle during their time as youngsters at Celtic Boys Club, and and interim Blues boss-to-be in Duncan Ferguson on international duty when, at Motherwell, he crossed paths with a certain Spanish midfielder in 2001.
“Robbie [Martinez] is a very close friend of mine. He was a lovely player, but the game was far too fast for him up there; it was just helter-skelter nonsense by that time,” he says.
“We met first and and it wasn’t chief executive talking to player; it was two chaps having a laugh. There’s no other relationship here, we’re mates, and we’ve stayed mates ever since. Nothing could’ve made me happier that he went on to have a really successful career, then became Everton manager.”
Martinez, who led Everton from 2013 until 2016 and is currently Belgium manager, left Motherwell after one season when his contract was terminated following the club entering administration.
Yet as Nevin alludes to, the two remain close friends, and it was thanks to Martinez that Nevin, now a BBC pundit, was able to get a word in at one of his press conferences at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
“This was the semi-final, I think. Everyone puts their hand up for a question; there’s hundreds in there,” Nevin recalls.
“I’ve had a word with Robbie’s PR guy and said: ‘Look, Robbie’s a mate of mine. Any chance you could nudge him towards me with the questions?’ Robbie’s walked in, looked over, winked at me and said: ‘Alright, Pat!’
“Me and my mate are in the middle of this whole presser - anyway, second question: ‘Pat - BBC!’”
He grins just remembering it. “The guy beside me said: ‘I’ve been doing this for 24 years now and have never got a question, and my hand has been up every time. How many times have you tried?’ I said: ‘That’s the first!’ He was gutted.
“A bit like Colin Harvey, there is utter, total honesty and love of the game. For Colin, it’s love of Everton. For Robbie, it’s love of the actual game. I’ve got so much time for him.”
Nevin’s role as a respected, articulate pundit - he prides himself on “Telling you something you didn’t know” - is only scratching the surface with his extracurricular endeavours. As well as serving as Motherwell chief executive and PFA chairman, he’s also a keen DJ, most likely at indie club nights put on by promoters Scared To Dance, with an ever-evolving setlist of classic and contemporary alternative music.
DJing has been a hobby of Nevin’s since 17, and still gives him an enormous thrill - even when, at a recent gig with BBC Radio 5 Live’s Colin Murray and 6 Music’s Gideon Coe, he was still up on the decks at 3am, before heading to Goodison for commentary duty the next morning on four hours’ sleep.
Music still consumes him, whether through naming all of his book chapters after tunes by Radiohead, David Bowie, Pink Floyd and more, sneaking American band The Pains of Being Pure at Heart seamlessly into his commentary of Manchester United vs Arsenal in 2010, or appearing on Steve Lamacq’s 6 Music show as he did last week.
He’s always on the lookout for new tracks - ‘I Don’t Recognise You’ by Galway group NewDad gets a mention - and raves about a remix of ‘I Didn’t See It Coming’ by a band he’s lost count of the amount of times he’s seen live, fellow Glaswegians Belle and Sebastian: “It’s a great track but it gets knocked out of the park by this version! If you want a finisher for your DJ night, you’ll really struggle to get better than this. Nobody knows about it because it’s a remix. It’s unbelievable!”
He remembers his 2010 gig at ‘Bowlie 2’, a Somerset festival curated by Belle and Sebastian, as “Just magical - a brilliant, brilliant night” - even if, after years of DJing under-the-radar, this was the set that let the cat out of the bag.
“That was me with my people. Belles were there, Camera Obscura, Franz Ferdinand, Julian Cope; it was just brilliant,” he says.
“There was a wee Glasgow scene for a while, it was spectacularly good - lots of nice little DJ nights, the National Pop League was happening, it was magical; an absolutely fantastic time. I’m a huge fan of all that stuff and there’s always new stuff coming along.
“In a normal set, I’ll play Belles at least twice, probably three times. Stuart [Murdoch - Belle and Sebastian frontman] is a good friend. He sent me a text the other day which was very, very funny, and when we do text, it’s just funny texts.
“I ended up playing a game of football a wee while back and had the best midfield in the world: Stuart left midfield, I was centre midfield, and on the right was Colin MacIntyre from Mull Historical Society.
“Two other people from bands were playing as well. I was thinking: ‘This is the coolest team I’ve ever played for!’ And Stuart can play. No pissing about - he’s a very good footballer.”
But if lockdown has put paid to nights spinning tracks, there’s been no let-up in Nevin’s schedule. Speaking from the BBC’s HQ in Salford, he pulls out his diary - Manchester City vs Chelsea on May 8, Southampton vs Crystal Palace on May 11, Chelsea vs Arsenal the next night, Lamacq’s show the day after, then the FA Cup final two days later.
Then, later on the day we speak, he will commentate for 5 Live on Chelsea Women’s Champions League final defeat to Barcelona. Not bad for a man who, throughout the coronavirus pandemic, has had to commute by car from his home in the Scottish Borders.
Just woken up this morning after being at EFC 5-4 Spurs for 5 Live. What a privilege and what a joy to cover such a great game. Still smiling at the entertainment from both sides. Home at 4am and met by -11.5 degrees but still buzzing.— Pat Nevin (@PatNevin) February 11, 2021
“The one thing I will say is this year has killed my car,” he laughs. “But the good side of that is I like music and podcasts, so I’m right up to date.
“People say: ‘What have you done?’ I’ve exhausted myself! What you haven’t been doing is the interesting bit, isn’t it?!”
The workload has extended from behind the microphone, too. Among other publications, Nevin writes a weekly column for Chelsea’s official website and is penning programme notes for their Champions League final against Manchester City. The book was finished before coronavirus, but he’s since written a second one, honing in on his times at Tranmere, Kilmarnock and, most interestingly, Motherwell - “That was ultra-bizarre. Every fan wants to know what happens in the boardroom, so I’m going to tell them!” he laughs.
As throughout his playing days, he’s kept himself in superb shape with regular cycling, though has had to stop his 17-20-mile runs for the time being due to a back problem. He has great admiration, meanwhile, for his daughter Lucy, a Scottish badminton champion who spent her first year as a qualified doctor on the front line during the pandemic.
“My perspective is generally OK. I’ve never really taken things that seriously. This is the dichotomy of it: dedicated to being a footballer, but it’s only kicking a bit of leather about, and I’ve always known that,” he says.
“I think more what I’ve seen from my daughter is just how impressive she and everyone working for the health services have been, putting their lives on the line. She was in right in among it, on the front line right at the start, and continues to be so.
“She’s oddly very similar to me - into sport as well, playing it but not interested in all the other sides of it, like me. I did it because I loved doing it, but you had a perspective on it. We’re very similar in that way.”
It’s an admirably grounded attitude which permeates throughout Nevin’s book. As a player, he never had an agent, reasoning he was the best person to make decisions for himself (though, he got an agent for his book - his friend Vivienne Clore - “Now I have a ‘literary agent’ - I’ll be getting one of them silk scarves and a smoking jacket soon!”).
Nor, as is repeatedly patently obvious, did he seek, like or trust celebrity or stardom. And while he concedes careers in football and broadcasting may appear counterintuitive for someone who did his utmost to avoid the limelight, he’s at peace with the level of fame he’s reached, while maintaining his grip on reality throughout.
“I manage it in a variety of ways that aren’t obvious. I turn down more media work than I do. I generally don’t do telly - they pay you more for doing that, but there’s also a cost to it,” he says.
“I just want a normal life. I’ve seen the effect it [fame] can have, and it’s quite grotesque. You get that level of ‘importance’ and start acting bizarrely. I just laugh at them.
“I never wanted to be part of that world. People like John Peel were in the public eye all the time but they didn’t live their lives for celebrity or fame. You can live a normal life within it. I hope most people who meet me just think I’m a normal bloke, and generally they treat me that way, and that’s good for me.”
A lifetime of staying true to himself has spawned an esteemed 19-year footballing career (including 150 Everton appearances and 28 Scotland caps) for Nevin and a treasure trove of memories off the pitch, be it on the decks, in the gantry, in the boardroom or elsewhere.
He’s filled his time with such a variety of interests, in fact, that you wonder what’s left to tick off the bucket list.
“Retiring!” he jokes.
“I just love travelling. I’ve got a third book planned and it’s a travelogue of everywhere I’ve travelled in my post-career; all the weird things that happened after I stopped playing football.
“That’s going to be a load of fun - I went to all the World Cups and Euros and watched them in a different way. That I'm desperate to do.
“I’d like my next travelling to be with my wife; I hope we travel together and see bits of the world I find lovely; to show how fabulous Bilbao is. We might be a bit late for Hong Kong but I loved Hong Kong. I adore South Korea - I could live there tomorrow afternoon - and I’m going to write about why I love it.”
Straight after our conversation, Nevin is back on the airwaves, previewing the Women’s Champions League final on 5 Live ahead of the match that night. It’s an unabating schedule, but that’s largely the way it’s always been since he was practising dribbling and keepy-ups at age six with his dad on the Glasgow field behind their tenement.
For a self-confessed accidental footballer, he’s certainly led an enviable life full of happy accidents.
‘The Accidental Footballer’ by Pat Nevin, published by Monoray, is out now at £20 hardback (octopusbooks.co.uk).