GOOD, BAD & UGLY

Rob Ed­wards on in­juries, pro­mo­tion and laughs with Ol­lie and Crouch

The Football League Paper - - NEWS - By Chris Dunlavy

FOR ev­ery in­de­struc­tible cy­borg like Teddy Sher­ing­ham or Ryan Giggs, there’s a tin­man like Rob Ed­wards. Se­ri­ously in­jured at the age of 20, he spent the next ten years be­ing patched up,oiled and wheeled out to play,de­spite the never-end­ing aches and pains.

He even man­aged to win two pro­mo­tions, play in the Premier League for Black­pool and win in­ter­na­tional caps for Wales.

Even­tu­ally, though, the for­mer Villa,Wolves and Barns­ley de­fender creaked to a halt.

“I was full-time from the age of 14,” says Ed­wards, who re­tired in 2013 at the age of 30.“Un­for­tu­nately, my body just wasn’t made to play into my 30s and 40s.”

Now coach­ing un­der Kenny Jack­ett at Mo­lineux, the 32-year-old tells us which Por­tuguese winger (not that one) taught him a les­son at Lof­tus Road, which ‘mad’ man­ager was his great­est in­spi­ra­tion and why he knew it was fi­nally time to call it a day.

FIRST CLUB

As­ton Villa. I was play­ing for my lo­cal team in Telford when they spot­ted me. I was about ten or 11.

Com­ing through the ranks I was with peo­ple like Gareth Barry, Liam Ridgewell, the Moore broth­ers – Ste­fan and Luke – and Boaz My­hill, who is at West Brom now. Gary Cahill was a few years be­low. It was a great place to be.

I even­tu­ally broke through just af­ter my 20th birth­day and made my de­but against Mid­dles­brough. I played about nine or ten games that year, but I got a bad an­kle in­jury against Ever­ton and that turned out to be the last time I ever played for them.

BEST MAN­AGER

Mick McCarthy was great. Very straight­for­ward, very hon­est – a lot of what I am to­day comes from him. Graham Tay­lor and Glenn Hod­dle also taught me so much.

But, for what he achieved, it has to be Ian Hol­loway at Black­pool. Ol­lie was mad, and he’ll ad­mit that him­self. He’d talk about his fam­ily, talk about his chick­ens. He had a crazy metaphor for ev­ery sit­u­a­tion. His brain works dif­fer­ently to any­one I’ve ever known.

But at that club, at that time, it all made per­fect sense. Don’t get me wrong, he had some good foot­ballers. He’s tried to in­stil the same thing at Palace and Mill­wall and it hasn’t worked out.We were a group of lads largely un­wanted by other clubs and we fit­ted into his phi­los­o­phy re­ally well.

Ul­ti­mately, though, he took a team that fin­ished 16th in the Cham­pi­onship, spent al­most no money and, on the small­est bud­get ever, got them pro­moted to the Premier League. And he did it with pure coach­ing, cre­at­ing a style and a spirit that play­ers bought into.

BEST TEAM-MATE

I could drop a few names here – I played with Ryan Giggs and Gareth Bale for Wales. Joleon Lescott at Wolves is the best cen­tre-half I’ve ever lined up with.

But, to me, Gareth Barry at Villa takes it ev­ery time. He was player of the year in my one sea­son and he was im­mense.

He’s spent his ca­reer get­ting stick for some rea­son, but peo­ple who re­ally un­der­stand football know how good he is. His pass­ing, his move­ment, the way he reads a game, Gaz is a bril­liant, bril­liant foot­baller who’s played at the high­est level ev­ery week since he was 17. Not many play­ers in the world can boast that kind of con­sis­tency.

FIRST PRO­MO­TION

With Black­pool to the Premier League in 2010. I was on the bench for the play-off fi­nal against Cardiff (which the Seasiders won 3-2) and I was plough­ing the touch­line at the end. Pro­mo­tion meant so much to us and I was so ner­vous I couldn’t sit down. Sweat was drip­ping off me.

Fun­nily enough, I went out on loan to Nor­wich the fol­low­ing sea­son and was part of the side that went up un­der Paul Lam­bert, so I ended up get­ting two in a row.

FUN­NI­EST PLAYER

I’ve got a cou­ple. Peter Crouch at Villa when I was young was hi­lar­i­ous. Just look­ing at him made me laugh, but he also had a re­ally dry sense of hu­mour and some great one-lin­ers. The other is Jim McNulty, who was at Barns­ley with me. Very sharp, very witty – I used to be in a car school with Jim and he made me laugh pretty much ev­ery sin­gle day. Fun­ni­est player: Peter Crouch

FUN­NI­EST IN­CI­DENT

I thought for ages about this and I can’t put any of them into print. So I’m not go­ing to name one spe­cific thing. But, for a funny pe­riod in time, there’s no beat­ing the dress­ing room at Black­pool. One of us was al­ways play­ing a joke or can­ing some­one for some­thing daft they’d said or done. We had some sharp lads and peo­ple like Ben Burgess could be bril­liantly cut­ting. He’s another one I could’ve men­tioned above. You didn’t dare try to mock him be­cause he could take you down with one line.

We’d have to take the mick out of our­selves be­cause we’d be there wash­ing our own kit and clean­ing our own boots, think­ing ‘this is ridicu­lous’. We could have moaned but it ac­tu­ally brought us closer.

BIG­GEST ACHIEVE­MENT

Be­ing capped byWales.As the years have gone on, that’s the thing that be­came most im­por­tant to me.

I qual­i­fied through my par­ents, and all my fam­ily are from North Wales. I made my de­but when I was 20,pre-in­juries and when ev­ery­thing was go­ing well.

At the time you just think ‘well, that was great’. Now, I re­alise it was pretty spe­cial.

To be hon­est, I’m also pleased some­one of my abil­ity man­aged to have a ca­reer.

In terms of tal­ent, I’m not the worst in the world. But I’m hardly Messi or Ron­aldo.I had to squeeze ev­ery drop out of my­self to play 200-odd games at the level I did.

LOW­EST MO­MENT

The in­juries.To have a bad one at 20 – when things were go­ing well at Villa – was a mas­sive blow and I never felt the same again.

Even though I played a lot of games and got back to the Premier League,I look back on that time as the be­gin­ning of the end.

To­wards the end, the last cou­ple of years, I was in pain ev­ery day. I couldn’t do the things I was used to do­ing and that was re­ally frus­trat­ing. I’d come of the pitch and be quite up­set, think­ing ‘what’s go­ing on, why can’t I do this or that any­more?Why is this guy go­ing past me?’

Your body is ba­si­cally break­ing down and it’s that hor­ri­ble, slow re­al­i­sa­tion of ‘I haven’t got long left here’. You shouldn’t be get­ting out of a car at 29-30 and go­ing ‘oooh’.

It made me re­alise I had to get the badges done pretty quick. Tough­est Op­po­nent: Luis Boa Morte

TOUGH­EST PLACE TO GO

Lof­tus Road when Ful­ham played there. It’s re­ally tight, re­ally in­tim­i­dat­ing.

Even though there weren’t ac­tu­ally a lot of fans in­side, they made it feel like there was. They al­ways made a big noise.When I grew up, I ac­tu­ally en­joyed it. But when I was young, I had a night­mare. Which leads me on to…

TOUGH­EST OP­PO­NENT

Luis Boa Morte, for Ful­ham at Lof­tus Road. I pre­ferred play­ing cen­tre­back, but when I first got in at Villa, they put me at right-back.

Boa Morte gave me an ab­so­lute les­son that day. On his day, he was very, very good – and he cer­tainly had his day against me.

He was very quick with loads of abil­ity and I think he must have turned up that day and thought ‘Great, a young kid, I fancy this’.

I re­mem­ber talk­ing to Chris Coleman when I met up with Wales a lit­tle while later and he came up and said ‘Not bad that Boa Morte, eh?’

Not long later,Chris was man­ag­ing Ful­ham and Boa Morte was his cap­tain – I think my per­for­mance prob­a­bly kick-started his ca­reer!

It didn’t help me much though – I got the hook at half-time.

FAVOURITE PLACE TO GO

Villa Park.I also loved the Mil­len­nium Sta­dium in Cardiff. Mak­ing my de­but in front of 70,000 is some­thing I’ll never for­get. Mo­lineux is spe­cial, too, but there’s noth­ing like Villa Park for a night game when the place is full.

AM­BI­TION

One day – and I mean one day – I’d like to be a head coach or man­ager. There are a lot of young guys out there do­ing it and it does make you think ‘yeah, maybe it is pos­si­ble’.

I’m in no rush. I’m 32, still learn­ing my trade.And I’m learn­ing from a top, top man­ager in Kenny Jack­ett.

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

HIGH RISE: Rob Ed­wards (cen­tre) scores Black­pool’s first goal in a win over Derby in 2008-09

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