REPUBLIC of Ireland international midfielder Keith Andrews was something of a revelation during a season-long loan at Brighton & Hove Albion.
Now plying his trade as a pundit for Sky Sports, Andrews had previously played for the other Albion as well – West Bromwich – although his stay there was even briefer than his time with the Seagulls.
With the looming expectation that back-to-back Player of the Season Liam Bridcutt would shortly follow old boss Gus Poyet to Sunderland (which eventually happened in January 2014), Brighton turned to Andrews to cover the defensive midfield slot in 2013-14.
Arriving at the Amex in August 2013 just short of his 33rd birthday on a season-long loan from Bolton Wanderers, Andrews was not at all happy with the way the Trotters ‘disposed’ of him, telling bbc.co.uk: “Nobody really had the decency to even phone me as I was leaving.
“I think I deserve a little bit more respect than that, I suppose. I always felt I’d done things well at that club, been very professional and treated people like I like to be treated.
“To end on that note was a bit sour but you can’t be surprised by anything in football.”
Even if Seagulls supporters viewed his signing as somewhat underwhelming, Andrews himself was delighted and excited, saying: “If it wasn’t the right move, I certainly wouldn’t have gone and I didn’t feel any pressure to leave.
“It was a move that genuinely excited me. To come to a club that plays in the fashion and style that Brighton do was something that really appealed to me.
“I have still got a huge appetite for the game and I feel I can have a big impact here. I have come into a squad that has a wealth of experience and ability that will make me be the player I know I can be.”
And boss Oscar Garcia sought to dispel any doubts, telling bbc.co.uk: “He is a player with experience at the top level of the English game and international football – including World Cups and European Championships.
“Keith is a player who I know will enjoy the way we like to play. He is a dynamic and energetic player.”
It wasn’t long before supporters began to be pleasantly surprised by Andrews’ contribution on the pitch, and off it the new signing also began to show his aptitude for handling the media.
As early as September 2013, Andrews was speaking eloquently about his teammates, for example telling BBC Radio Sussex his views about striker Leonardo Ulloa.
“He is a handful and has got a bit of everything,” he said. “He is a big player for us at the moment as he is really leading the line on his own. He allows us to bring other players, such as Bucko [Will Buckley] and Ashley Barnes, into play.
“He is very effective and I’ve seen first hand in training how strong he is and what a handful he is to deal with. I have only been here a few weeks but I have been very impressed by the mix we have got in the dressing room. We’ve got experience, youth, foreign, English and Irish.
“It is a good atmosphere and if we hold onto what we have got I am more than confident we can have a very successful season.”
As the months progressed, Andrews became an established part of the side which Garcia ultimately led to the play-offs. In December 2013, Andrews made use of the platform offered by the Daily Mail’s Footballers’ Football Column to expand on his enjoyment of his time at the Amex.
“The club made a big impression on me when I played against them for Bolton last season, in terms of their style of football and their new stadium, and when they came in for me it was a very easy decision in footballing terms,” he said. “It’s not an easy decision, moving 250 miles away from your home in the north-west, but Brighton made it very clear they wanted me and Bolton made it clear they didn’t.
“It came out of the blue, but I felt it was a chance to be a part of something really exciting.”
Garcia’s decision to quit after the failure to get past Derby County in the play-off semi-finals was the catalyst for a number of changes in the playing personnel, although Andrews hankered to make his move to Sussex permanent having been involved in 37 appearances since his temporary move.
He registered one goal during that time, an 89th minute equaliser at home to Sheffield Wednesday in October.
In a May 2014 interview with the Bolton News, he said: “It would be something I’d be interested in. When the people are so good to you and make you feel so welcome, the fans have been fantastic, it’s a one-club town.
“No-one supports anyone else and the attendances are something that I haven’t experienced in football for a long, long time. We’ve got the best attendances in the whole league although other clubs in the league are supposedly bigger.
“It’s a club I would like to stay involved in but contract-wise I’m contracted to a different club next season, I’m only here on loan. These things are not always in your hands and you can’t always dictate where you go and how your career pans out.
“But I would certainly like to stay on at Brighton into the future because I have thoroughly enjoyed it this year.”
The midfielder also reflected positively on his time at the Amex in a blog post for Sky Sports, pointing out: “Although I was only at the Amex for one season I have a lot of affection for the club as I think they try to do things in the right manner for the club to evolve with real sustainability for years to come.
“There are good people involved behind the scenes there, none more so than in the academy. Last season I worked closely with the academy manager John Morling and the development coach Ian Buckman as I was in the middle of my UEFA ‘A’ licence and they couldn’t have done any more to help me.
“It was a great experience to work with them as they prepared weekly and monthly schedules with the rest of the coaches and sports scientists to ensure the young lads had the best chance of developing their games, both technically and physically.
“I was amazed at the schedule a 14-year-old at the club had and a little envious to be honest as it certainly wasn’t like that in my day!”
Born in Dublin on 13 September 1980, Andrews came through the ranks of Drumcondra side Stella Maris before being picked up as a junior by Wolverhampton Wanderers, where he stayed for six years.
He made his first team debut on 18 March 2000 in a 2-1 win at Swindon and at 21 was Wolves’ youngest ever captain in a game against QPR, but he was sent out on loan on three separate occasions, playing briefly for Oxford United, Stoke City and Walsall.
After 72 appearances for the Molineux side, in 2005 he moved on to Hull City, where injury blighted his only season with them He then had a two-year spell with Milton Keynes Dons, where he assumed the captaincy of Paul Ince’s side.
His second season was a huge success as the Dons won promotion to League One; Andrews scoring the goal which secured the success. He also scored in the club’s 2-0 win over Grimsby Town in the Football League Trophy at Wembley.
Andrews was chosen in the PFA Team of the Year, won the League Two player of the Year Award and was listed 38th of FourFourTwo magazine’s top 50 Football League players.
The Irishman followed his old Dons boss Ince to Premier League Blackburn Rovers in September 2008 and, two months later, at the comparatively late age of 28, made it onto the international scene with Ireland, making his debut as a substitute in a 3-2 friendly defeat against Poland.
It was the first of 35 international caps. He was involved in Ireland’s 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign and although the country was winless at the 2012 European Championship in Poland and Ukraine, Andrews was named FAI Player of the Year for 2012.
Meanwhile, Andrews’ third season at Blackburn (2010-11) had been curtailed by injury, restricting him to just five Premier League appearances, and in August 2011 he went on a half-season loan to Ipswich Town.
A permanent switch looked on the cards but on deadline day of the January 2012 transfer window he ended up joining West Brom on a six-month deal. After 14 Premier League appearances for the Baggies, his contract came to an end and his next port of call was newly-relegated Bolton Wanderers, who he joined on a three-year contract in the summer of 2012.
Owen Coyle was the manager at that time but his tenure came to an abrupt end in October that year. Although Andrews played 25 times under his successor, Dougie Freedman, the following season he was edged out by the signing from Liverpool of Jay Spearing.
After his loan season with Brighton, Andrews had a similar arrangement at Watford but he didn’t enjoy the same success there and ended up curtailing the deal and going back to MK Dons on loan for the latter part of the season.
When the curtain came down on his playing career at the end of the 2014-15 season, he’d completed 413 career appearances and scored 49 goals.
He became first team coach at MK Dons and harboured ambitions of becoming manager when Karl Robinson departed, but he was overlooked and began working as a coach with the junior Irish international teams, and turned to punditry with Sky Sports.