You were eligible to represent England and Trinidad & Tobago finally opting to play for T&T. How difficult was that decision?
The decision itself was pretty easy. Despite being born in England I had always considered myself Trinidadian. I was a part of one T&T national senior team back in my early twenties but hadn't been called back up, since when I was called up by Glenn Hoddle. I guess that spurred the TTFF to act firmly and a call from them soon followed. I had no hesitation in accepting their invite.
The decision paid off ending up with you playing in a World Cup â€“ was that the highlight of your playing career?
It easily was. T&T had never qualified for a WC before that. We came close on a few occasions most notably in 1989, where we lost 1-0 to the US In Trinidad when a draw would have seen us qualify for Italia '90. I actually cried that day. So to be a part of T&T's first ever WC, hear our national anthem played, play in our first ever game and keep a clean sheet were things I couldn't even have dreamed.
You can read Shaka's thought on his World Cup in this brilliant piece from The Times: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/sport/football/international/article673834.ece
Ironically you were drawn in the same group as England (it is funny how football does these things!) Were you robbed in that match?
The Crouch goal was contentious. There was a foul no question, but it was on the wrong side of both the ref and the linesman. So you can understand the no-call. But just judging from the way both players went for the ball you could tell something was wrong. Maybe a more experienced ref would have given it. But that's just football.
Newcastle United Then
You were part of what was probably the greatest Newcastle United side of the modern era and came very close to winning the Premier League. In your eyes what went wrong that season?
We had to change the way we played with Tino Asprilla's introduction. Then we had our lean spell, which every team has to endure during the course of a season. Instead of just playing through it we started to question ourselves. And Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United smelt blood in the water, and played every trick they knew. It was our lack of experience in being at the top of the league down the stretch that ultimately cost us.
Some blame the signing of Tino as being one of the reasons for the decline â€“ is that fair?
Like I said. We had to sign another forward, Les was doing it pretty much all his own. Then found ourselves changing how we played to accommodate Tino. And EVERY winning team in EVERY season has to endure that lean spell. Unfortunately the two coincided for us.
There were some phenomenal players in that Newcastle side â€“ who was the best?
If there were one player I could take anywhere it'd be Rob Lee. He made that team tick.
And who was the most under-rated?
David Batty was probably the most technically gifted player on that team, which no one ever credited him for.
Are there any games that you played in that stick in your mind?
Blackburn at Ewood Park. We were up 1-0, David Batty scored. With 10 minutes or so to go I had a pretty routine save to make from a shot that was very close in in fairness, the ball popped up off the turf more than I expected and hit me awkwardly and flew in to the roof of the net. Then Shearer scored late on and we lost. I have replayed that incident a million times in my head. It still haunts me to this day.
Was Pav as mad off the pitch as he appeared to be on it?
No he wasn't really! Hahahaha!! He was actually a real thinker, which may surprise a lot of people.
Newcastle United Now
Newcastle have gone through some turmoil in the past few years. What is the natural level for Newcastle United? Where should we sit in the football league pyramid?
If NUFC gets an owner that understands the football club, the fans and the town and structures the business accordingly NUFC can again be a great club. It may never have the international appeal a Man U or even Chelsea, but those clubs will never have the enduring support of its local base as Newcastle does. NUFC should always be in the top 6 or 7 in my opinion. Anything less is, or should be, failure.
If you were given the power to make changes at the football club, what (if anything) would you change?
How it's run as a business.
Is Alan Pardew the man to take Newcastle United forward?
I like Alan a lot. I worked with him at West Ham in my final season in English football. I have to admit that I wasn't sure at first, but really am beginning to believe that he may be. Any manager who wins at the Stadium of Light will do me! Hahahaha!!
What do you miss most about playing?
The dressing room banter. Apart from that nothing at all!
These days you are working as a very highly regarded pundit on ESPN â€“ how is that working out for you?
I'm really enjoying it. It's not something I ever thought I be doing and am learning all the time. It's also allowed me to keep in touch with the game at the highest level.
A former team mate of yours, Warren Barton, is also working as a pundit (on a different network). Is he a better pundit than he was a full-back?!
Hahahahaha!!! I'm not sure if I'm better pundit than I was a keeper so am in no position to answer that one.
Is coaching/management something that you could see yourself becoming involved with in the future?
I never saw myself as a coach or manager. But I'm starting to feel that it may be a challenge I'd relish. Really enjoying what I'm doing now though and not sure I'd want to change. That's a decision I can only make if the opportunity presents itself.
Thanks for your time Shaka and best of luck in whatever you do.
Though Shaka wonâ€™t be playing, this links in nicely to an event coming up in October. The Entertainers are getting back together and playing against Liverpool!
You can follow me on Twitter for football chat (and other random nonsense!) @MarcSDuffy
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