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The Big Interview with Andrew Harland

Next up in our series of Meet The Player Interviews we caught up with multiple Goal of the Season nominee (and Southampton fan), Andrew Harland to talk about his Football Aid experiences so far – and reveals his favourite goal.

There’s much to discuss so let’s get started ….

Firstly, as part of the warm-up, can you just tell us a bit about yourself and an overview of your football background?

"Firstly, thanks for having me! I’m joining a collection of Football Aid legends (and Mark Feehan) who’ve been interviewed so far. My football background has been fairly ordinary but enjoyable. I’ve been playing competitive football from the age of 8 (it’s been a long game), mainly for junior and school teams, then I stepped up to men’s football at 16, which was a bit of a shock to the system to say the least! This was mainly in and around the Southampton area in Hampshire with a short stint up in Southport Merseyside in the early 90’s. I’ve represented college and university teams at a reasonably high level in their respective divisions and I currently play in the Kingston and District League, where I now co-manage and play."

Similarly, can you tell us which footballers you loved to watch when you were growing up? Also, are there any players in the modern game that you particularly like to watch?

"There’s one that comes to mind right away, the mercurial talent that is Matthew Le Tissier. My first visit to the Dell was in early 1990, we beat Swindon 4-2 in a league cup replay and Matt scored a magnificent free kick from parallel to us in the stand. I was hooked at that moment and I suspect I frustrated a few managers of mine down the years, especially growing up as I was attempting to emulate ‘LeGod’ in my own games by flicking the ball over players and scoring goals from silly distances. He was quite the idol. I’ve bene really lucky as a Southampton fan in this era as we’ve produced and signed some fantastic players, many of which are about to win the Premier League with Liverpool… but if I we’re to choose a few more recent players that I admire, I’d have to have added Ricky Lambert, Virgil van Dijk and Sadio Mane to that list. James Ward Prowse is a fantastic and underrated player as is Jay Rodriguez. Adam Lallana was a joy to watch, as was Rod Wallace, Alan Shearer, Jimmy Case, Kevin Moore, Kevin Davies and James Beattie. I’ve been reasonably well spoilt. Oh and Ali Dia."

Moving on to your experiences with Football Aid, you have made 33 appearances (scoring an impressive 40 goals!) and made your debut back in 2009. How did you first hear about Football Aid and what are your early memories?

"I think I first found Football Aid in and around 2006, I had seen that the first Football Aid game was at the Dell and as I was unfortunately late to that opportunity, I wanted to get involved as it was a great opportunity to raise money for good causes and play at Southampton. The chance came up in 2009 (sadly just after we had gone into administration), but my earliest memories of the event was a mixture of nervousness and excitement, trying to work out what to wear to the match (!) and trying to ensure I absorbed the day as best as possible. I also remember it was a good group of players and well contested game, even I had run out on the losing side that day.

Other early Football Aid memories would have to include Bolton Wanderers in 2010 as it was boiling hot (and I scored my first two goals), but also that was the day that Blackpool were promoted to the Premier League (I recall the ref signing about it midway through the second half). Blackpool in 2011 (I think that was the first event at Blackpool) was great as my dad and I travelled up together, enjoyed a few days at the seaside and I met a number of the Football Aid regulars for the first time too. I should also mention Stoke City in 2013 as my dad played in Goal that day (in a 2-1 defeat) and pulled off an outstanding reflex save for moment of the match, (he definitely hasn’t told me I had to mention this)."

Andy Harland - Stoke City 2013

(Andy and his dad Marcus are pictured above, playing in the Stoke City Away team in 2013)

What are your favourite Football Aid moment(s) and highlights so far?

"Number one has to be the goal at Southampton in 2017. To score at St Mary’s was special, quite emotional too and it was a very good team goal with I think four passes, maybe five touches from keeper to the back of the net (click here to watch the goal on YouTube). How (Goal of the Season judge) Pat Nevin decided that wasn’t a top 3, I don’t know. I will be reminding him the next time I see him.

Secondly, was Pat Nevin falling over in the Scotland vs Rest of the World game in 2014 up at Hampden Park….only joking Pat….😉

Thirdly, I’ve scored a couple of nice Hattrick’s over a few of the games, which as a striker you’re always going to remember – Blackpool, Reading and QPR come to mind as these we’re all in really enjoyable and competitive games.

I’d also have to mention playing alongside my dad Marcus on two occasions, in Southend 2012 (I don’t think he’s recovered from all the running yet) and up at Stoke City. That’s something you get to see across Football Aid games, father - son combo’s, brothers, life-long friends (including our Italian Football Aid friends), it’s a great social and family event – but sharing the field with my dad was great (with the exception of him picking up a backpass which directly led to a goal against us at Stoke City!)"

Andy Harland - Southampton 2017

As a Football Aid player, you are part of an exclusive club whereby you have played in 4 different countries (England, Scotland, Wales, and Portugal) – many of which are regarded as the most iconic stadiums in world football. What is the best stadium you have played at?

"Good question. The game in Lisbon (Sporting CP) in 2015 was spectacular place to play football and it also had a Lidl (click here to watch Andy's stunning strike at the José Alvalade on YouTube)! Hampden Park under the floodlights was very good, especially as the national team had played on the surface the day before so it was immaculate. In England, I would have to choose St Mary’s (Southampton) or Villa Park (I think Villa Park had the most perfect football pitch I’ve ever played on). Then, I also really enjoyed playing at Brentford as I’ve a real enjoyment of traditional football stadiums and that will soon become another resigned to the history books."

Can you tell the readers who is the best Legend/Ex Professional you have played alongside, and/or been Managed by, and why?

"The first thing I’d say here is that the Legends, Managers, Ex Pro’s were professional for a reason – they’re all driven to winning. One of my favourite ex pro’s to play against was Andy Sinton of QPR back in 2014, he was fantastic and very complimentary of my playing. Kevin Gallacher and David Dunn up at Blackburn we’re both fantastic players who played with a real competitive and supportive spirit and I still have nightmares of playing near Tony Daley at Wolves – terrifying but fantastic."

Andy Sinton & Andy Harland - QPR 2014

Other than the legends/Ex Professionals, who are the best Football Aid players in which you have played with/against over the years? Are there any players you look out for?

"I think some of my best Football Aid memories, perhaps nearly all of them include the many friends I’ve met along the way, both playing in the UK and abroad. Last season at Rotherham, I think there were at least 14 of us between the two sides that all knew each other from Football Aid games over the years and that adds an extra layer of enjoyment to the events, event preparation and afterwards.
It’s been a real privilege to get to know, to play alongside and against (except for the case of Mark Feehan who has a penchant for tickling) a number of people I would have never met without involving myself in this charity. To name a few – Terry Rickeard, Bob and Dean Thorpe + family, Jason Guy, Allan Todd, Rich Duffy, Chris Annable, Andy Balmforth, Nathan Moore, Mark Clyne... there really are too many to mention."

Andy Harland 2019

You have undoubtedly built up an impressive collection of international and club kits over the years. Do you have a favourite kit, and why?

"33 matches adds up to a lot of kits! I’ve always had an eye for, and collection of football shirts built up over the years and Football Aid has been a big part of that! If I were to pick a favourite or two (which isn’t easy) I’d have to go with either the Aston Villa Away shirt (2011) or Blackburn Rovers Home (2016). Both simple, yet great designs."

Over the years, we have noticed that you like to experiment with different styles and colours of football boots - can you tell us, what are your main influences when buying a pair of boots, and what brand of boots do you currently own?

"Nice use of the word ‘experiment’. As well as collecting football shirts, I have amassed a decent collection of football boots too. As for what influences me – it’s comfort first, a good fit and feel is essential then I guess I’ll also look at if I like the colour scheme. I went through a bit of a phase where I collected a few rare football boots, some in particularly interesting colours, silver & orange, red, red & white, yellow, white, green, (never blue) and I do own a few black and white pairs too (otherwise known as proper football boots). I currently wear Adidas Predator’s from c2013 – which feel as good today as they ever have. But I’ll also select different boots for different surfaces – so I vary with my Puma King and Nike Tiempo for hard surfaces in the summer and the Predators for most of my Saturday matches."

Andy Harland - Aston Villa 2011

Do you have any pre-match superstitions/rituals that you like to do before playing in a match?

"You can often find me whispering to the football gods that Mark Feehan doesn’t get anywhere near me in a game, on mine or the other side. Other than that, strangely I seem to always put on my left shinpad, sock and boot before the equivalent right.. I can’t explain why."

Apart from the games at St Mary’s, are there any other stadiums or events you look out for at the launch of the new Football Aid season in September?

"I always look out for new grounds or events that I haven’t played at before. Frustratingly for 2020 I won’t be able to make the Walsall game due to work commitments, but it’s those that I tend to look out for. I do also have my eye on the England Training Days as they look really well run and the combination of training and a match looks good fun (I don’t believe I just said that training could be fun)."

Lastly, as we approach full time in our interview, do you have any advice / recommendations for any supporters that are thinking about taking part in a Football Aid event?

"My first piece of advice – don’t delay! If you’ve been looking at Football Aid events as a first-timer or you’re returning, then I couldn’t recommend it more highly! Each and every event have been unique, fun and more often than not a really good game of football in a fantastic stadium in front of friends and family. The charity has raised a huge amount of money over the years and I hope that with your involvement, they will continue to do so for many more to come. Football Aid is supportive of players of all abilities and there’s very few opportunities to play at these grounds. Of course, if an event is hosted at the club you support, the whole experience is one you’ll cherish for years to come."

Andy Harland - Sporting CP 2015