An interview with Andrew Barrowman

He was just eight-years-old when he signed for Rangers. Now 30, Andrew Barrowman has played in the top flight of English football and is now at League One side, Albion Rovers.

It all started in North Lanarkshire for the Wishaw born striker. Having been scouted while playing boys club Football, he found himself being signed by one of the biggest clubs in the country. By the age of 16, his potential once again caught the eye of scouts, this time in England. Birmingham City – who were a Premier League club managed by Steve Bruce at the time – offered him a three-year contract and he moved down to the Midlands.

From there he moved onto Paul Merson’s Walsall after some loan spells in the lower English divisions before moving north to Kilmarnock, then subsequently to Queen of the South, initially on loan.

He then had a breakout season in the Second Division, winning the league with Ross County in 2008 before earning a move to their Highland rivals, Inverness Caledonian Thistle in the SPL. He then re-joined the Staggies as they won the Challenge Cup in 2011 and made the Scottish Cup Final the year previous.

He made the switch to then Premier League outfit Dunfermline Athletic. After relegation in May 2012 and redundancy in March 2013, he had a short spell in the top flight with Dundee before a season in the Championship with Livingston.

Last season he swapped Almondvale for Cappielow as Jim Duffy signed him for recently relegated Greenock Morton (who returned to the second tier at the first time of asking with the title in their possession). Although, he moved back to the Pars in mid-January and was one of 18 players released at the end of the campaign. Now his next challenge is in Coatbridge with League Two title-winning Wee Rovers.

While he is by no means finished playing football, he is aware that a career in the game is short lived. Seeing as that is the case, he has pursued a Sports Management degree and is enrolled with the University College of Northern Denmark – entering the last year of the three. The subject was of intrigue to the former Dunfermline Athletic striker.

“I have been interested in achieving some sort of further education for a few years now. It was not until I came to this degree that I had ever really came across something that I was passionate about. I hope to stay involved in sport, football, in particular when my playing career comes to an end and obtaining this degree will help me do so.”

While it is never too late to learn, he encourages anybody that is interested in furthering themselves through edification to explore options available to them.

“Now that I am actively part of an education course I wish I had done it before now. Football is a short career so to be able to have something as a backup plan is a good thing for a player regardless of their age.”

In his time as a coach for the under 20s at East End Park. It was those words of advice that the former Ross County forward passed on to the next generation, in what was his first coaching role.
“It is something that was not in my thoughts until this opportunity arose. However, now that I have had a taste for it, I am really enjoying it. I get a real buzz when I see the young lads take on board what I am trying to teach them. It is definitely something I will look to pursue both now and in the future.”

Going back to the start of his professional career and his first match in the Premier League against Leicester City. He came on and played alongside internationals such as Mikael Forssell, Robbie Savage and Matthew Upson, to name a few.

“It was all a bit of a blur at the time, I had been on the bench a few times previous to that game so I was sort of prepared for it to happen. Sometimes when your young you don’t really appreciate the scale of the achievement and it’s not until you’re a bit older that your realise what a huge moment it actually was.”

However, he never cemented a place in the Birmingham first-team and moved a short distance out of the city to Walsall. It was there where former First Division winner, Paul Merson overseen the running of the team. Although the World Cup 98 member did not last long at the Bescot after Andrew’s arrival, – he was sacked after a five-nil defeat away at Brentford – the Saddlers never managed to turn their fortunes around and were relegated from League One.

He was not out-of-contract long before Jim Jefferies – manager of Kilmarnock at the time – gave Andrew his first taste of full-time football in Scotland. It did not last long, just a handful of the games but the experience was vital in his development.

“My time at Kilmarnock was a real wake up call for me as a footballer, I had been used to being pampered as a young player at an English Premiership club and it wasn’t until I moved to Kilmarnock and worked under Jim that I realised exactly what the game was about.”

He moved on-loan from the top flight Ayrshire club to Queen of the South and got some much needed minutes on the field in the First Division to finish off the season. From there he took the decision to drop down to the third tier and away to the remote Highlands.

“I had a few options that summer but after meeting George Adams who was director of football at Ross County at the time I knew that it was the right move from me to make. He actually gave me a bit of a rollicking the very first time I ever met him and it was at this point I knew that going there would improve me as a player.”

It was a move of great success for Andrew as he was the league’s top scorer with 24 goals that helped fire the Dingwall outfit to the Second Division title. That season was enough to prove to Craig Brewster – another heralded Scottish striker – that he was he right man for his Inverness side. After featuring heavily during Brewster’s reign, he found himself frozen out when Terry Butcher was at the helm.

“To be honest Craig Brewster was the sole reason I signed for Inverness, after such a successful previous season I had plenty of options but I chose Inverness because I thought I could learn a lot from a Craig, which I did. Unfortunately, I was not part of Terry’s plans and never really featured under him, that is the way football goes sometimes and I have no ill feeling towards him. That difficult time actually made me a lot stronger person and I learned a lot about my own character.”

Because of the lack of first-time matches, Andrew made the 20-minute journey back across the Moray Forth to Victoria Park while he knew that Caley Thistle were en route to promotion to the top-tier once again. The 17 months spent in his return were the greatest for the club in its 86-year history. Not only did they win the Challenge Cup but they made it to the Scottish Cup final by beating 36-time winners, Celtic at Hampden Park.

In the later stages of the Challenge Cup Andrew’s goals proved vital with the tie-saving equaliser in the semi-final against Partick Thistle and the winner in the final against Queen of the South at McDiarmid Park.

In the Scottish Cup, Andrew did not join until the Fifth round stage where the Staggies swept nine past subsequent Second Division victors Stirling Albion. In the two previous rounds, County beat fourth-tier Berwick Rangers and Highland League side, Inverurie Loco Works by a four-goal margin. The team’s first big test was against Hibernian at Easter Road where they came back twice to earn a replay in Dingwall. In the rerun, they won after going a goal down, Scott Boyd – who is still with the club – scoring the winner in the last minute of regulation.

Heading to Hampden against a Neil Lennon side that’s sole focus was to stabilise after a disaster under Tony Mowbray. The objective to win the cup. In the match, they not only failed to score but were convincingly dispatched by the comparable minnows. Andrew set up the second, scored by Martin Scott.

“It probably hasn’t really sunk in even now to be honest, when your still playing it is hard to take stock of what you have achieved in your career as the next challenge is always at the forefront of your mind, maybe when I retire it will actually hit home just what that day meant to everyone.”

He was coveted by a few clubs in the summer of 2011, but it was SPL bound Dunfermline Athletic that earned his signature. Bringing him to Fife for the first time in his career.

“Again I had a few options that summer but the then manager Jim McIntyre was very keen to get me and had actually tried on a couple of occasion previously so I knew I was valued by him and felt it was a good chance to progress my career and play at the top level again.”

It was a difficult period on and off the field for everybody involved with the club. The Pars suffered relegation that season and there was a hard fought attempt to return at the first time of asking. However, the club’s financial situation worsened to the extent that administration hit the club, staff and players like Andrew were made redundant.

“It was a very difficult time in my career and people forget that not only does it affect the players and staff but it also has an effect on their families also. It is an experience I hope to never go through again and I’m just thankful that the club is still here today and faced with a much brighter future.”

Even throughout the difficulty of the year and the half with the club, he always spoke fondly of the club and his time there.

“It was certainly one of the happiest periods of my career, sometimes a club just feels right for a player and it is hard to explain why but there are a lot of great people at the club and together with the great fan base that they have it makes it a real family like club.”

There were chances for Andrew to return to the club but due to the circumstances and uncertainty surrounding the club nothing materialised. During the 22 months he was away from East End Park, he had a short spell with Dundee – who were in the SPL at the time. After that he spent a season with Championship side Livingston playing well enough to earn an extension in January till the end of the campaign.

At the start of last season, he turned out for newcomers, Greenock Morton but was allowed to leave at the start of 2015 to return to Dunfermline. Initially both John Potter and Andrew were talking about joining up in the summer but the manager wanted to push it through sooner rather than later.

While the team did not perform to expectations on the field last season, finishing outside of the playoffs. Many fans are still happy to have a club to support and Andrew is optimistic about the years ahead for those at East End Park, even though he is no longer there – being one of 18 players released in May.

“In my opinion the club is a lot better managed from top to bottom and I’m certain the good times will return to East End Park in the not too distant future.”

In the latest off-season, he worked closely with the PFA to organise the Player Showcase which provided out-of-contract footballers the opportunity to attend workshops about life outside of football. It also gave them a week of training and an organised game to get some back into a club side. Such players as Declan O’Kane, Johnny Routledge and Mark Williams, to name a few have been successful through this initiative.

His latest challenge sees him playing for Darren Young at Cliftonhill. The former Pars man has only been at the helm for a season, but guided the team to the title and will be looking to survive relegation this season. If that goal is obtained then you never know where they might finish, due to the teams at that level being of a similar standard. With the acquisition of Andrew, they are bringing in a player with the experience of all aspects of the game that he can pass onto the younger part-time footballers.


A selection of Andrew’s goals from his first stint at Dunfermline Athletic:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0hNEJVOPOds


You can follow @MichaelWood_SJ on Twitter.

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