Andy Morrison: Manchester City Warrior

18 October 2011 04:45
TEAMtalk reviews Manchester City cult hero Andy Morrison's new autobiography 'The Good, The Mad and The Ugly' and hears from the man himself.

Manchester City hit the top of the Premier League on Saturday and are continuing their debut Champions League campaign this week. They are probably attracting more new supporters around the world than any other European club at the moment, and their future could hardly be brighter.

For hardcore City fans, it's difficult not to hark back to the end of the 20th century and assess just how far the club has come in a relatively short space of time - when the days seemed so much darker.

Thirteen years ago this week, Joe Royle's side lost 2-1 at Lincoln City in the old Nationwide League Division Two (what is now League One). A report from a City fanzine at the time labelled the performance "clueless" as the club struggled to adjust to life in the third tier.

However, later that same month, after another home defeat, this time by Reading, Royle signed a 28-year-old Scottish-born defender / midfielder called Andy Morrison on loan from Huddersfield.

Morrison had begun his professional career at Plymouth, having moved there with his family as a young boy. He played over 100 games for Argyle before earning a dream move to Premiership title contenders Blackburn, but injuries blighted his spell at Ewood and he ended up at Blackpool and then the Terriers before Royle came calling.

Morrison would score the winning goal on his City debut against Colchester at Maine Road before going on to make 22 appearances for the club that season, culminating in an unforgettable play-off final penalty shootout victory over Gillingham at Wembley in May 1999.

In the foreword to Morrison's newly-published autobiography, Royle writes: "There is no doubt he was the catalyst that turned our season around. Without question, Andy is one of the best signings I ever made. he dragged us kicking and screaming out of Division Two in that first season."

However, away from the pitch and the training ground, Morrison - branded "a warrior" by Royle - was plagued by a running battle with the demon drink. Having buried a traumatic childhood memory deep within his psyche, and been on the receiving end of a moment of crushing disappointment from his own father a few years later, the young Morrison's aggression frequently spilled over after a night on the booze and the book catalogues those episodes and their effects in uncompromising detail. Alongside them, he paints a picture of a committed family man and big-hearted footballer who spread belief in his fellow professionals that they could achieve their targets, never more so than at City in the 1998/99 campaign.

Morrison, now assistant manager at Northwich Victoria, spoke to Sky Sports News Radio on Tuesday and said of his book: "There's a little bit of everything in there.

"It's a variation on the story of a footballer who had his troubles, but also had some good times.

"I'm proud to have come from the lower leagues through to the Premier League. Some people come through academies and that now; they get a game and then they're a Premier League player.

"I had to go from the bottom to the top, and then had to start again - and got back again."

The old heavy drinking culture of the English professional game has all but died out, but Morrison knows better than most how the addictive personalities of sportsmen can still lead to off-field difficulties and flashpoints.

QPR's Joey Barton is something of a reformed figure in the modern game, and Morrison can see some similarities between their characters.

"Learning is a painful process," he added. "It was a very drawn-out process for me until I saw the light. Joey I'm sure, the same as me, would have sworn 'this is the last time, it won't happen again' etc.

"But until you deal with your addictive personality or your problems, they will continue. I think it's no coincidence that Joey's not drank now for a few years and it appears the problems have stopped.

"The sad thing about alcoholism is you actually mean it, you mean it every time, you're sincere, you've got deep regret for what you've done - but you never say 'I won't drink again'.

"You just pledge not to carry out the acts of whatever embarrassment you've brought on yourself or the club. You never say, 'that's it, I'll never drink again.'"

Looking at Manchester City today, Morrison admits it feels like a "different" club but emphasises that there is one constant that must never be sidelined.

"You can't get away from the fact that the club's moved on, and it's huge, it's global now," he said.

"But what doesn't change is the fans, and I think that's what football needs to remember - that a club is only as big as its fanbase and it's only as deep as its fans.

"Players and managers, owners and directors - they all come and go, but once you nail your colours to a mast, that's it until you jump in a box.

"City is its fans, which are well onto 50,000 now, and that's what the club's about even though it has changed - it's a company as well as a football club. But it's about the fans, and you should never lose sight of that.

"I just hope that the Premier League and Sky don't lose sight of the fact that without the fans, there is no football. I just think that the fans get left behind in the grand scheme of things."

One episode that has distanced the modern football fan from the modern footballer is the Carlos Tevez incident when City lost at Bayern Munich - but Morrison is cautious about being overly judgemental on the Argentinian ace at the current time.

"I'm still not totally clear what occurred," he said. "If you take one version of events where he's flatly refused to go on, then that's totally unacceptable.

"But if he's said, 'I've warmed up already, I'm not warming up again' then it is different.

"Whatever's been said and done, I think he'll deeply regret what he did, it was born out of his pride being hurt. He's probably a proud person and was very hurt at that time, and he made his decision based on that - and it was wrong.

"But until we know the full facts, I can't really make a comment on it.

"I speak in my book about an incident where I felt I was hard done by. I went out and played, but I took the law into my own hands the next day with the manager (Peter Jackson at Huddersfield).

"I went into his office and fell out with him, and ended up throwing a table at him. I ended up at Manchester City a day later!

"That's how I dealt with it, but Tevez has obviously gone the wrong way around it and I'm sure the club will take the right measures.

"I get on great with Jacko now, I see him many times. It was just something at that moment in time where I felt I was poorly treated and I probably did things the wrong way - but I ended up at City so it wasn't all bad!"

As for Morrison's old club Huddersfield, where he spent just over two seasons in the mid 90s, he is hugely impressed by their 38 league-game unbeaten run.

"That club is geared for the Championship.

"They deserve Championship football and to be playing against the likes of Leeds, Cardiff, Middlesbrough and Birmingham.

"The town has such a terrific history. They've invested in the club, they've got a young manager who is passionate in what he does - you can see that from the touchline. This could be their season but the play-offs are a lottery, so they really need to get in those top two places."

Morrison also holds a special place in his heart for Plymouth Argyle, who are hoping to clamber their way out of administration later this month and away from the foot of the League Two table.

"It's sad to see where the club is now," he said. "It's so fast it's happened, it only seems four or five years ago we were talking about bringing a few players in and pushing for the playoffs in the Championship and maybe do a Burnley, Watford or Blackpool. It just beggars belief how it's fallen away like that.

"But they are where they are, they've got to come together, sort out their problems and go again.

"If they say, the lower you go, the more you can bounce, then Plymouth are as low as they can go - bottom of the league. I'm not sure who they're going to bring in, but the people of Plymouth deserve much better than what's happened.

"There's obviously something very wrong for them to have fallen through the leagues as they have done."

Morrison admits in his book that he would love to manage Argyle one day but for now, he is busy assisting Andy Preece at Northwich. The Cheshire club are currently leading the Evo-Stik League Premier Division, the seventh tier of English football.

"We've had a good start," said Morrison. "We've got a fantastic group of players.

"The club's been through some really tough times since they left the Drill Field, and the history that went with that - being a famous non-league team. It's been very difficult.

"It's very hard for non-league teams, the amount of games that are on Sky, it's very difficult to try and get fans in, on a cold Tuesday night when you could be sat in watching Manchester United or City, or having a couple of pints down the pub. To get them to watch is hard.

"But it's going great. Chester are our main rivals in the league, and they're a big club too. It's going to be difficult - but we're enjoying ourselves."

Jon Holmes

'The Good, The Mad and The Ugly: The Andy Morrison Story' is available now from all good bookstores.

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Source: Team_Talk

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