By James Rowe – @JamesRoweNL – Chief Football Writer
You retired in 2012. How are you enjoying life after professional football and how is life for you now away from the pitch?
A very good question. I had a lot of friends of that era who also finished playing and as a player you sort of have a perfect picture in your mind of when you are going to finish and how it happens and for me it did not quiet work out like that. I went out of my way massively to try and finish my career a Shrewsbury Town and I was at Bradford City and I knew that ny twoyear contract was coming to an end and I was desperate to get to Shrewsbury Town so I really had to work hard to prove and convince the manager Gary Peters that the ability was still there and that I was good enough to finish my career there.
I earned myself a contract and I did well at the club considering that I had some nasty injuries including a bicep tendon injury at the back of my knee. Shortly afterwards Gary left the club due to results and it came to a point when I returned to the squad after a back injury and Paul Simpson was the manager and he let me go too early and when he let me go I was not ready to leave and I even offered to the club that I will play for next to nothing I just wanted to be around the club and gain my youth coaching badges and UEFA A license through the club and learn my trade that way but it did not work out. and I sort of got forced to retire.
I did get offered a couple of contracts and I went and trained with a friend of mine who was a Kidderminster Harriers at the time and then I was offered a deal by Telford United in the Non League but I had just lost my heart so when I finished playing I was not quiet ready to finish and I lost my way massively in that I was not ready to properly finish my career where I wanted to finish. From then on I decided to stop thinking it was the best way and you think it is the right thing to do at the right time but because I did not expect my career to finish as quickly as it did I could not work out what I wanted to do and which direction I wanted to go in so I lost a few years being in limbo of not knowing which direction to turn. By then i done a few bits and bobs but I was losing touch with the coaching people at football clubs and I found that quiet difficult. I found retiring when I did very difficult and a lot went on it my early years of retirement.
Moving forward now at the other end it took my a few years to get over certain issues and things that went on but now I am on the other side of it I am back coaching and I have my own air conditioning business. I have settled down again and things could not be better and things have come full circle but it took a good nine years to get to that point ”
You played five seasons for Burnley FC. How do you look back on your time at the club and do you have any highlights or special memories?
I have really fond memories from my time at Burnley FC. I love the football club and when I signed for the club things happened very quickly and at the time I was training with Crewe Alexandra and I was going to sign for them and Burnley FC came in at the last minute and I remember going up there and they were one of the old English football clubs with a lot of heritage. Turf Moor was a great ground and I was really excited. It was a no brainer to sign for the club and I signed a two year deal.
It was an unbelievable time and I met a lot of great people and I had a good relationship with the fans and people in and around the club too. I was very fortunate to play with some legendary players. I left the club on a high having achieved promotion to the Championship but it was time to move as the club were moving in a different direction and I wanted to move in a different direction too. I have nothing but admiration for Burnley FC and I still keep in contact with a few players from my time there and the experiences that I had there were phenomenal really. Burnley FC is just a great football club all round really.
You played abroad in South Korea of all places for Busan IPark. How do you look back on playing your football in another country and what are your highlights and special memories?
A good question again. It was at the back end of my career at Stoke City and I knew there was whispers of it because agent of someone I knew very well had also heard a whisper that Busan Ipark wanted to sign me and it was all off the back of the 2002 World Cup when they were trying to push the K League as hard as they could. I got wind of it and I did not think much about it and at training one day for Stoke City manager Tony Pulis asked me Cookie how do you fancy a game of golf ? I knew that he wanted to talk about the future as Stoke City had just survived in the Championship and I knew that Tony was looking for a different direction. He told me that a few teams have come in for me and there is a chance for you to go and play abroad and how would I fancy it.
I viewed it as a fresh challenge and financially at the time it was very appealing and playing in World Cup stadiums every game too and also the chance to experience a different culture was massively appealing to me. I was desperate to experience that and I knew that I would be playing with and against South Korea national team players that were technically very good and I wanted to test myself. I played with and against some great players during my time in South Korea. Fellow British players Chris Marsden and Jamie Cureton also went out there.
I played well out there and I was offered a contract extension but it was very difficult in terms of not many ex pats and life off the pitch was completely different in terms of pastimes and having a young family too and family in the UK and that had a big play on how it all came to an end. My time in South Korea was a brilliant experience. Sometimes I think I should have stayed out there as the money at the time South Korea were offering more money than in England and there were many pluses but also minuses in terms of traveling to and from the other side of the world with a young family and also the heat at times. Overall it was fantastic to take the gamble and go and do it was a big thing. Not many people lasted out there and I remember signing the contract for Busan Ipark straight away which came through via fax machine. My time in South Korea was a great experience.
I can imagine in your position as a striker that you have come up against some difficult opponents through the years. Are there opponents that stood out for your in terms of talent and ability?
My personal opinion is the higher you go in terms of league and the higher you play the more time you get and it is how you use that time and how comfortable you are on the ball the ball which matters. The lower you go in terms of the Conference, Non League and the League of Wales the more difficult it tends to be because there is not time.
Players are a lot more physical and it is hard to play on certain pitches and it becomes a real scrap and it becomes difficult to compete against lower teams. It is the quality in the end that is the difference and that is again what the leagues are there for. Also in terms of opponents what is important is who you play with.
I was very fortunate to play was some great strikers such as Andy Payton , I was fortunate enough to play with Ian Wright, Dean Windass, Pete Hoekstra and Peter Thorne. It does not matter who you play against it is all about your game and how you perform.I remember I played at Anfield in the FA Cup and I went to close down Steve McManaman and he went past me as if I was an empty crisp packet and I just through that he had pure ability that you could not get near and sometimes you recognize and realize how good players are.
Finally Andy, You mentioned Tony Pulis and going for a game of golf. When you look back on your playing career which managers meant a lot to you and played a key role in your development as a professional footballer?
I think for me to go and and be where I was Jake King played a big part. I got released after an apprenticeship at Telford United and I was playing Conference football at 17 years old and if that was happening in today’s era someone would pick you up straight away. Telford United bizarrely let me go even though I was playing well and there was a manager named Derek Mann who has sadly since passed away but he was a massive influence in my career because he got me through the apprenticeship well. He recognized me as a local player and he made me belief that I was a good player. Jake King took me to Newtown AFC in Wales and he worked with a gut called Brian Coyne and between them they basically ran the football club. They had a huge influence in me reaching the heights were I needed to be and getting in to professional football.
A manager that really stands out is Stan Ternent. It would sometimes look as if he was bullying a great player we had in Glen Little but he wasn’t he really cared about him. Stan Ternent was so loyal if you did it on the pitch for him he would look after you and you knew inside out what was expected of you week in and week out and if you did not do it you did not play. Stan was a great guy. Paul Weller, Glen Little and I would get invited to Stan’s house on a Sunday afternoon for wine and dinner with his wife. His wife would cook us dinner and because we were doing it for him week in and week out he would look after us. He had a massive influence on my career and I was very lucky to play for such a guy where it was not just about the coaching it was more about the way he was with people. He was such a great character who got the best out of people. The time that we won promotion together was a fantastic experience with a group of lads that he trusted and we all worked together to achieve what what we did. Stan Ternent was definitely a one off in my opinion.
Tony Pulis was very black and white and it being exactly what is says on the tin. He would an old school manager who gets the best out of people because you did what he wanted you to do. I always think that man management is a massive thing in football and you talk about man management in business it is exactly the same in football where if you do not man manage your players and you do not get the best out of them you don;t get results and you don’t get where you need to be. I would also like to acknowledge the supporters of all the clubs I played for and I was very fortunate to have had a great relationship with them all, which is so important as that’s what football is all about.