GINGER KEPT FALLING OVER, IT DROVE BOSS MEGSON WILD!
AS PART of the Crystal Palace squad that saw Eric Cantona see red in more ways than one, and a sizeable half of the Twin Peaks Stockport County forward line that rose through the divisions under Danny Bergara, it’s fair to say that Andy Preece has done a lot in football.
The big striker began Football League life at Northampton Town and dropped into Non-League with Worcester City before heading to the big stage with Crystal Palace via Wrexham and Stockport.
A journeyman’s career spanning three decades is still taking him on his travels. Now manager of Airbus UK Broughton and leading them to runners-up spot in the Welsh Premier and qualification for the Europa League for the first time.
The 47-year-old has had his fair share of strike partners, Wembley outings and even had to juggle his playing career at Bury with managing the club as well.
Worcester City. I was still in the youth team when I made my debut. We were in the Conference and I came on for the last 15-20 minutes and scored the third goal in a 3-0 win. It was such a great experience for me and that’s what I like to remember – making the most of my debut.
Then after the game, and I don’t know whether or not it was a director, someone came and said to me: “Son, you’ll never make it!” That stayed with me throughout the rest of my career but, fortunately, I proved him wrong.
BEST MANAGER Danny Bergara. I was not doing well at Wrexham and all I was thinking was “Oh my god, why has he signed me for Stockport County in the league above when I’m at Wrexham struggling in the league below”. But he saw something in me and got the best out of me.
On Fridays, we would play 11v11 and it would be full-on because we knew whoever won that match would be the starting XI on Saturday. He kept you on your toes and knew how to keep players and the youth motivated.
At Stockport again. I’ve had a few strike partners but it probably would be Kevin Francis. I would usually be playing as the second striker off him and pick up the second balls to score tap-ins. He was about 6ft 7ins, a true target man and a really underrated player.We had a great understanding and he made my life a lot easier.
Whenever he went chasing the ball, anyone in his way would get clipped. I’ve seen defenders having to be stretchered off in the first ten seconds of matches. He was such a powerful lad to play with.
He went off to be a Mountie in Canada and he would certainly get his man!
I spent most of the 2004-05 season in the Conference with Carlisle, helping them win promotion back into the Football League at the first time of asking.
I didn’t play in the play-offs because I left in the February to return to Worcester as playermanager, but I was still one of the top scorers.
The lads played Stevenage in the final and it was great to be invited back to be there with them at the Britannia Stadium on the day, because I have had so many near misses in the play-offs with Blackpool, Bury and Stockport.
It was a brilliant feeling to be on the pitch with the champagne and fireworks going off, knowing I’d played a big part in the season.
It topped off my playing career really, because getting promoted back into the Football League is so difficult to do.We were the last side to do it at the first attempt.
The whole place was bouncing with the massive following from Carlisle. It will always be something to remember.
For me, it was playing at the top level. I had a steady spell at Crystal Palace where I scored three goals in three games in three wins. I had to pinch myself a bit because I never reached that level until I was in my late 20s and never thought I was going to get there. Then suddenly this little spell comes up scoring goals in the Premier League – it was a great time.
OOH AHH, ERIC CANTONA
I didn’t really see what was happening because I was warming up on the other side but could see someone was sent off and there was some commotion. After that you have to focus on the game at hand. I think it was Chris Armstrong who came up to me and said, “He kung-fu kicked him”. We were like, “Shut up you’re joking”. It was totally unheard of for a professional footballer to be doing that. In the bar afterwards, we were asking each other: “Did that really just happen?”. He suffered the consequences but came back all guns blazing, to be fair to him.
Oh God. It’s amazing how names go out of your head. We called him Ginger Davies. I was at Blackpool and he was someone that never stopped with his little wise-cracks and could never hold a serious conversation.
At training he was always the guy that made you laugh, never stopped from minute one to the last minute of training. He would just have everybody in hysterics, he was just a very funny man and I never met anyone else who could just keep firing little one-liners.
No matter what happened he would always find something funny and he kept the dressing room alive. Mike Davies… the name’s just come to me now!
The lads had been on a night out and Mike Davies was still a bit worse for wear – he didn’t know what day of the week it was! He came out to training and we were doing some hamstring stretches. He kept falling over, but somehow managed to land into a calf stretch.
Then we did this possession game but it kept breaking down because when it was Davies’ turn, he just ran around in circles. The manager, Gary Megson, hadn’t got a clue why it was not working and it was doing his head in. We tried telling Ginge, but he could not take the information on board. Eventually the manager worked out who was causing the problem and sent Ginge running round the outside of the pitch. It was just a funny half an hour where he was totally out of it.
TOUGHEST PLACE TO GO TO
Torquay was always a tough place to go because of the distance. When I went there with Bury we had to get out and train next to some motorway services. That was never very suitable and results never seemed to go our way.
Something always happened at Torquay. I remember going there with Wrexham and I was marking Matty Elliot at set pieces when he scored.We won 2-1 but all the manager, Brian Flynn, kept going on about was me losing my man.
I went down to Torquay again with Carlisle and it happened again. I lost my man, he scored and Torquay won 1-0.
When you’re travelling all the way down to Torquay from Carlisle you do not want to be the one that lost his man from a set-piece.
They were the two times where I remember losing my man and they both were at Torquay.
When I was manager at Bury we got two of our players sent off at Torquay and had to play almost half an hour with nine, but managed to get a draw which was unbelievable – but something had still happened.
FAVOURITE PLACE TO GO
Favourite place for atmosphere would be Old Trafford and Anfield. Fantastic atmospheres. But somewhere I always played well would be Turf Moor. I always used to score or get a good result against Burnley.
A lot of the times they were derby games as well, so it would be a great place to do well at.
For atmosphere, Wembley was great but I went there a few times and never once won, so I can’t put that down as somewhere I like going!
The 1995-96 season at Blackpool. We were top of the league, nip and tuck with Swindon Town, then we found ourselves second, 12 points clear with 14 games to go.
Oxford went on an unbelievable run and managed to pip us to runners-up on the last day of the season, so we went into the play-offs. We were 2-0 up in the first leg against Bradford but lost in the second leg.
We had a great team with some quality players who went on to play at a higher level. We had such a good season and for it to blow-up in our face, not just losing out on automatic promotion but to not get to the playoff final, was hard to take.
If we had gone up to the Championship (then known as Division One), we would have had a really good chance to push for the Premier League.
It was a real low-time because we should’ve got promoted, but that team got broken up, Sam Allardyce was sacked as manager and the club took a while to get back on its feet.
Andy Morrison, my assistant at Airbus and the former Plymouth and Man- chester City defender, would like me to say it was him but I never lost against him and usually managed to score, so I can’t!
I played against Gary Pallister at Manchester United and he was so good in the air. He was quick, he was good on the ball and he didn’t seem to have a weakness.You never got any change out of him. He was so difficult.
Things are going really well at Airbus and in the last two years we’ve qualified for the Europa League.
The goal in three years was to get into Europe. I’m in my third year now and we’ve already got into Europe twice, so we’ve proven we can do it.
The long-term goal for me is to get back managing in the Football League and if you keep on being successful then hopefully someone will give you that opportunity.
Toughest opponent: Gary Pallister Toughest place: Torquay United HEAD BOY: Andy Preece in action for Bury against QPR