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Full Time

Glenavon's Andy Hall on his proudest day in the game, worrying times for his family, why he owes Bangor and Garth Scates, and the misery of shattering his cheekbone

Glenavon ace Andy Hall looks back on his career highs and lows so far

By Graham Luney

Q. What are your early football memories?

A. I grew up on the Shore Road and played for Loughside Boys. My dad William was a season ticket holder at Crusaders and took me to most games. Now he follows me rather than the Crues - he has transferred his allegiance to Glenavon. Back then you turned up and played the sport you loved. In those days kids went out and played football rather than sit in front of a computer. Birthday and Christmas presents were new kits and you went outside and kicked a ball. I went to Belfast High which was more of a rugby school. Our principal, Stephen Hilditch, had been an international rugby referee. Despite that, we got a football team going. I always had aspirations to be a footballer and felt I had a chance, even if it was in the Irish League and not a professional career. When I was about 13, Nottingham Forest looked at me but they lost funding and I never went over. Sunderland also showed an interest in me but their Academy disbanded. You need to have a special talent and a bit of luck to make it.

Q. How did your club career develop?

A. After Loughside Boys, Linfield, Crusaders and Glentoran wanted me to join their Under-16 team. I ended up choosing Glentoran even though I was a Crues fan. I felt it would be hard to make an impression at Linfield while the Glens had good coaches and some young players were breaking through. I signed a contract with Glentoran at the age of 19 but moved on to Lisburn Distillery after two years. The Glens had signed Keith Gillespie and I couldn't argue with the manager Scott Young about being left out. Whites boss Tommy Wright signed me and I ended up in the Premiership. I played over 30 games and it was good to get that game time. You could tell Tommy was a good coach and he would go on to bigger and better things. He's done a very good job at St Johnstone and he must be a candidate for the Northern Ireland job in the future.

Q. How did the Bangor move come about?

A. Things just didn't work out at Distillery. Tim McCann came in and he had his ideas about how a right winger should play. I asked could I move as I wasn't playing and the team were struggling. I went to Bangor where Garth Scates had taken over and rediscovered my love for the game. They were in a relegation battle in the Championship but they were better than that. We went 2-0 up against Glentoran in the Irish Cup and even though they beat us, scoring against a top-flight side gave the boys a lift. I played every minute, we stayed up and the following year challenged at the top.

Q. Bangor manager Garth Scates tragically lost his wife Lesley in a car crash in October 2013. How did that tragedy rock the club?

A. It was a devastating time. We were training one night and Garth's assistant Jeff Montgomery called a meeting so we knew something wasn't right. Everyone was in shock because everyone respected Scatesy and loved what he was doing. That was evident at the funeral when all the players offered their support. It was a very tough time for him, especially with two young children. When I scored my first goal for Glenavon he was one of the first to text me to say well done. I'll always respect him and thank him for giving me a chance at Bangor. Until something terrible like that happens to you, you cannot imagine how it will affect you. It did rock the whole club and the boys didn't want to train when they heard the sad news. It hit a lot of people hard. Garth wanted to get back into a routine and returned a month later. The football family supports people, as we have witnessed again with our Glenavon assistant manager Paul Millar, who lost his son Philip. It's hard to understand how these tragic events affect people because they can put on a mask. It's when they are on their own, alone with their own thoughts in an empty house, that's when their minds can be troubled.

Q. Have you ever had to deal with bereavement or illness?

A. My granny and granda have passed away and from a young age my sister has had two liver transplants, in 1998 and 2002. I was relatively young and not sure what was going on but Catherine had to go through a 12-hour operation to get her liver removed and replaced. My mum Linda and dad William were stressed and I can now understand how they were feeling as their daughter faced a major operation with a 50-50 chance of surviving. That wait at Birmingham Children's Hospital must have been traumatic. We needed to get an emergency flight over and after four years that liver started to fail and the process started again. I was eight and 12-years-old while Catherine was 10 and 14 at the time. She's doing brilliantly now, you wouldn't know her medical history. One day my dad noticed a jaundiced look on her face and eyes and they did tests in the Royal Victoria Hospital and detected a liver disease. It came out of the blue and all I remember was coming in from Seaview Primary School and my granny explained my mum and dad had to take Catherine to England and a few days later I went over. Looking back now you realise the severity of the situation but thankfully she came through. Catherine's now a supervisor in Audi. She will go for tests and is taking tablets but we will always be grateful to the doctors. Deborah is my oldest sister, Julie is the middle one and Catherine the youngest. They aren't into football which is good because I'm a bad loser. The other health related concern was my dad who had a mini-stroke five or six years ago. My mum saw the symptoms when they were in the supermarket, got him to the Royal and when I arrived I was more of a hindrance because I walked into the room, saw my dad and fainted. He still banters me about it, me lying on the floor looking up at a nurse!

Q. Have your parents been a huge influence on your career?

A. Definitely. They are my biggest supporters and critics. My dad will bring me down a peg, saying, 'You may have scored in a Cup final but what about that cross you messed up?' At the same time he would pick me up if I made a mistake. When I scored in the 2016 Irish Cup final, our 2-0 win over Linfield, I wasn't sure where they were sitting but after the game I hugged them and mum burst into tears. It was a very proud moment and they were happy to see me come home the morning after, drunk with my medal. My parents keep the stories about me so when I retire they will have a scrapbook.

Q. Bangor fell out of senior football and are now competing in the Ballymena and Provincial Football League. Are you disappointed to see them go through a rough time?

A. It is sad to see. We all signed the year after we survived and the promise was the club would apply for a licence to play Premiership football. To be told halfway through the season the paperwork was submitted late, you think, 'How unprofessional is that?' There were problems at board level and there was no link with the players. For Bangor to be in that position is devastating, especially when you look at their potential with the installation of the artificial pitch that has served Crusaders and Cliftonville well. Bangor went the opposite way and there was a divide between players, managers and the board. It came to fruition with relegation. I was devastated the night we lost to Warrenpoint on penalties and I knew I could be moving on in the summer to a Premiership side but I wanted to get Bangor there. I still look out for their results as they are one of the clubs that made me enjoy my football again. I will always be very thankful to Bangor and Scatesy.

Q. Are you pleased with the impact you've made at Glenavon?

A. I had a point to prove and needed to be a consistent member of the team. To help Glenavon get into Europe, score in the Irish Cup final and make the Team of the Year, that was one of my best years. I'm 100% happy and have a three-year contract after this season. It's a brilliant feeling scoring in a Cup final. It was the best day of my life and was the first year the final was in the new national stadium which made it sweeter. The fans were incredible and it meant a lot to share that.

Q. What has been the lowest point of your career?

A. When I shattered my cheekbone at Glentoran. There was talk of a loan move and I went to Bangor where Frankie Wilson had organised a training game. I went to head a ball and the other guy headed my cheek so it was straight to A&E and an operation. My whole cheekbone was shattered and the right side of my face is metal. In the winter it can become a bit itchy but I've had no bother. The first few times I went through the airport the machine beeped and I thought it was my metal cheek but I realised I had a belt on both times. The staff at the Ulster Hospital were brilliant but it wasn't nice lying in the hospital bed with a big dent in my face. It took four months before I could get into contact sport again but once I got a few headers and shoulder charges out of the way I was back to normal. I didn't feel pain but the guy next to me was being sick on the pitch so I knew something wasn't right. Frankie shouted, 'Don't touch your face' and in the changing room I could see the damage. It doesn't cross my mind now... I ran into the fist of Coleraine keeper Chris Johns to get a penalty!

Q. How did the move to Glenavon come about?

A. Gary Hamilton and Scatesy are friends from their Blackburn days and Gary wanted to talk to me. His plans for the club and me were brilliant. They had just won the Irish Cup and qualified for Europe so were on the up. Other Premiership clubs came in for me but I made my mind up early on. My aim was to get in the team and get goals and assists.

Q. The Irish Cup win followed the sad passing of former Glenavon player Mark Farren. He fought a brain tumour but died at the age of 33. How did that tragedy affect the squad?

A. Mark's wife Terri-Louise led us out that day and it was very much part of the team talk. Gary knows how to motivate and he prepared a video which included bits and pieces on each player and the good things Mark had done in terms of football and how quickly life can change. That motivated us and apart from the first 10 minutes we dominated. I knew of Mark and it was terrible to see someone's life go from such a high to losing it through illness.

Q. Who is the best player you have played with and toughest opponent?

A. Sammy Clingan would be up there with the best players. You wonder will professionals think they are too good for the league when they come home but we have Sammy and Jonny Tuffey who have taken it in their stride. I trained with Glenn Ferguson near the end of his career at Distillery and you could see the class he had, even in his 40s. Gary Hamilton was head and shoulders above at Glentoran. Ask me the same question in 10 years' time and I might say Mark Sykes, Bobby Burns and Rhys Marshall. Toughest opponent could be a South African called Tsepo Masilela, who played for Maccabi Haifa when I was with Glentoran. We lost 6-0 over there and although I only played 15 minutes, it felt like 200. He had fantastic pace and his four touches were him taking the ball off me four times! He's made more than 50 appearances for South Africa.

Q. Tell us about your family life.

A. I've been going out with Adele for over two years. We have booked a summer holiday to Florida which we are looking forward to. We met through friends. Adele is a beautician and not into football, though her father is a big Manchester United fan and Northern Ireland block booker. We moved into a new house in Newtownabbey seven months ago. I'm trying to convince her to be a Liverpool fan but it's nice not to get tons of grief about football or too much praise. It's a part-time league and we are normal working people trying to be sensible. I've a sports studies degree and personal training qualification so I do a bit of that part-time. I love watching sports, though Adele might not like it when I have sports channels on all the time.

Q. Where do you work?

A. I work for the Heath Trust Business Services Organisation, we provide services for 16 health organisations within Northern Ireland and I'm a team leader in the payroll department.

Q. What are your hopes for the future?

A. To play as much as I can, get more assists and goals and add medals as well.

Snapshot

Date of birth: September 19, 1989

Place of birth: Belfast

Previous clubs: Glentoran, Lisburn Distillery, Bangor

Glenavon record: 16 goals in 92 appearances

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