Interview with Andy Ritchie!!!!

You've been described as a pretty prolific striker during your playing days, what made you think of becoming a striker, was it always on your mind or did you start out as something else?

As a young lad Id always played upfront, I liked the feeling of the ball going in the back of the net. I've never played at the back although I played right wing at Leeds for a season under Billy Bremner. But I've always been a striker it just came natural to me.

Obviously there must have been times when the ball wouldn't go in the back of the net, as a striker how do you cope with that?

You have to be strong, mentally, it's your bread and butter as a striker, you're judged on goals, but if I set up two goals I got just as much of a buzz. I tried to never let it bother me. You've got to throw disappointment away immediately. If you miss from 2 yards you're disappointed but you know if it comes again you won't miss.

Not many people can have Manchester United on their C.V what was it like to run out at Old Trafford?

I do get nervous but not over nervous, a few butterflies, I might go on the toilet 3 or 4 times. As soon as I step out onto the pitch I change.

I think on my debut at Old Trafford there were 65,000 there. It's the business end you can't afford to let it play on your mind. There are 21 other people there; they aren't just concentrating on you. Obviously when you've got the ball the scrutiny's on you but you can't be afraid of that otherwise you'd go to pieces.

I find talking to the players and doing after dinner speeches and talking to the media or doing interviews such as this more difficult as I'm the centre of attention and everyone's focused on me.

A footballer's career is often a short one, at what age did you start thinking about you future and was coaching always something you wanted to do?

It wasn't really; I've told the players today that your career goes like that, I was very lucky.

I started in 1975 at United and I finished at 36 and so many days, very lucky with injuries, some lads today are battling against career-threatening injuries before their careers have really begun. I had one career-threatening injury when I had to have a disc out of my back when I was 30 but I managed to get back and have another 6 years.

Coaching was something that I didn't think about until probably my late 20s early 30s. I just thought well maybe I might have something to offer this game, I had a lot of experience, I played under a lot of experienced managers and with a lot of experienced players and I took bits and bats from them and tried to mould myself into little bits of what they are.

I'm not dictatorial at all I get my point over when needed but I'm laid back and I like to think the players respond to that. If you just scream at players in the end they just switch off. But no I wouldn't say it's always been in my mind.

You were a manager at Oldham, a club very close to your heart so you must have been very disappointed to have to leave after a fairly successful time there?

Well these days there's a lot of people coming into football, chairman and owners who think they know football and they don't. But they've got the money and unfortunately I had one of those at Oldham who felt he knew the game more than I did and we were at loggerheads. In the end I was offered the job of Director of Football but for me director of football means David pleat, I've got nothing against David I'm just saying about the age, for me to be 34, 35, 36 and to be asked to be director of football I felt ooer I'm a little bit young to be that. He didn't want me to carry on as manager and I was sacked. But I think we were 7th at the time so I don't think we were doing too badly but you know that's the way football is now there's a lot of people who think they know a lot about it and the blunt answer is they don't.

You got the Academy job at Barnsley after during a similar job at Leeds, how did that come about?

Well the connection there was I've known Peter Ridsdale for nigh on 20 odd years when he first came in as a director at Leeds United when the Burton Group became one of the major sponsors, Id also known David Walker who the chief exec here at Barnsley, the promotions manager.

They were both at Leeds and Peter and the club were looking for a new academy manager at Leeds I took that, did well so when Peter and David came to Barnsley, Peter phoned me up again, knew id been relieved of my duties at Leeds and was eager to get me on board.

I knew Gudjon Thordason, who was the manager here at the time, I knew him very well from battles between Stoke and Oldham in the league and in a few cup competitions and I got on great with him. Peter asked Gudjon if it was alright, he had no problems with it but unfortunately Gudjon didn't last that long here either. But that was the connection.

You got moved to Assistant manager under Paul Hart, Paul was never a very popular figure with the fans here what was he like to work with?

Pails a big big mate of mine, I played with him at Leeds, we were like bookends. Everywhere we went we were together.

He asked me very tentatively to help him and he said obviously I don't know very much about your coaching credentials but id like you to come up and help me, which I did. At the end of the season he turned round and said I've enjoyed it do you want to move up and become First Team Coach? I fully understand if you don't and want to stay as academy manager because you feel that might be a more secure role. But id got the bug back for working with the first team and I said yes id love to move up.

He was great to work with; he was a hard person to work for his standards were high. He just didn't interact with the fans as much as he probably could have, but that's Paul he's a bit shy really. He just wants to get on with his job. If you don't enjoy the media side it can drag you down.

When Paul did get sacked you became caretaker manager. And one game sticks in my mind, away at Port Vale at the end of the 2004-2005 season. A few first team players were injured but your job was on the line yet you stuck the youngsters in to protect the club, didn't you think of your chances of becoming manager?

No, we had some good young players in, Dale Tonge, Robbie Williams, Nicky Wroe and we did have injuries but I still don't believe that was a 5-0 that day. That's how we got beat but I think we were 11 unbeaten, we had too many draws, but I think we had a chance, a really good chance of getting into the playoffs and that one result stumped it completely. I think we were probably 2 points maybe 3, I might be bulling myself up there it might have been 5 but we weren't that far away and I think if we'd have got 3 points that day we might have been 2 or 1 place off the playoffs and after that we didn't win many we drew a lot which just cost us.

We played quite a lot of those games with the young players coming in because we did have injuries and they were fantastic!

Deservedly in my opinion you given the managers job at the end of the season, what realistically were your aims for last season was promotion on the cards?

No, promotion is always a goal but it want mentioned in the dressing room, in the boardroom or in the media. We just sort of went along and carried on playing well and winning matches and in the end we find ourselves in the playoffs and we might have dropped out of them on the last day. We had to get a result at Walsall. We showed a lot of grit and determination coming back after they had drawn level. I mean in the first half we were in complete control, they come out like a steam train in the second half get a goal back and we managed to pull it back. So there was a lot of drama before we even got to the Millennium.

Then we play Huddersfield in the semis, nobody I don't think thought we had a chance going into the second leg at the Galpharm but we turned it on its head again.

And then in the actual final I thought we were dead and buried in the second half of extra time because we were out on our feet, Bobby Hassell couldn't run and again we stuck in there, got a little bit of luck with the balls flying past posts and them missing a couple of chances but I always felt when we got to penalties we were odds on to win it.

As you say we've come back in games, even this season against Hull, there's a never say die attitude, a couple of years ago Barnsley teams have gone 1-0 maybe 2-0 down and then just collapsed what have you said to the players to keep them going?

I don't think you can say anything to bring that reaction; it's got to be within them.

We haven't seen it as much this season but its still there; we're playing against a higher calibre of team. We've fallen foul of that in terms of some of the goals we've let in. Some have been calamitous which you can't prepare for on the training pitch, others are preventable and some are stupid errors. Every time we make one of these errors this season though it usually ends up as a goal. The odds have got to change soon, that we manage to scrap a 1-0 win and play absolutely bobbins.

Just to go back to the play-off final, its Alan Tate against Nick Colgan, the moment Colgan saved it what was your reaction?

Well of course if he had scored that we still had another penalty to win the shootout. I was quite confident we could win when it got to penalties because we had taken penalties from about 3 weeks leading up in training. We'd given penalties in training; we'd had Matt Messias out working with us. And we gave penalties just for nothing to try to get them in the spirit of it. There's no way that you can reproduce that outside. I believe that Ady Boothroyd at Watford apparently he used to get the crowd to stay behind after the game and give their penalty takers a load of abuse as they came to take them to try to get them in the atmosphere for penalties. I don't think I'd go that far but it might be a good psychological tool to use.

On the Wednesday before we travelled down on the Thursday we had a final training session at Oakwell and we trained on the pitch and I think we had about 26 players. We'd done all the training and I said right we're going to take penalties.

We took penalties and everyone of us scored! And the two goal-keepers Scott Flinders and Nick Colgan as it was then never touched one of them! And I thought, we've got some penalty takers here!

When it came to it I was surprised Nick never got to one because I always feel Nick's got a save in him. He's stopped a few and when I was caretaker I think he stopped 3, two of them were retaken, Stockport and I think one here. I always thought he would have a save in him.

The only other factor we couldn't dial into was the crowd. That was my only little nagging fear because we were at their end and no matter how much noise our fans made we were a good 70,80,90 yards away and the noise was more when our players were going up to take ours from their fans.

We showed we had the bottle to go up against it and I still maintain that if Stephen McPhail had needed to score he would have.

Did they all put their hand up to say they wanted to take them or did you already have your 5 in mind?

I knew my 5, Ricco (Richards) was already our penalty-taker, Paul Hayes had already taken them at times, cool as a cucumber! Robbie Williams was one that stuck his hand up, Shuker was another dead keen, Heckingbottom used to take them at Sheffield Wednesday and I knew that Macca (McPhail) would take one, if he was anymore laid back he'd be horizontal! Nothing fazes him.

We also knew that we had some good back up, Robbie Williams scored a couple of seasons ago at Sheffield Wednesday, Neil Austin would not have any qualms, Martin Devaney not a problem.

You must have had a brilliant summer holiday then?

Not really! I didn't have a lot of time off. I had 3 weeks really, went to Canada, went to visit relatives over there had a great time and just had a few days over in Spain. The majority of the time the old mobile phone was flapped to my ear trying to sort things out for the coming season.

Can we stay up?

I think we can stay up yeah. Our lucks got to change, we're not playing badly and that's sometimes worse than playing badly and losing. I feel for the players sometimes. We've not let our standards down in terms of performances. We can hold our own against people. We just need to start putting chances away and we really need to start being more alert. Its cost us dearly. We probably got away with that a little bit last season. The mental side is the most important thing!

And finally we'll not go too much into the contract but how long are you looking for? Lifetime?!?

Ha-ha! I don't think I'll get lifetime! As long as I can get. We're only half-way through what we started.

I'm not a pessimist I'm a realist. And realistically I see this club being a Championship club, not a Championship force yet, a Championship club that can stay in this division, can have a little bit of a pop at a trophy.

I see us as hopefully with stability in comparison with a Crewe. You might go down like Crewe have, you might flirt with going up. You might stay midtable a couple of years. You've got to be realistic in what you can achieve in terms of finance and fan base.

The fan base we've got is superb as is all the other Yorkshire sides. There's not enough fans to go around. That restricts you financial.

The fans have got to be realists as well. We've got smashing resources here in terms of the training facilities. I still feel we've got maybe another 5-6,000 fans in us if we can get a real good run going. I don't think with ticket prices these days you'll hit what you hit in the Premiership that one year.

I don't think you'll get to the Premiership. I might be wrong and I hope I am, but I feel it's a Championship side that can consolidate. You might have a little go at it one year and it might just come off for you again but realistically you want to stay in the Championship with a couple of good cup runs.

Strong stuff from Andy there and he seems to know what hes talking about. If Saturday's win against Leeds is anything to go by we're in safe hands!