You signed for El Paso Locomotive FC in 2019. How are you enjoying your time at the club so far and how would you describe a club such as El Paso Locomotive FC?
I am really enjoying my time at El Paso Locomotive FC. I love the style of football that we play. I have been fortunate at all the clubs I have played at in my career to be surrounded by some really good players and here at El Paso Locomotive FC is no exception. The way our manager wants to play and the way he treats the players and his man management is brilliant.
El Paso was an easy place to come and I had never played in this style before and I know that a lot of teams are trying to do it now in terms of playing out from everything and many managers may well want to play like that at the start of the season and then times get hard they will revert back to what they know and that is understandable, I know why that happens. I have had one season at the club and it has done wonders for my confidence and growing up where I grew up and at times English football is not so pretty and coming to the United States has been an education in terms of football and it has been interesting in a new league like the USL Championship, football is definitely growing in this country and I think when the United States puts it mind to something and can generally become top in the world at whatever it does put it’s mind to so I am hoping that they go about it the right way.
The USL Championship is growing but I am delighted to have made it over to the United States and it is a great place to be and to get started here in El Paso. I played in the club’s inaugural season which I had never done before and it was very interesting,it was remarkable the way the city galvanized around us and our home support was fantastic. I think El Paso is very suited to having a football team here because there is a huge Mexican influence, it is right on the border of Mexico and we know that the Hispanic culture of football is one that they are very proud of and they love the sport. They truly are football fans and I would say that El Paso is the perfect place to get a team because of that football culture.
You played in Sweden for AFC Eskilstuna. How do you look back on your time at the club and do you have any highlights or special memories?
Yes, I look back very fondly on a very interesting time in Sweden. What I enjoyed most about it other than getting to experience a new country was that it was wonderful to be involved in the Premier League of a country. I had previously played in League One and League Two in England which was wonderful.
We all know the powerhouse European League on the continent but to get just a little flavour of that and play against some great teams and Every game is also televised and you feel the exposure. AFC Eskilstuna had the lowest budget by far in the Allsvenskan and it was definitely an uphill battle but it was an education in getting to experience a different style of football, one that was more technical based compared to England. I would have liked to have spent longer at the club having played on 15 games for the club.
I got to work with Michael Jolley who was the manager at the time and he also ended up signing me for Grimsby Town. I played in the Friends Arena where AIK and the Swedish national team play and in getting to play against IFK Göteborg and Malmö FF I had a very good lesson in how to play football properly from Graham Potter who was manager of Östersunds FK at the time and now he is in charge of Brighton & Hove Albion. You are playing with and against players that are challenging for Europe or on the cusp of getting international call up’s and you feel that it is a slightly bigger scale. It is tough to differentiate between the standards of different leagues but in terms of the scale and what it meant to the country it was great to play in the Swedish Premier League.
You played one season for Grimsby Town. How do you look back on your time at the club and do you have any highlights or special memories?
I absolutely loved my time at Grimsby Town, I was talking about this with my way yesterday. I am very happy where I am now but I think my time at Grimsby Town was the happiest I have been at any club. A lot of it comes down to timing as well and I was lucky enough to join them at the time were they were in a relegation battle and thankfully the last ten games of the season went very well for us and I was able to be part of a team and a squad kept the club up so maybe it is because of that I had such a good relationship with the fans. I have nothing but fond memories thinking about Grimsby Town, it was a wonderful chapter of my life and my career.
Of all the clubs I have played for Grimsby Town felt the biggest in terms of history and what it meant to the city, how passionate the fans were. had I not moved to the United States for personal reasons I would have hoped to have gone on to play many more games for the club. I am still in contact with many people from the club and I have built up some great relationships with a number of the boys from Grimsby Town. I went on to feel comfortable in the position of left back which at first was new to me and I began to enjoy it more rather than worry about it before games. I really began to feel that position was my own. I had a really comfortable and warm time at the club.
You have accrued great experience in England , Sweden and the United States, could you say who are among the best players you have played alongside so far in your career?
A good question!. This is a really difficult one to answer. Jermaine Anderson at Peterborough United is probably the best in form player I’ve seen he was a level above the competition for a few months, I was blown away with how good he was. Unfortunately he was really unlucky with injuries, suffering multiple long term ones. It’s so unfair when that happens to players.
I played with Josh Taylor in college & even though it was not professionally, I still rate him as the most talented player that I’ve played with, there isn’t a team I’ve played for that he wouldn’t easily fit in & no question deserves to be playing at a higher level than where he currently is. However in terms of consistent quality, Nick Ross, who I currently play with has been the best. As complete of a player as I’ve played with. His intelligence, quality, work rate & attitude are top class. The way he plays & sees the game is very rare & my job is made much easier playing alongside him.
I can imagine in your position as a defender that you have come up against many difficult opponents through the years, could you say which opponents have stood out for your in terms of talent and ability?
A good question! I remember playing against Wigan Athletic and I came up against Callum McManaman who stands out for me and he has also played in the Premier League and he also had the ability to go both ways and he had very close control and the ability to get in behind defenders and it had you as a defender not knowing which way to turn.
Peter Crouch scored a hattrick against me so I suppose he deserves an honourable mention. He is a player that proved himself and everybody knows how good he was and that was during Stoke City v Stevenage FC. They were strong favourites in that game and we did not know what team they were going to play and often a team like that will field a weaker side but Stoke City did come and they went strong which was good, it was nice to be respected in that took the competition seriously enough to do that.
Bojan Krkić was my direct opponent in that game and he blew me away. I was very nervous going into that game because of the difference between a Premier League and League Two side and Stoke City fielded a strong side. It was a standard that I had rarely faced and it was interesting and every time the ball came into Bojan he just had lightning speed, a great speed of thought his mind was made up and it was the right decision and the execution was perfect. I think I was expecting him to get the ball, do eight step overs, flick it over my head and put it in the top corner, I guess that is unrealistic and happens in hardly any games but it was just constantly brilliant performance and when you add it up how could they not beat you at the end of the day, every decision they make is razor sharp.
Obviously Bojan’s football education speaks for itself and the things that he has won, that is effectively what every footballer would be after being in that FC Barcelona side and also winning international trophies and that is what these Premier League and international players can do and I would say that Bojan’s performance in that game is probably the best performance of an opponent that I have played against.
Finally Andrew, you mentioned Michael Jolley, could you say who are the coaches and managers that have meant a lot to you and played a key role in your development so far in your professional career?
At first I would go back to when I was 17 as I kid when I did not have a professional team. I would try and practice each day and focus all my enjoyment on improving and seeing what could happen and that ended up in me getting a scholarship to go and play in the United States. There was a coach I played for when I was just playing local football called Pip Davis when I played for Newmarket under 18’s and he would have great dialog with me and the coaching tips that he would give and he had great man management skills.
I also believe that year was the most influential in my career and a year in which I saw the biggest improvement. My coaches in United States at St. Edward’s Hilltoppers Brian Young and Matt O’Sullivan both were great and I would say from the years of 17-22 I improved enough to go on and earn a professional contract whereas I did not know if I would ever be quite good enough to sign a pro deal, those five years of development really got me going.
In terms of how my career has panned out now I owe a lot to Michael Jolley who I played for in Sweden and England and to be backed as a first choice left back at Grimsby Town, that was what did my confidence the world of good and that is when I really started to feel like the position was my own. Right now the manager here Mark Lowry plays a good style of football and if some does go wrong try, try and try again in the same way until you get it right and not to go away from it and that is something that I will keep with me for the rest of my career. I do not know if I will go into any kind of coaching but there are a huge amount of aspects of that way we play here in El Paso that I would try and translate into a team if ever I was in charge of one.