GINGER KEPT FALL­ING OVER, IT DROVE BOSS MEG­SON WILD!

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Tom Phillips

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.

FIRST CLUB

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.

BEST TEAM-MATE

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!

FIRST PRO­MO­TION

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.

BIG­GEST ACHIEVE­MENT

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.

FUN­NI­EST PLAYER

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!

FUN­NI­EST IN­CI­DENT

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!

LOW­EST MO­MENT

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.

TOUGH­EST OP­PO­NENT

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.

AM­BI­TION

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.

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Images

Tough­est op­po­nent: Gary Pal­lis­ter Tough­est place: Torquay United HEAD BOY: Andy Preece in ac­tion for Bury against QPR

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