Height: 6ft 4
Weight: 13st 9
Previous Clubs: Horley Town
As the football season prepares to, once again, launch itself headlong into the nation’s consciousness, Andy Walker of Wembley FC launches himself headlong into the eyes of the therealfacup.
Any parallels between our first two interview victims are tenuous and very much not football related. They’re both very busy people, both centre backs, both appear to like visiting the non United bits of America and both will be playing in the FA Cup. The main difference, though, is at every home game Andy can gaze wistfully at Wembley’s big arch during the moments when the ball is at the other end of the Vale Farm pitch.
Currently in the Combined Counties Premier Division, Andy’s an old hand at the FA Cup but the last two campaigns could be said to be mixed. The 3-0 beating Wembley gave Haringey Borough two seasons ago after a replay is, undoubtedly, a high point, particularly as he ruefully admits it’s “the only time I’ve ever ended up on the winning side.” Incidentally, that game is one of many documented by author John Stoneman who went on his own journey through FA Cup.
Job: Market Research
Nickname: None given
Favourite Player: Peter Beardsley
I’ve no idea how few players we’ll come across this year that appear in a book about the FA Cup (very few) but Andy won’t be the only one to have been sent off in it. He won’t thank me much for dredging up the second yellow against Royston last season that signalled the end of his game and, judging by reports, the end of Wembley’s participation in the FA Cup that season. We weren’t there but the Wembley website hints Andy was, at the time, holding the defence together, while other reports suggest he was a little unfortunate with at least one of the cards.
We won’t dwell on that but we will dawdle a while on Andy’s favourite team. therealfacup won’t divert too frequently into the upper echelons of the game but, sadly, Andy’s team is no longer there and they do crop up regularly in the interview. From his favourite player to football’s Gaffer of Gaffers via the possibly thorny topic of football finance we wind. There’s little magic here.
Most Difficult Opponent: Anyone with pace
Favourite Other Team: Newcastle United
Pre-Match Meal: Cereal
Favourite TV Show: The Apprentice
The word ‘great’ is attributed to many but deserved by few. As I’m sure we’re all now aware, former Newcastle and Ipswich manager , Sir Bobby Robson, finally succumbed to the cancer he has already fought off four times. All Newcastle, Ipswich, Fulham and maybe even West Brom fans will definitely have taken a moment last weekend but, the thing is, they wouldn’t have been alone. “Very few managers achieve success while still being admired by opponents” said Andy, catching precisely the mood of the footballing nation and even those outside.
The word ‘great’ is not, however, one that sits comfortably with Newcastle at the moment, certainly not when it comes to finance and the perhaps unfounded rumours of administration. Andy believes the amount of money in the game is “fine, as long as clubs are generating as much as they are spending. Problems only arise when clubs try to live beyond their means”. I’d be misquoting Andy if I implied he made that comment in relation to Newcastle, which he didn’t, but, obviously, they are one of many top flight teams who have spent beyond their means and the relevance looms large at St James’ now they’ve dropped a division.Favourite Pop Star(s): Jimmy Nail
Favourite Food: Curry
Best Country Visited: Peru
Miscellaneous Likes: Cricket
Miscellaneous Dislikes: Celery, Umbrellas
Another manager who made it into this interview is, even less surprisingly than Sir Bob, Andy’s current manager at Wembley. Perhaps more surprising is the context in which he cropped up. “Last season one of our players left their boots in the changing room after training. By the Saturday they had been concreted into a bucket” said Andy. The culprit? Ian Bates, Wembley manager and, apparently, dressing room joker.
With this anecdote seemingly rather at odds with the common perception of a manager, I asked Andy about the veracity of his response to the ‘favourite pop star’ question. Without giving too much away I am now wondering if Gaffer Bates is really the team joker. “Celery and umbrellas” indeed.
“My dad always told me he regretted giving up football at a young age and that has motivated me to keep working at it” says Andy of the biggest influence on his career. Maybe that’s why there’s no resting on laurels and his ambition is “to keep improving and help get Wembley back to the top end of the table, as we were a couple of years ago.”
Something that surprised me a little at both Andy and Martyn’s responses was that they had not heard any notable terrace songs in games in which they had played. I suppose it’s not entirely surprising they haven’t heard songs about themselves, not even all pro footballers get that accolade, but to not have heard any at all got me wondering. I don’t have a vast memory bank of FA Cup/non-league games but even I can remember some tunes. He says there’s “not usually enough people there to get any songs going” but I can only suspect that Andy is so immersed in the game that he doesn’t notice???
Last week we broached the topic of the magic of the cup and it’s individual nature. Like Martyn before him, Andy’s hope for future rounds was not to make the short trip to THE stadium itself and not to draw one of the big 4 or even the team he supports but a team that means something to him, his former club Horley Town. There’s a reality here, there’s a lack of the mediated response of footballers claiming their new club to be the one they’ve always dreamt of playing for. There’s no claims of an imminent title win, no boasts of supremacy, it’s all about bettering oneself, doing your best and enjoying it while respecting where you’ve come from and who got you there.
This is refreshing, it’s why we wanted to go to such games. It also may not be a revelation to many reading, maybe it is, but we’re new at this game and we like it.
Thanks again to Andy for taking time out from work to answer a few questions, it’s much appreciated, and good luck in today’s big kick off against Chertsey.
One final thing though. “It’s not about the good balls, it not about the bad balls, its all about the right balls.” This is apparently Andy’s favourite football cliche? Is this another in joke? Will one of his team mates please let us know?
Thanks to Andy Walker and also to Laura for facilitating the interview.