Friday 31 May 2013

Interview #7 (May 2013): Alderney captain Andy Lawrence

Alderney is the most northerly of the Channel Islands with a population of only 1,600. The island does enjoy full autonomy in law, and even has its own language Auregnais, but the tiny size of it means they have always remained in the sporting shadow of neighbours Guernsey and Jersey. The Ridunians have contested every Muratti Vase since 1905, even stunning Guernsey with a 1-0 win in 1920, and since the mid 1990’s their picturesque Mount Hale ground has hosted the annual semi-final defeat.

Picturesque...the islands's only ground Mount Hale
That win over Guernsey is 1 of only 2 games Alderney have ever won, out of 105 matches. They have drawn once meaning their loss count stands at 102. With such a tiny pool of players to work with this record is hardly surprising. The island is not easy to reach with sporadic flights from Guernsey, Jersey and the mainland as well as ferries from neighbouring islands.

The Muratti semi-final is traditionally held in March against either Guernsey or Jersey, with the latter winning 9-2 this spring. Despite the thrashing the 2 Alderney goals were the first Muratti double for them in 52 years. Alderney have also contested 2 Island Games before – in 2003 on Guernsey and in 2011 on the Isle of Wight.

The 2003 games saw the Ridunians claim their 2nd win, 1-0 over the Estonian island Saaremaa. Whilst the islanders have never been humiliated at the games the gap between themselves and the opposition is apparent; only 1 goal was scored in the last campaign. The Alderney national team also doubles up as a club, Bavaria Nomads, which competes in the Guernsey 2nd tier the Jackson League. They finished a respectable 4th in the season just finished and also played 2 non-FIFA internationals outside the Muratti or Island Games for the first time. Sealand traveled over for a game in August, which our interviewee opened the scoring in, which ultimately ended up with the N.F.-Board side winning on penalties.

In March the isolated islanders traveled to Surrey in England for a re-match, losing 2-1 as they prepared for the following weekend’s Muratti semi. The non-FIFA route is being further explored by the Alderney FA and this July they will contest the inaugural Tynwald Hill Tournament on the Isle of Man, where they will meet club side St Johns United and N.F.-Board members and 2012 VIVA World Cup contestants Raetia in group B.

In our May interview we spoke to current captain Andy Lawrence about the future of the Muratti semi-final, which was questioned by Jersey boss Craig Culkin back in March, as well as his thoughts on the progress and future  of football on Alderney.

Leader...Lawrence in action against Sealand in March
NFFU: Before this year’s Muratti semi-final Jersey manager Craig Culkin said ‘Alderney need to step out of their comfort zone’ and have the annual game on either Jersey or Guernsey. What were your thoughts to these comments?

AL: Personally it wouldn't bother me if we played at home or away, what Mr Culkin fails to see though is that the semi final is crucial for the Alderney Football Club financially, we have a lot of supporters come to watch us each year and the money they put into the club on that day helps us a lot each year.

NFFU: Do you think the 9-2 defeat was a fair reflection of Alderney’s performance on the day?

AL: Not at all, the wind was a huge factor that day, if i could have won the toss and gone with the wind in the first half I firmly believe we could have gone into half time with a level scoreline and something to hold onto for the second half.

NFFU: Do you think the Muratti will remain at Mount Hale for the time being?

AL: I hope so, as I said before its crucial for the club. If it's decided it will be played away from Mount Hale then so be it, i won't argue with that.

NFFU:  In the last year Alderney have played N.F.-Board members Sealand on 2 occasions. How did you and the team find the experience, particularly of hosting and travelling to a new team?

AL: It was great, Sealand are probably a slight step up from most of the teams we face week in week out in the league so it was a good test. Hopefully there will be many more games between the two teams.

NFFU: Do you think playing Sealand was beneficial to your own team’s development and improvement?

AL: Most definitely. The better teams you play against the better you will have to prepare and play.

NFFU: You've played at 2 Island Games, in 2003 and 2011. How did you find both tournaments? Have the games grown a lot in the last decade or so? 

Leaky...Alderney concede against Jersey in this year's Muratti semi
AL: Both island games were really good experiences  It was really nice to be part of it with all sorts of islands coming together. I'd say there was about the same interest in 2003 & 2011 with a lot of the same teams competing in both.

NFFU: Are Alderney planning on sending a football team to Jersey in 2015?

AL: We have already started discussing Jersey 2015 so i'd say its almost certain we will be playing in the 2015 tournament.

NFFU: Who would you say Alderney’s best players are? Do you have any not based on the island?

AL: We have a lot of good players in our squad as well as some youngsters coming through. Stevie Concanen is a tough tackling midfielder. We have a few UK based players, Josh Concanen (Stevie's younger brother) will be a massive plus to the squad, he has recently been at Exeter and now plays for Tiverton Town, Jason Atkins is also a good centre back.

NFFU: The non-FIFA route has been further explored it by the Alderney FA it seems with the participation in the Tynwald Hill Tournament on the Isle of Man in July. How did this opportunity come about?

AL: I'm not actually 100% sure how the invite came around, I think it was word-of-mouth from the Sealand FA, but i do know as soon as it was mentioned everyone was keen to take part. 

NFFU: Are you looking forward to the tournament? What do you make of your group?

AL: I'm really looking forward to getting to the Isle of Man, if I'm completely honest we know very little about our opponents in the group, all we can do is prepare properly and hopefully we can match each team we play.

NFFU: Playing on Tynwald Day against the hosts should see a large crowd coming to watch. What’s the biggest number that has watched an Alderney game before?

Even...both games against Sealand have been closely contested
ALThat will be great if we can get a big crowd for Tynwald Day, I have been looking it up on the internet and it will be nice to be involved in a way. When we played Guernsey in the opening game of the 2003 island games i think there was near if not more than 2000 people at the Corbet Field, once the game started you didn't take much notice of the crowd though.

NFFU: How many years do you think you have left in an Alderney shirt?

AL: As long as i remain on the island hopefully a good few years yet, i'm coming up to 28 so hopefully i can make it to the late 30's, if i am still getting picked!

NFFU: Finally, what is your fondest memory whilst playing for Alderney?

AL: Without a doubt winning in the 2003 Island G
ames against Sareemaa, that was Alderney's only 2nd ever victory and to be part of that is something I won't ever forget, we certainly had a good party after that game!

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