You retired in 2018. How are you enjoying your retirement from professional football and how is life for you these days?
In terms of retirement I think the first thing to say it is that I was probably ready to retire and sometimes players are forced into retirement whether that due to injury or whatever reason. I was ready to retire during my last season and I had got to that point where I had moved on to other things in my life and I had gone part time during the last season of my career and it just did not suit me and I was not enjoying it to be honest and at that point I knew that it was time to call it a day and move on to a new chapter in my life.
I am enjoying retirement and I have been fortunate to pick up a good job and I am still involved with sport on a daily basis through my job. I miss a Saturday and I miss that game and playing in front of fans although I don’t think I will ever stop missing that but in terms of missing the dressing room I don’t to be honest.
Dressing rooms are so young nowadays that it is all younger players and no disrespect but what the younger players are talking about on a Monday morning or what they got up to at the weekend I did all that ten years previous and the whole dressing room banter is great and they are the best times of your life but in terms of missing that dressing room buzz for me it does not apply and I am happy to have moved on from that although having seen some of the videos from the Scotland national team dressing room this morning it looks like really good fun and the celebrations that were had.
You came through the youth setup and debuted for Birmingham City. How do you look back on your time at the club and did you learn anything that stood you in good stead for your career as a professional footballer?
Yeah, Absolutely I moved down to Birmingham when I was 16 years old and it was a big thing moving away from your Mum & Dad and I had never been away from the family for a long period of time. So to move to the second biggest city in the UK was daunting but at the time I did not think it was daunting when you are young you are care free and it was a big adventure for me and I did not think of the scale of what I was actually doing. I just did it.
Now that I am a parent myself I can appreciate it more what they actually went through rather than me at the time. I just wanted to be a professional footballer something I had dreamed off since I was a little boy. It was such a great experience and I was down at Birmingham City for six years and they were in the Championship when I signed and Trevor Francis was the manager. He lost his job in that first season and Steve Bruce came in and everything then changed for me for the better.
Steve loved me and took a shine to me as a young player and he got me involved really early training with the first team. After a year I was moved into the first team dressing room on a permanent basis. To be with the likes of Emile Heskey, Robbie Savage and Christophe Dugarry. Major big players and top professionals and international players and just to be around them everybody and watch what they did not just on the pitch but how they conducted themselves off it. What they are and what they did in the gym and how they prepared for training and getting their bodies ready. I remember seeing that and it stayed with me for my 16 year career and I did things in the last year of my career that I learned in those first couple of years.
I had the opportunity to go to two or three English clubs such as Leeds United and Newcastle United but I just felt that they were probably too big and I got a good feel for Birmingham City. They were in the Championship at the time and they were a big club and I felt that I could go there and get close to the first team but in my first season down there they got promotion to the Premier League and everything changed. It was like a new club overnight. I went away for the summer and when I returned the training ground had another level along with an indoor area and full size pitch.
It was night and day due to the money involved in the Premier League and then ended up signing Emile Heskey for £6 million Clinton Morrison for £5 million and it went to a different level and I would not change that. Birmingham City was great my career and I left the club six years later a better person and a better player that stood my in good stead for the rest of my career.
You played in two spells for Ross County. How do you look back on your time at the club and do you have any highlights and special memories?
Yes, Ross County was one of the happiest periods in my football career and going up there in my first spell the club were in the old Scottish Division Two. I regard Ross County as my first season as a proper first team footballer. I was playing week in and week out and I was an important part of that team which was great for me and I loved the responsibility.
We won the league and I really enjoyed it and I started to get a bit of interest from clubs in higher divisions and I was always ambitions throughout my career and anytime I got an opportunity to move up a level or a perceived bigger club I always took my chance and made that step up and that is what I did.
You accrued a lot of experience playing professional football in England & Scotland. When you look back on your career could you say who were among the best players you played alongside?
Yes, The obvious one would be from my time at Birmingham City and Christophe Dugarry who was a World Cup winner with France in 1998 and played for FC Barcelona and AC Milan and he literally was out on his own. He was just a complete different level and he basically kept Birmingham City up in the Premier League on his own in that season he was just ridiculous in some of the things he could do with a ball were just incredible and out of this world.
There were also other players Don Cowie was at Inverness Caledonian Thistle for a short period of time before he moved down South with Watford FC and Cardiff City and he ended up having a great career and became a Scotland international. He is now assistant manager at Ross County and they way in which he trained everyday he set himself ultimate professional standards and for the rest of us as players everyday in training.
Rain, Hail or snow he was just the same everyday and he just had the mentally of a top level player. He always stood out for me and I always say he was one of the best players I ever played with due to his fantastic ability and attributes as well. Michael Gardyne at Ross County is still going strong now and he is a club legend up there and he has great ability especially on the ball and he has been really successful for Ross County over the years and he holds all the records in terms of goals and appearances and he is a really quality player as well.
I can imagine in your position as a midfielder that you have come up against many difficult opponents through the years, could you say which opponents have stood out for you in terms of talent and ability?
Yes, The very first one that springs to mind was Colin Cooper. The ex Middlesbrough, Nottingham Forest and England defender and I played against him when I was in the reserves at Birmingham City and we played Middlesbrough FC in a reserve match. I was only 19 years old at the time and a little bit cocky thinking I was the best thing since sliced bread and I remember getting the team sheet and with the arrogance of youth thinking Colin Cooper is about 40 years old and I am going to destroy him tonight, well that man gave me a lesson that I will never and still have never forgotten.
He was stronger, and very intelligent and knew what I was going to do before I got the ball and he read the game so well and never once got caught out in terms of position or pace and you could see why he won the caps that he did for England. I just remember thinking in the game that I do not know what to do to beat this guy and it was a horrible feeling which I have had two or three times in my career.
In the case of Colin Cooper it was the first team I had come across that in my career where I could not find a solution to be beat him. I got in the car and called my Dad as always and I remember saying Dad I have never felt like that on a football pitch ever and I thought to myself I need to get stronger, I need to learn the game more and I remember thinking I was on the cusp of playing in the Premier League and that I was a great player and that night just taught me a big lesson that I was so far away from that level and that feeling I had during the game will always stick with me.
David Weir was also similar when I came up against him at Rangers FC and again he was 39 and he was just so intelligent and he just read the game so well and it is no surprise to see that he played past 40 years of age and he was a really tough opponent.
Finally Andy, Could you say who were the coaches and managers in your career that meant a lot to you and played a key role in your development as a professional football?
Yes, The most obvious one was Steve Bruce as he was the one that gave me a chance as a younger player trying to get to that first team level and he allowed me to launch my career because that is the hardest part. I played with a lot of young players who had more ability than me probably but they did not quite make that jump from academy football to first team football and it takes a bit of luck and I was fortunate that Steve Bruce spotted me and showed faith in me to make that step up.
Later in my career Derek Adams at Ross County we have a very successful time on the pitch and on a personal level. The way that he went about his business he was very meticulous and well organized and all the players know their role on the pitch and he has proved what a good manager he is also down South at Plymouth Argyle and he is now manager of Morecambe FC and he had remarkably turned them around too.
Craig Brewster signed me at Inverness Caledonian Thistle and I learned a lot off him personally and how to play the game and be a centre forward. I would always try to wrestle with defenders out strengthen and try to fight them and he taught me how to use my body in a better way and there are ways of holding defenders off.
Jim McIntyre signed me for Dunfermline Athletic and he was also a good centre forward who often joined in training and you could even see how good he was still and after training he would pull you to one side and advise you on that areas that players could improve in and pass on his personal experience which was great to learn as a striker. All these managers had an impact on me and my career.