Andy Marshall interview: Ol’ Blue Eyes and Butch standing by – The dream team in Villa keeper’s corner
Aston Villa’s Andy Marshall has pulled on the gloves in distinguished stays at Norwich City, Ipswich Town, Millwall and Coventry City, and as he tries to help shape the future of the goalkeepers’ union there is an unlikely duo he can turn to if ever he needs.
A former England Under-21 international, Andy was 19 years old when he made his first-team debut for Norwich City as an early substitute away at Nottingham Forest in December 1994 due to an injury to Canaries legend Bryan Gunn. Besides further Premier League football with Ipswich Town, the standout moment during his playing days has surely been his appearance in the 2004 FA Cup final for Millwall against Manchester United. He had joined the Lions earlier that season in a move that signalled a turning point on a personal level and there was a former England midfielder who was the first face he saw on arrival.
“I remember turning up for training on my first day and Ray Wilkins, who was assistant manager (to Dennis Wise), came to meet me and took me in. You just knew there was a good vibe and something was going to happen at the club because of the atmosphere and the tight-knit group.
“I thought it would be getting the chance to challenge for promotion to the Premier League but as it turned out it was getting to the FA Cup final. I was at Ipswich and I needed to get away to play football and we ended up getting to the final in my first six months.
“Dennis and Ray made the whole feel to the place second to none.’’
In the FA Cup showpiece at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium, Division One Millwall were beaten 3-0 by their top flight opponents with United’s goals coming from a 19-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo and a brace from Ruud van Nistelrooy. Despite the result, Andy produced a terrific display in front of 71,350 and he stayed at the South-east Londoners for a further two years. Shortly after he had first arrived as a new player at The Den he had to brave the traditional procedure of singing for his teammates, being informed by his gaffer, the ex-Chelsea and England midfielder and player-manager at the time, Dennis Wise.
“When I joined Millwall, on loan initially, the first game was Crewe away. I got told on the coach, Wisey was walking by and he said ‘you know you’re gonna have to sing at dinner don’t you?’.
“I thought ‘no chance!’.’’
As it transpired, there was no escaping the task for Andy so he turned to one of the immortals to help him out – The Chairman of the Board (no, not Theo Paphitis…).
“I’m pretty much across the spectrum with music, from Frank Sinatra to the latest r&b and the latest chart music. I think Usher’s a fantastic artist but if I was to point to one in particular it would have to be Frank.
“When you’ve got to sing it takes the players out of their comfort zone but I think as long as you give it your best you’ll be alright. I got up there and did a song of Frank’s, I think the boys expected me to be horrendous but I got some massive applause and Ray Wilkins, who’s a big Sinatra fan, was up on his feet.’’
The connection shared by Andy and ex-AC Milan and Manchester United player Wilkins goes beyond football and music and he gave a mention to the man known as ‘Butch’ when discussing the players and personnel who have left a lasting impression on him throughout his career.
“I’ve been fortunate to work with a lot of good people, Matt Lawrence, Dennis Wise and Ray Wilkins for example. Ray helped me through some difficult times for me personally and even Theo Paphitis, who was chairman when I was at Millwall, is a good friend and actually helps me out with my business now.
“I’ve got a really good relationship with guys like Brad Guzan, Brad Friedel and Shay Given. I think we understand how hard we have to work and there’s a respect for each other.
“These are the sort of guys I want to stay in touch with.’’
The three aforementioned goalkeepers have all been colleagues of Andy’s since he signed for Aston Villa in 2009 and he lifts the lid on the dressing room dynamics at the club when it comes to the sound system. In charge of the music is a Frenchman who will be hoping to take the initiative in similar fashion in Villa’s fight for survival in the final weeks of this Premier League season.
“Charles N’Zogbia is the guy who comes in with his iPhone and blasts his music out first thing in the morning and then when we come back in after training. It’s always the latest hip-hop but a lot of it is in French.
“Gabby Agbonlahor’s into it – he sits in the opposite corner and just seems to be saying how great Charles’ music is!’’
Last May, ex-Norwich City defender Michael Nelson revealed on here how former Canaries manager and current Villa boss Paul Lambert had The Black Eyed Peas’ ‘I Gotta Feeling’ as the regular changing room track one season at Carrow Road. At Villa Park however it is an Irish goalkeeping legend and Andy’s friend and colleague mentioned earlier who stands out and he has the rest of the players running for cover with his musical preferences!
“Shay Given likes his music but he listens to Irish folk music so anyone who hears it has to suffer the consequences!’’
There is also a second mention for a defender Andy played alongside at Millwall and while the former Crystal Palace player has had a decidedly positive impact on Andy in their time of knowing each other they go their separate ways on music.
“The music I dislike has got to be that sort of grunge sound. I don’t like that at all and one of my friends is really into it.
“Matt Lawrence is too and he’s heavily into music. He goes to a lot of concerts and he knows about new artists a year or two before you hear about them.’’
The spirit at Millwall when Andy first linked up with the club in early 2004 was cited by him as a highly significant factor in their run to the FA Cup final and he picks out three players from his two and a half years with the Lions for notable contributions with a musical edge.
“We were all having a meal and Jody Morris had to do a song so he got up in the restaurant and did the theme tune to Friends. It was brilliant and all the boys were up clapping and it had the whole restaurant rocking not just the table.
“Carl Asaba banged a pretty good one out when he sang at Millwall. Danny Dichio has got a good reputation in the game but he was a big music DJ and also used to DJ at London clubs.’’
Andy showcased his tune choices in the Villa changing room in the most recent pre-season but only survived a few minutes of airtime. In this particular scenario, with footballers often very demanding about the pre-match playlist they hear, it would certainly have been interesting to see him attempt to play the first record he ever had!
“It was the first ever ‘Now That’s What I Call Music’ and it was a big round LP. It was about 30 years ago so I was probably 7 or 8 I’d say.’’
From his debut in the 1994/95 season to the day he left in 2001, Andy worked under nine managers at Norwich City after emerging through the youth ranks, the last of which was Nigel Worthington. With loans at Bournemouth and Gillingham, he played 195 times for Norwich and won the Player of the Year award in 2000/01. This preceded a controversial switch to bitter East Anglian rivals Ipswich Town, who at the time were a division higher in the Premier League and had just secured their passage into the UEFA Cup. Andy looks back on what it was like to represent both clubs and to face the wrath of the supporters as he did.
“I started my career at Norwich and the club has a special place in my heart. I’m pleased they’re doing so well now.
“I had a great time at Ipswich, I went there simply to play in the Premier League, and European football at that time too. Do I look back and have any regrets?
“I don’t think I have. It’s a shame all my hard work at Norwich was undone, sixteen years there came for nothing in the end but I’ve still got my memories.’’
Andy’s time at Ipswich included a Carling Cup appearance while on loan with top flight Wolverhampton Wolves in December 2003 and he departed Portman Road after 65 games for the Suffolk club. After his stay with Millwall came a move to Coventry City in 2006 and he would spend three years with the Sky Blues, winning the Player of the Year accolade in his first season at The Ricoh Arena. He played 68 times for the Championship side before leaving in 2009 and the memories are largely positive for him.
Unpaid rent of over £1.3million to Arena Coventry Limited, who own the club’s stadium, led to a non-operating subsidiary ‘Coventry City Football Club Limited’ being put into administration in March. A ten point deduction followed, ending their remaining hopes of an instant return to the Championship via the League One play-offs, and Andy gives his view on the turmoil those connected with the club have had to deal with in recent years.
“I had a successful time there on a personal level but you always knew that the club would struggle with no money and not owning the stadium. The second there was the thought of relegation you could see the demise happening, I know it’s easy to say after the event.
“Until they get that foothold by owning the stadium they’ll be swimming with their arms behind their back with the money getting swallowed up. I feel sorry for the players, the staff and the supporters because there are a lot of people trying to do the right thing and breathe fresh life into the club.’’
Back in March 2010, Sells Goalkeeping Academy got underway with the objective of providing expert guidance and coaching for goalkeepers of all ages and backgrounds. Backed by widely renowned goalkeeping product supplier Sells, the Academy, for which Andy is a director, has set up camp in Sussex, Cambridgeshire, Suffolk, Coventry, Norfolk, Northamptonshire and Essex, and now abroad. Sessions are run each week and a percentage of the proceeds are given to Acorns Children’s Hospice. Andy describes the progress being made, the exclusive plus points they offer, and his vision for the future for the Academy.
“We’ve got centres set up in England, Ireland, Australia and Canada and the concept is to take the professional element and to give it to the kids at grass roots level. It’s a popular concept and there are places that offer it but they don’t do it the way we do.
“Three years in, it’s been a winning formula and all our coaches are with professional clubs. The pleasing thing has been the amount of our young kids in professional clubs now and we’re spread across the whole country.
“I know that the principle we had three years ago now works, it’s been really hard but it’s been worth it. We want to make ourselves the biggest, my personal belief is that we are the best, and with the brand we have in Sells, the people and the vision, I believe in the next five years we’ll show that we are.’’
Andy is in a position to offer his tutelage and acumen with the Academy thanks in no small part to his career in the top two divisions of the English game working alongside some esteemed players and coaches along the way. When answering the final question of the players he would select to play in front of him in a 5-a-side line-up of the best he has ever worked with he went for a great mix of fierce competitors and undoubted quality. There are two from his days at Millwall and a duo of teammates from his time so far with Aston Villa, one of whom the whole of football offers continued best wishes in his fight with leukaemia. These are the boys Andy has put his faith in!
“Ray Wilkins – technically I didn’t play with him but when he joined in the 5-a-sides at Millwall the guy was something else. I can’t imagine how good he would’ve been if he could still run around.
“Stiliyan Petrov – we’ve had a hate each other / love each other relationship but his passion for the game is second to none. I’ll say Dennis Wise even though I think him and Stiliyan might clash with each other!
“The last one – Ashley Young. He’s always going to score, he wants to win, technically he’s phenomenal and he’s great around the dressing room.’’