Re­dun­dancy key move in winger’s route to fi­nal

‘If I hadn’t been laid off, I’d have fol­lowed a dif­fer­ent ca­reer path,’ says An­der­son


GRANT AN­DER­SON is ac­cus­tomed to large num­bers of Rangers fans watch­ing him in ac­tion. It is part of what he de­scribes as his “back­wards” ca­reer path, one that has led him to the point of lin­ing up against the Ibrox club in to­mor­row’s Rams­dens Cup Fi­nal at Easter Road.

In an era when any­one dis­play­ing a de­gree of talent is swept into a youth academy be­fore they have even started shav­ing, An­der­son’s route to full-time foot­ball as a winger with Raith Rovers has been so var­ied that it al­most in­duces twinges of nos­tal­gia.

His me­an­der­ing ca­reer has in­volved pe­ri­ods in Ju­nior, am­a­teur and part-time foot­ball, along­side study­ing for an en­gi­neer­ing de­gree, work­ing as a project man­ager, and a sub­se­quent stint as a labourer. Un­sur­pris­ingly, it is a story wor­thy of fur­ther in­spec­tion.

A bright, ar­tic­u­late Glaswe­gian, An­der­son was just 15 years old when he was signed by St Mungo’s am­a­teur team to play for their un­der-21 side. He would stay only a year be­fore mov­ing to Har­mony Row, the sto­ried Go­van side that boasts Sir Alex Fer­gu­son as its most fa­mous pa­tron. An­der­son would put down roots there for the next five years, be­fore mov­ing to Ju­nior foot­ball with Kirk­in­til­loch Rob Roy. “They were the only team that showed any in­ter­est in me,” he ad­mits hon­estly. From there it was on to Sten­house­muir, un­til he got made re­dun­dant from his job as a project man­ager with an en­gi­neer­ing firm, a move that led to him sign­ing full-time – for less money – with Hamil­ton Aca­dem­i­cal.

“If I hadn’t been made re­dun­dant, I’d prob­a­bly have fol­lowed a com­pletely dif­fer­ent path,” he adds. “Ron­nie MacDon­ald [the for­mer Hamil­ton chair­man] was hon­est with me. He knew I’d been made re­dun­dant and said that’s why they were of­fer­ing me the deal. Ef­fec­tively, I had to take a pay cut.”

He lasted just a sea­son at Hamil­ton – a pe­riod that in­cluded a re­turn to Sten­house­muir on loan – be­fore be­ing let go in the sum­mer of 2012. This time it was Raith who took a chance on him, the past two sea­sons see­ing him fi­nally es­tab­lish­ing him­self as a full-time player.

It seems a long way from the days when he was labour­ing for an elec­tri­cal firm. “I ap­pre­ci­ate be­ing a full-time foot­baller,” he adds. “My brother slags me. He’s in the en­gi­neer­ing trade as a QS [quan­tity sur­veyor]. He asks what I do and I say, ‘Trained, had a bit of lunch and came home at 3pm’. He says that’s ter­ri­ble. But I do ap­pre­ci­ate it. I’ve had to work for it.

“I was at Queen’s Park when I was 13 and they never kept me on. Falkirk also said I was too small. I could have worked all the hours un­der the sun with the labour­ing, but this has worked out for me.”

It is a far cry from the routes taken by most of the Rangers play­ers who will line up against An­der­son and his Raith team-mates to­mor­row. “I’m sure they all came through the ranks at clubs and were bred into foot­ball,” he adds. “That can work to their ad­van­tage – I never had a first touch when I joined Hamil­ton. That has de­vel­oped over the years, do­ing it ev­ery day, but they are more com­fort­able on the ball than I would have been at their age. I never played pro-youth. I never played tidy, nice foot­ball. So I was used to the el­bows and the push­ing. I just got on with it. That prob­a­bly helped me.”

It was at Har­mony Row that An­der­son was first watched by Rangers fans, al­though prob­a­bly not par­tic­u­larly at­ten­tively. The team used to play their matches on the ar­ti­fi­cial pitch in the shadow of the Ibrox main stand, the 1pm kick-off giv­ing hun­dreds of loi­ter­ing, early Rangers fans some­thing to watch as they waited for the turn­stiles to open for their own match.

“Our home pitch for a cou­ple of sea­sons was the astroturf across from Ibrox,” he re­called. “Then Sir Alex Fer­gu­son gave us money and we moved to the pitches in be­hind Brae­head. But to start with, I played all our home games in front of Ibrox.

“We would kick off ear­lier if Rangers were at home be­cause of how busy it got, but you would still have a few hun­dred fans turn­ing up early and watch­ing some of our games. The guys were sell­ing scarves, the burger vans were go­ing and fans would watch us be­cause there was noth­ing else to do.

“I could never have imag­ined back then that I would one day be play­ing against Rangers in a cup fi­nal. Never. I would look across at the sta­dium and imag­ine what it would be like to play on that pitch. Even play­ing at Ibrox empty in a char­ity game would have been great. This fi­nal isn’t at Ibrox, but even then it will be a great ex­pe­ri­ence in front of a full house.

“I thought the best it would get for me would be play­ing in front of 400 people against Auchin­leck Tal­bot. But I’ve kicked on from my time in the Ju­niors and long may it con­tinue.”

KNOCKED OFF COURSE: Grant An­der­son was happy build­ing a ca­reer as a project man­ager and play­ing part-time when re­dun­dancy scup­pered his plans.

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