Leaving the Liverpool youth team to sample relegations, promotions and numerous different managers at Swindon Town was a real baptism of fire for former Robins defender Andy Nicholas. He kindly took time to speak to STEVEN FYFE about his time at Swindon.
You were/are infamous for that Delap-esque long throw – was that a natural talent or something you worked on at Liverpool?
It was something I always practiced as a boy growing up. during my YT at Liverpool I did work on it with the strength and conditioning coach, doing things like throwing medicine balls.
It was definitely a major part of my game, tall Left Back with the long throw was how I was described. it’s the same now but you’d probably add bald in now.
You played under many managers (King, Onoura, Wise, Sturrock, Malpas) – did you have a favourite?
Very difficult to pick a favourite from that mixed bag. I’m sure people have polarised views on Kingy’s reign but for me on a totally personal level he was the man who signed me, made me feel part of it and gave me the chance to play and that period is and always will be the most cherished part of my career.
The squad when I signed in 2003/04 was by far the best team I have ever played in and that along with the atmosphere around the club during my first season was fantastic and again that was created by Kingy.
Paul Sturrock was a very good manager, he had a very clear method and always spoke honestly to you. Iffy is a great fella who I have a lot of time for, I saw him not too long ago in his role with the PFA. The Wise and Poyet brief spell at the club was also a great period which I look back on with great fondness.
Again, a very strong squad was at the club and we started the season with six straight victories if I’m not mistaken. Football clubs are great places to be around when you are winning like that. That season Paul Sturrock took us over the line and we won promotion.
Timing, opportunity, league status. I wouldn’t say I was playing better under them then other managers. I would say my time under Kingy was probably my best but I suppose it’s not for me to say.
You were regularly deployed at centre back – did that annoy you?
Not in the slightest, I just felt more comfortable at left back and also I felt I could have more of an impact offensively and get my long throws going.
Dennis Wise was quoted as saying he preferred you at centre back – did you consider a change in role?
It’s not really for me to say ‘I’m a centre back now’ . Different managers see the squad differently. when you’re a six-foot, three-inch defender you are always going to get some time at centre back.
Your longest spells in first team came under Onoura and Sturrock – what changed under them to the others?
You won young player of year while at SN1 – did you feel a connection with the fans?
Absolutely, like I said 03/04 had an unbelievable impact on me. Starting from the very first game against Sheffield Weds at home in front of a bumper crowd all the way through to that soggy evening in Brighton. Looking back, to get that young player of the season award off the fans was quite an achievement because myself and Brian Howard had had quite a big impact that season.
I managed five seasons at Swindon so over that time I got to appreciate the fans more than most players and grew a great connection to the club which is still with me now.
Do you feel any side you played for while at Town could/should have achieved more?
The ‘what if’ of the 03/04 team does still cross my mind. We win promotion….. add further to the squad, Super Sammy stays etc. Suddenly I’ve gone from reserves football at Liverpool to a Championship player in a year. I don’t look back at any of the teams or seasons with regret. The one regret would be Sturrock leaving and Malpas coming in. His first game in charge was Walsall away which he watched from the stands.
I played, played well and scored. I never started another game for Swindon after that game, came on a couple of times as a late sub. He got sacked during the next season, and I thought I could have still been there. I left with a sour taste in my mouth.
Who were the best players you played with at SN1?
Where do I start? Super Sammy and Tommy (Mooney) right up there, what a front line. Sammy Igoe terrorised defences. Migs (Stefani Miglioranzi) was classy in midfield. Reevsy (Alan Reeces) was a great player and helped me a lot at the start.
I think he had Kingy’s ear at the start saying “you should play Nicho, give him a chance”. Sean O’Hanlon and big Matty Heywood were great defenders and mates. I’ve gotta say Sean because I saw him a few weeks ago and he might read this and he’s bigger than me and he knows where I live. Peaks (Lee Peacock), Christian (Roberts), Brez (Peter Brezovan) all major players later in my time.
If I had to pick one it would be Super Sammy. Threw a good party as well.
What are you up to now?
I’m still playing semi pro in Liverpool at Marine. I’ve been very lucky with injuries my whole career, I’m 33 but still as fit as ever. I started my coaching badges many years ago and currently coach in a few different guises.
I work as one of the lead coaches in Liverpool’s International Academy which has given me some amazing experiences home and abroad. I’ve been to many different parts of the world representing the club as a coach/coach educator.
I’m off to Hong Kong in a couple of weeks for LFC world tour event which I’m looking forward too greatly working with some of my idols from my time at the club like Patrik Berger (the reason I chose 15 as my squad number at Swindon) and the great Sami Hyypia.
The PFA have always been good to me and have helped me with my studies for years, while at Rotherham I became a qualified accountant and for the past 3 years I’ve also been studying a Sports Science Degree through MMU sponsored by the PFA. So I’ve got a few things on the go.
Lots of my friends and myself included are coming to the end or have recently retired from playing and are starting the transition out of football into something else.
As I try to forge a career in something else i will always cherish my time at Swindon, the players I met, the friends I made outside of football and all the experiences I had.
All this reminiscing I’m going to have to give Super Sammy a ring and try and get down to a game soon.
My thanks to Nicho for taking time out of his schedule to talk to us.