Andy signed from Redbridge Forest for £65,000 in 1991, before leaving for Gillingham in 1996. He captained the side and was one of the stand-out players during a period in Division One (now the Championship), known for his work-rate in particular.
Currently manager of Eastleigh, he was interviewed by Watford Legends in 2008.
Hi Andy, thanks for talking to Watford Legends. How did your move to Watford come about?
I was at Redbridge Forest who were playing in the Isthmian League at the time before we got promoted to the Conference. I had played about five games in the Conference when Peter Taylor who is a good friend of mine got the assistant managers job at Watford under Steve Perryman. I had played for Peter Taylor before in non league for Dartford. I had just turned 25 when he phoned me and simply said ‘Do you still want to become a pro?’ Even at the age of 25 I still wanted to have a crack at it. That’s how it all came about really.
And what job were you doing before you turned pro?
I was in the building game; I was a plasterer by trade. I done a four year apprenticeship when I left school and was self employed from then on.
How did you find the move from working on a building site to the life of a professional footballer?
It was absolutely brilliant. I think that was part of the reason why I played on for so long, I appreciated it so much. To go from the building game to playing football for a living was just unbelievable.
Do you think that made you appreciate it more than maybe somebody who came up through the youth ranks?
I believe so. I have read a few footballers’ books over the years like Ian Wright who also came into the game late, and he thought it as well. You appreciate it so much more doing it the way we did it. Some of the youngsters you see now, they come in every day and they just don’t know what they have got. It saddens me to see some of the youngsters fall away all because of the attitudes. My advice to youngsters in the game will always be the same, appreciate what you have got and work hard at it because it is a fantastic career.
Has the way you entered the game had any effect on the way you have done things in your managerial career?
Yes it has. I really try and instill it in any young lads what a brilliant career they can have. I have done it with my son as well. He is at Chelsea now and has been since he was seven. He is 14 now and all the way through his time there, I have just encouraged him to work hard and enjoy it. Football now is getting bigger and bigger, and with that it is getting harder to get into.
And on to your time at Watford, how did you enjoy your time at the club?
I loved every minute of it. I owe them a lot. With it being my first professional club, I had to pinch myself the day I signed for them. The week I signed we had Brighton away. I was in the squad as 17th man just to get a feel of what it was all about. We beat them 1-0, and Steve Butler who is still a friend of mine scored the goal.
The next game was midweek away at Everton; I think it was in the Rumbelows cup. Steve Perryman pulled me in and told me I would be making my debut in that game. I couldn’t believe that I would be on the same pitch as the likes of Peter Beardsley. It was frightening to be honest. We lost the game, but we were playing Charlton at home at the weekend and I got told I would be making my home debut. I was fortunate enough to score in the game and we won it 2-0. It was a great start for me. The time I had overall at Watford was brilliant. We had some great times; they were all good people at the club.
It was a shame when I left because I didn’t leave on the right note, mainly because some things were said that simply weren’t true that were in the papers. I didn’t want to leave the club but I felt the offer they were making to me at the time simply wasn’t right. Some of the stuff written in the papers disappointed me that wasn’t true, but that’s football I suppose and you have to move on.
Our understanding of it was that when it came to you leaving Watford, Gillingham had offered you a longer contract with an option to go into the coaching side of things, and of course Gillingham was closer to your home.
Initially I was going to Charlton. That was a done deal, everything had been agreed and it was just a case of doing the paperwork. I had been speaking to Keith Peacock for some time through the summer. The Bosman ruling wasn’t in place then so it would have gone to a tribunal.
Alan Curbishley then started worrying about paying money for a 30 year old and the deal fell through. I was disappointed as I had my heart set on going there. I then spoke to the assistant manager of Gillingham and that is how the move came about. There was no coaching role involved in the deal; the biggest pull for me was the location of it as it was in my home county.
How did you find the reaction of the fans when you came back to The Vic when you got the ‘short, greedy bastard’ chant?
That hurt me a lot. It was frustrating as they didn’t know the full story, and they only knew what they had read in the paper’s, most of which was untrue. I had been captain for 3 and a half years after Roeder came in, but the offer from Watford didn’t reflect that. I was disappointed with what they offered me after giving my all for the club and doing well. I didn’t feel wanted or valued by the club. I would still like to think the fans valued what I did in my time at the club. What didn’t help me is that I did say that if I did leave Watford, I wanted to go to a club in a higher league. When I ended up at Gillingham, who were and still are a smaller club than Watford, I think that got peoples backs up a little bit. I have a lot of time for the Watford fans and the club itself though. I get a warm welcome when I go back, and if I bump into fans they are good to me.
Are there any particular games from your time at Watford that stand out?
The main one would be the league cup game against Leeds. They had the likes of Cantona, Speed, Batty and Strachan and were one of the biggest clubs in the country. I remember Jason Drysdale scoring. That’s the biggest game for me that stands out. To play against the players I have mentioned was just amazing. It was a great atmosphere on the night, and a great result. Also, Newcastle at home when Keegan was manager and we managed to beat them as well.
Is there anybody from your Watford days that you still speak to?
Yes, I still speak to Nigel Gibbs regularly. It was nice to see him up at Wembley for the masters. I speak to Ramage, Miller and Mooney as well occasionally, but Nigel Gibbs would be the main one. He is a very good friend of mine. I know he is enjoying his time at Reading, but sad at how he left Watford after all the years. What a clubman he was!
Talking of the Masters, how did you enjoy that?
It was great. We played two years ago, but not last year so it was great to be back again. I was a bit gutted to get to the final but not win it. It was great to see some old faces and I think we put a good show on as well. Hopefully we will get invited back again next year. We took it seriously and wanted to win. It is very competitive but that suits us. Also, it was great to have plenty of Watford fans supporting us as well. There were more Watford fans that anyone else which was great.
You also had a spell at Barnet for a while. How was your time at Underhill?
It was good. Paul Fairclough called me and basically explained that he was looking for somebody experienced in midfield as they had quite a young team. It’s a shame things are not going particularly good for them at the moment. I still speak to Ian Hendon who is the Assistant Manager, and again I think they could do with a little bit of experience in their team. It’s not easy for them as they don’t get the gates, so they are quite restricted financially.
How did you find it playing on that slope?!
Its hard work! If the game is getting stretched and you are playing up the slope in the second half it can be very difficult. It’s a lovely pitch though. I enjoyed my time at Barnet though, definitely.
You finally retired from playing at 41, what made you decide to retire in the end?
I could have carried on playing at Barnet for another year on non contract terms and also help out with the kids, but I wanted to get back into management. The Dover chairman called me and asked me down for a chat. He was very positive and wants to get Dover back in the conference as soon as he can. Also, it meant being back in Kent which was good, and it was something I wanted to have a good go at. I knew that with that move it would mean going into the part time game as a manager and maybe still play a few games. So it was the decision to get back into management that really stopped me playing full time.
Would you like to get back into managing in league football or will you be happy managing at the level you are at now?
I love managing at this level, but I have never made a secret of it that I would love to get back into managing in the professional league again one day. I had it for just over four years at Gillingham as player manager and I loved it. Hopefully that time will come again. We are top of the league at the moment after promotion last year, seven wins out of eight and everything is going well.
Where would you like to be in 5 years time?
I would like to be managing Watford ideally! But so long as I am managing back in league football in five years time I will be happy.
Thanks for your time, and good luck for the rest of the season.
No problem at all, thanks for talking to me.
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