You retired from playing football in 2012. How are you enjoying retirement from professional football, Do you miss the game and how is life for you these days?
I think you always miss football and you can’t replicate it and you can never get it back. I was always told by one of my friends to go on and play as long as you can and I think I did that and I played as long as I physically could and then I had to give up professionally. I played semi professionally and now I have got a bit of desire back with the over forties which is great and I get the banter and I get the football so to speak and I am loving football again.
My advice to anybody would be that if your body can allow it play as long as you can because it is such a short career and I was very lucky with certain injuries and I would not change any of it because injuries are part and parcel of football although some more serious than others but I fought till the end and I give it what I could.
You played for your hometown club Middlesbrough FC coming through the youth setup and going on to make first team appearances. How do you look back on your time at the club and do you have any highlights or special memories?
I love Middlesbrough Football Club and I have loved it since I was a young boy watching them at Ayresome Park and I lived the dream and I emulated everything that I wanted to do and more. I made my debut at 16 years of age at the Riverside Stadium on Good Friday 1996 against Sheffield Wednesday and I made my full debut at Anfield and I scored my first goal against Sunderland AFC a League Cup win.
I scored two goals against Manchester United and I played with some world class footballers, meeting my heroes and I lived the dream. It was amazing. I also made my international debut for England whilst at the club. If it was not for Middlesbrough Football Club I would not be the person I am today and I would not have grown up and had the achievements in my football career.
I owe everything to the people like Ron Bone, Keith Noble, Dave Gedis, Bryan Robson, Viv Anderson, Gordon McQueen the players and the fans Middlesbrough FC are a special club and I even came back to live in the area and I also go to games at the Riverside Stadium as much as I can obviously before Covid and I am a super fan and I love the club and if I can help in any way I can in the future I will do everything I can.
After completing a successful loan spell at Cardiff City you went on to play four seasons for the club. How do you look back on your time at the club and do you have any special memories or highlights?
When I first found out that Cardiff City were interested I did my homework on the club and I knew the manager at the time Lennie Lawrence from my time at Middlesbrough FC and I knew some of the players and my time overall at Cardiff City was a huge success.
We achieved what the club set out to achieve in that short space of time and I scored some important goals and I scored some big goals and quite a lot of goals at certain times. I would have liked to play more games but when you have got people in front of you like Peter Thorne and Robert Earnshaw among others sometime your time is limited on a football pitch but it was not the case of me not wanting to play or me not trying to play I just came across some players who were better footballers, scored more goals than me, fitted the philosophy of the manager at the time better than me and I moved on this is what happens.
I have still got a good affiliation with the club, fans adore me now like they did when I played and I can’t thank them enough for that and one thing I did when I played was I tried my best to give everything I had in my ability and I loved every second playing for that football club and I still look for their results today and I have still got some nice friends that live in the city still so it is a club that will be close to me forever.
You accrued a lot of experience at club and international level. When you look back could you say who are among the best players you played alongside during your career?
I have been very lucky to have played with some world class players. I know the words world class are branded around quite easily in 2021 and every player who ever plays in the Champions League is world class but for me I look at Juninho Paulista at Middlesbrough FC and for me he is in the top ten players to ever grace the Premier League. He was a world class superstar and Brazilian international and to come and play for Middlesbrough FC was absolutely fantastic and I got to see him daily, on a matchday and to play with him and against him in training and it was amazing for me.
In the England setup I was quite fortunate with Michael Owen, Jamie Carragher, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and Rio Ferdinand. It does not get any bigger than that, they were the darlings of English football at the time and still are being the Golden Generation and for me I was very lucky. I knew they were to greatness and that they would go on to play for the first team squad because they had the attitude and the ability to go with it and they were also phenomenal people and phenomenal footballers and it was a great experience for me to play with them.
I can imagine in your position as a striker that you have come up against many difficult opponents through the years. When you look back could you say which opponents stood out for you in terms of talent and ability?
Yes, There were three opponents really that really stood out. Rio Ferdinand had the pace to go with his ability and it was really difficult one of my own attributes was pace and trying to find that extra ten or 20 percent which you need to get past players like that. Sol Campbell and Jaap Stam.
For me they were both world class defenders and footballers both in stature and ability and they were big, solid grown men who had the ability and instinct to go and defend, they were horrible on the pitch but both absolute pure gentleman off the pitch and all three players were born winners and you could tell that they would all go to the very top during various times of their careers because they had the ability to go with it having played in World Cup’s and Champions Leagues and they had won domestic Premier League titles. Fair play to them all who were very talented and very difficult to play against.
Finally Andy. When you look back on your career could you say which coaches and managers meant a lot to you and played a key role in your development as a professional footballer?
I have been very lucky. Bryan Robson was like a Dad to me and was a real father figure in terms of football, he gave me a kick up the backside when I needed one and a cuddle when I needed one.
He would put his arm around me and told me how good I was and that was great for me and when he left the club that left a big hole and I was a little lost.
Then, I found a different home in Lennie Lawrence who gave me a different type of love which was great. Howard Wilkinson at England under 21 level. Chris Wilder at Halifax Town. I knew Chris was going to go to the very top because he had the desire and attitude and it is not all about coaching badges and qualifications, he knew how to talk to players and how to get the best out of a player if he was 16 or 33 years of age.
I was very lucky that our paths crossed and that I got to work with him because I am very proud to see how well he has done to date and how he will do again in the future. I was injured for six months during my time under Chris and sometimes you can get disowned by managers because you are not needed but Chris made me come in everyday and I travelled an hour and a half to training.
He made me feel part of the group and he made me watch training, he made me be involved with the banter and he also fully involved me on a matchday and I can’t thank him enough. It just shows the testament of a man not the manager because he has obviously been in that situation himself as a player where he has not been player or injured and he is passing on his experience of what you should not do or what you should do and weighing up the pro’s and cons and for me he is an absolutely fantastic man and I think at his next club they will get the best of Chris Wilder because he will be like a wounded animal.
FEATURE PHOTOGRAPH: Ace Podcast Nation