Tuesday, 23 October 2007

'Tormented' by Andy McLaren

This is the book I have been reading over the last couple of days. It tells the story of a remarkable guy. Andy McLaren is one of my favourite footballers.

At first glance, he has had a reasonably successful career: 1 Scotland cap; 1 Scottish Cup win; a couple of runners up medals; just under 400 matches for fair-to-middling provincial teams; decent enough but hardly legend material.

Then consider this: for the majority of that career, he was binge drinking, sinking crates of Budweiser at a time and for much of it he was also on cocaine as well as other drugs. When you read what he was on, it is astonishing that he was able to function at all, let alone pursue a footballing career. Andy himself in the book estimates that for the majority of his career, he was playing to no more than 60%-70% of his potential, if that. To anyone who had the pleasure of seeing Andy anywhere near his best, it is intriguing to contemplate how phenomenally good he would have been at full fitness.

It all came to a head when he was sacked by Reading in 2000, having failed a random drugs test. A spell in the Priory followed this, which helped Andy come to terms with his alcoholism. I had the pleasure of watching him many times when he was playing for Kilmarnock: he was both fascinating and frustrating; being able to do anything with a ball, yet never being too far from self-destructing. In his book, Andy explains that being sexually abused as a child was a dark secret which ate away at him even after he had dealt with the alcoholism.

It is tragic that Andy did not achieve more in his career. He has achieved more than most players, but then most players are not fit to lace his boots. There are guys who have won 50 caps and are not fit to lace Andy's boots. However, thank God that he has survived it all: Andy says that he wants to work in some kind of counselling capacity when he hangs up his boots, and I certainly hope that he gets the opportunity to do that.

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