Ian Andrews

Former Player Remembers: Ian Andrews

In the 1980s and 1990s, England Under-21 goalkeeper Ian Andrews played 139 games for Leicester City, mostly in the old First Division.
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He later returned to Leicester, where he covered for Kasey Keller, before becoming the Club’s Academy physio, as well as being a goalkeeping coach.  

At his physiotherapy practice in Bingham, Ian spoke to Club Historian John Hutchinson about his life in football.

Ian began by explaining how he came to be a City player and how he was nearly released before making the grade: “When I was playing for my local team as a youngster in Nottingham, my school gave me a number to ring because someone wanted to talk to me about football. It was a man called Jock Basford from Mansfield Town.

“He told me he had received good reports about me and that he would really like to watch me play for them in their youth team. I did this and it was brilliant.

“There was the smell of liniment and the sound of studs on the hard concrete floor before games with people laughing and joking, as they always do, and I thought this was a really nice environment.

“One Saturday morning, we played a game against Leicester City at Belvoir Drive. Leicester’s first team didn’t have a match and it was agreed with Mansfield to play this game with the Leicester first team coming on and off with rolling subs.  

“After the game, Dave Richardson was just taking over as Leicester’s youth team manager. He came round to my house to see myself and my dad. He said he was putting together a new youth team and he wanted me to be his first signing.

 “I thought I’d better come up with some good questions to ask, but I couldn’t think of anything because I definitely wanted to join Leicester.

“However, this came with a hint of sadness because I had loved absolutely every minute at Mansfield and was ready to sign for them. However Jock Basford passed away and the youth team didn’t stay together, so when Dave offered me an apprenticeship at Leicester, I knew the Mansfield time had gone. There was no doubt in my mind about signing for Leicester.

“I had gone from playing for Clifton All-Whites to Mansfield to Leicester City. That was quite a jump for me. It was difficult to perform every day. It got to the point where Dave Richardson said: ‘Look we have two or three games coming up and unless we see quite a big improvement we will let you go’.

I didn’t read the papers and deliberately kept away from the football side of it. I just did my own thing and enjoyed the training which I absolutely loved.

Ian Andrews

“The first game was away at Coventry on a wet Saturday morning and we were 2-0 down after 20 minutes.

“It was an 11am kick-off and I found it difficult to get up in the mornings! The next game didn’t go well either, but the last game before I was due to be released was against Forest at Belvoir Drive.

“Some England scouts were there to watch our centre-half for a tournament in France. Feeling that I had nothing to lose, as I was about to be released after only six months of a two year scholarship, I played really well.

“The following Tuesday Dave said to me: ‘Ian, you’ve given me a problem now because all of a sudden, just as we are about to release you, you have shown a glimpse of why we brought you here. Also, what is adding to the problem is that the England scouts who came to watch our centre-half have chosen you for the England youth team!’

“It couldn’t have been a bigger turn around, being picked for England after almost being released ahead of guys who had been playing well all year! I went to the tournament. I played every game, we won the tournament and I came back as the best English player!

“I played with the youth team with players like Rob Kelly (later to become a Leicester City manager), and some other very good players.

“I also played two games in the reserve team. Two games from the end of the 1983/84, I was told to travel on the first team bus to Wolves.

“I thought I was there to make the tea, but instead I made my first team debut. The week before Mark Wallington (who played 460 games for Leicester), a brilliant character, had let in five goals against Villa. He had made a comment which, out of context, had got back to the manager who played me at Wolves to make a point. I ended up staying in the team.”

Ian missed hardly any old First Division games for the next three seasons.  

He added: “I didn’t read the papers and deliberately kept away from the football side of it. I just did my own thing and enjoyed the training which I absolutely loved. Saturdays couldn’t come quickly enough. On the coach going to games, players would either become quiet, or play cards at the back or be nervous, but I was full of excitement. It was naivety. It was pure fun. I only saw the good things at that time.

“Every year, one of our best players would leave. It started with [Gary] Lineker who I really got on well with. The next on the list was Alan Smith. We knew we were going to be struggling.

“Ali Mauchlen and Gary McAllister came in and they were brilliant. Ali was tenacious, charismatic and full of energy who would get stuck in and make things work for you. He was like a Jack Russell on a football pitch! Gary came with him from Motherwell. He was a classy, thoughtful player who spent time on the ball. They were both brilliant players.

“I used to get on really well with defender Tommy Williams. He was a calm relaxed guy. I shared a room with him sometimes. He never used to panic. On my debut, he was the first to come over and say: ‘Don’t worry, we will look after you. Just go and enjoy it.’ I thought that was lovely.

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Ian Andrews

“Centre-half Russell Osman was a truly great player. A wonderful character. We remained friends for a long time. We played at his old team Ipswich Town against Terry Butcher, who with Russell had been the England centre-halves. They tore each other apart and then had a drink together afterwards! Russell really protected me that night.

“Paul Ramsey was also a really good player. Full of energy with lots of life and personality. Like Ali he was a player you would look towards in a game.”

In the first season in the old Second Division following relegation in 1987, goal keeper Paul Cooper arrived from Ipswich Town.

Ian continued: “It was just one of those things. New managers have new ideas. For whatever reason it wasn’t working for me with Bryan Hamilton who had taken sole charge at the start of that season. The team was changed around a lot. We had injuries. It got to the point where I thought it was time for me to move on.  

“I made a big money move to Celtic. The highest goalkeeper fee had been David Seaman’s £350,000 move from QPR to Arsenal and I went to Celtic for £330,000. When I played in the ‘Auld Firm’ game against Rangers, I was shouting to centre-half Roy Aitkin as loud as I possibly could. He was less than six yards away and he couldn’t hear a word! It was a cauldron!

“If you hadn’t been there you couldn’t imagine the volume in the ground.”

In 1989, Ian moved back to England: “I went to Southampton for £200,000, but Tim Flowers got in ahead of me. I didn’t want to play in the reserves. Mel Machin was building a new team just down the road at (third tier) Bournemouth. He offered me the chance to play. When I joined at Christmas 1994 we had nine points. 

“We only had about 11 or 12 first team players together with youth team players. But then we had the ‘Great Escape’. From Christmas onwards we got more points than Birmingham City, who won the league. We stayed up by two points. We had to win on a Tuesday night against Cambridge by two clear goals and we won 2-0. It was Roy of the Rovers stuff. I was so pleased to be part of it.

“At that point, the players weren’t getting paid. They were going to the chairman saying they couldn’t afford to pay the bills or mortgage, and the chairman was paying them out of his own pocket.

“The players would have played anyway because we were all 100 per cent committed to Bournemouth. Mel Machin was a fabulous character. He was one of those people you take to and like and do anything for. He was not dominating or overbearing.”

Personal tragedy then intervened in Ian’s life: “When I joined Celtic we discovered that my wife had cancer. I remember at Bournemouth going into hospital after Harry my son was born and it was clear my wife was not going to make it. As soon as I found that out, the last thing I felt like doing was playing.

“I played in the last game and that was it. It was not possible for me to play after that. I was looking after my wife until she died and my son, who wasn’t one at the time.

Martin O’Neill and Mel Machin were friends and Martin asked me if I wanted to train at Leicester just to take my mind off things, and that’s what I did. Martin is an unbelievable person. I started training and getting myself back together. Pegguy Arphexad was Kasey [Keller’s] cover. Martin being such a wonderful person, put me on a monthly contract.

I opened up my own practice six or seven years ago and it has gone from strength to strength with over 2,000 members now. It is my absolute passion. I love it.

Ian Andrews

“I went to Salford University and got a degree in physiotherapy, something I had always wanted to do. Then Martin said that he wanted me to the physio at Leicester’s new Academy. I remember Steve Walsh running in a bit late one day. He jumped on the bed and asked me to put a strapping on his ankle. I was with another player so I threw him a strapping.

“Walshy strapped his ankle up, jumped off the bed, and fell straight on the floor because he had strapped his ankle to the side of the table! It was one of the funniest things I’d seen!

“When Dave Bassett and Micky Adams took over, I coached the goalkeepers with Tim Flowers, working with Ian Walker and Conrad Logan. We were training together and it was fun. Ian got back into the England squad.

“At this point, Exeter’s manager Paul Tisdale, who I had been with at Southampton, asked me to look at the new multi-million pound training village at Bath University. They asked me to be part of it. It was the right opportunity at the right time. I went there and worked with some of the team GB athletes. It was a wonderful experience. It was top level physiotherapy. I also worked with the Team Bath football team who were fantastic characters. My son grew up in that environment.

“I wanted to get back to Nottingham where my family was at some point. I opened up my own practice six or seven years ago and it has gone from strength to strength with over 2,000 members now. It is my absolute passion. I love it. I’m probably better at this than I was at goalkeeping!”

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