Always look on the bright side

WHEN things get tough it is not just strong leadership that is needed - but someone to make you laugh and lift your spirits.Step forward Andy Rhodes, who is not only the Blues highly-rated goalkeeping coach but an unerringly cheerful figure, who always sees the brighter side of life.

WHEN things get tough it is not just strong leadership that is needed - but someone to make you laugh and lift your spirits.

Step forward Andy Rhodes, who is not only the Blues highly-rated goalkeeping coach but an unerringly cheerful figure, who always sees the brighter side of life.

The former European Goalkeeper of the Year and Scottish Player of the Year is one of just three keepers who have played in an English League Cup final and a Scottish League Cup final.

He was in Joe Royle's side at Oldham that won promotion and played in two cup semi-finals, but it has been in the darker days of his career that he has learnt the power of a positive attitude.


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Rhodes said: “Irrespective of whether we win, lose or draw, that is just the way I am. Things do get tough. Winning becomes a habit and when you are winning and suddenly you lose a couple, as things don't go your way, then it is hard to take and it affects everyone.

“But you can't change what's gone, you can only affect what is coming up, the next game or that day.”

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The philosophy was built up over years of playing for poor teams and being on the losing side more often than not, and was honed while at Bradford City during their darkest days.

He said: “My career has been mainly lows but you become immune.

“It was a tough season for me at Bradford. We lost more games than we won. We weren't getting paid and we were going through all sorts of things, so you needed to get on with it.

“Everyone was in the same boat, the girls in the club, the stewards on match-days, but if we stated feeling sorry for ourselves it wouldn't help.”

That all changed when Malcolm Webster joined his old mate George Burley at Derby and Joe Royle called Rhodes, who he knew could offer a unique approach.

Rhodes' infectious enthusiasm quickly rubs off and keeps spirits high, something he finds comes naturally.

He said: “Now I wake up every day and I can't wait to get into work, to the club, it is brilliant here.

“The facilities are great, of course they are, but it is the people. I love working with Joe and Willie and all the lads but it is deeper than that.

“We have a young Icelandic keeper over at the moment, that is because of the people. We walk around the corridors at Portman Road, in the shop and the café, at the training ground, and he can't believe how nice and friendly people are and how accommodating they are. This club is run by really good people.”

Although he reached cup finals and won personal accolades - Paolo di Canio was runner-up to him as Scotland's Player of the Year - Rhodes is modest about his abilities as a goalkeeper, where the only time he was close to being a Premiership player was on the bench for Norwich, who he never actually played for.

He said: “Cup finals are a high. When you are scratching around like me in the Second Division or in Scotland you have to enjoy those big occasions.

“It was a major achievement and even though we lost in both it was a fantastic time for me.

“I was a very good shot-stopper. I was very poor with my feet and dealing with crosses but I did what I could do and I let the centre-halves head it and I kicked it as far as I could.

“But I was playing for Scottish Premiership teams that were not the best so I always had loads to do.

“I would be making five or six saves in every game and conceding two but it always looked as if I played well.

“Even if I made a couple of mistakes it was disguised by the five or six good saves.

“It was good for me in terms of my career. The awards came from magazines and papers which were based on marks. I would consistently get seven out of 10s or more and so of course that meant I ended up with higher scores than outfield players, which was great for me even if it was a bit false.”

He is far more gushing about Town keeper Kelvin Davis, who he rates as the best in the division, with Wigan's John Filan second.

Rhodes said: “I never got fazed by big games or by bad performances.

“Kelvin is great like that too because you have to get over it. You have to have a great character to deal with things like that and Kelvin has that mental toughness that you need to have in this job.

“You can count his mistakes on one hand. Over the course of a season you are looking for your keeper to get you 10-12 points and Kelvin has already done that for us.

“So that far outweighs the mistakes he has made.

“Lewis Price and Shane Supple have wonderful personalities too and that is what is important for a player. Technically you can always make a keeper better, even if it is by repetition alone.”

Then Rhodes was off into another snow flurry for another session with his keepers. You won't be surprised to hear he was smiling and whistling as he stepped into the bitter cold afternoon.

Wigan v Town preview - Pages 62-63

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