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Interview: Roker Report meets... ex-Sunderland U23s (& current Dundee) striker Andrew Nelson!

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Andrew Nelson - who left Sunderland to join SPL side Dundee in January - joined us to talk all about his upbringing at the club, how he’s finding life in Scotland, whether he’d like to come back one day and more.

Sunderland v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League 2
SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - AUGUST 11: Jaden Brown of Tottenham Hotspur out runs Andrew Nelson of Sunderland during the Premier League 2 match between Sunderland and Tottenham Hotspur at Eppleton Colliery Welfare Ground on August 11, 2017 in Sunderland, England. (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)
Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

RR: Andy, first and foremost thanks for speaking to Roker Report about your upbringing at SAFC. You’ve only been in Scotland a short while, but it would be fair to say you’ve hit the ground running! How are you enjoying Dundee?

AN: When I spent time in Scotland last year [at Falkirk], I thoroughly enjoyed it. The people are really friendly and straight up, and I think I’m quite straight up to so I get on well with people here.

The style of football is suited to me. Dundee as a club is fantastic, I can’t explain how great everyone has been to me. I came up myself and they’ve been brilliant with me since day one. The fans were great via social media when I first came and it’s settled me straight away.

I’m in a flat and it’s lovely - small enough to maintain shall we say! I’ve got a two and a half year contract and it gives me that six months to settle in as a player and a person. It’s feel like I’ve been here a lot longer than a month.

RR: Were you a Sunderland fan growing up? Which player do you try to model your game on?

AN: I had a number of teams I fancied. Loads of kits with different names on the back. Beckham number 7 and all that - I even had a Darlo shirt.

I was hooked on Sunderland as soon as my Dad started taking me to the games though. I remember sitting behind one of the goals and thinking how amazing it would be to play there, the Stadium of Light is just... class.

You’re young and naive enough to believe that can happen too! To achieve that, even if it wasn’t the first team, really sticks with me - I remember thinking that right up to this day.

RR: Growing up in the Academy, which of the youth teamers were you closest to?

AN: When I was young and still at school, I wasn’t that close to the lads because you’d only see them two or three hours or so at night, but once we went full time that was different.

I could have never seen myself become so close to the Lads at the club as I did. We were all such a tight knit group. The group of lads I grew up with couldn’t have been better. We’d annoy the hell out of each other sometimes! But at the end of the day we all had each other in mind and looked after each other. We still go to see each others matches even now. Tommy [Robson] has came to see me already.

Tottenham Hotspur v Sunderland - Premier League 2 Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images

RR: As a young professional, how does Sunderland and the Academy of Light prepare you for playing league football? What is so special about the AOL that produces so many professionals?

AN: The facilties give you everything at hand. You’ve got everything you could possibly need in the Academy of Light.

The coaches are great and I spent a lot of time working with the physios when I was injured. We’d research injuries together and work out how certain techniques can help certain injuries, or even what hinders them all that - and that gave me knowledge for the future.

From a young age when the pressure is not quite there yet and it’s all about the love of the game and the coaches made sure I had a smile on my face. They’d be great at coaching you how to do things the ‘Sunderland way’. As you go up the age groups it would become more tactical and technical and preparing you for first time.

They do a great job of making you feel football is right for you.

RR: Which coach has the biggest influence on your game, both mentally and physically?

AN: I was a nightmare as a kid. I’d walk off the pitch some time, I’d go off crying sometimes - tantrums if I didn’t score and a coach called Wayne Walls was great at keeping me right and looking after me. Ian Dipper was a good lad. Those coaches helped me mellow out.

Overall though I have to say Elliott Dickman had the greatest impact on me. I took things from each coach but I had Elliott from 16-years-old till I left.

I went through a spell at 13/14 where I wasn’t doing well and I was trying too hard, because I cared so much about my performance - Elliott used to speak to me and he moulded my playing style by just words. He used to say to me “simplicity is a skill” and as I grew up from the game, I knew what he meant and it suited my game. I did the nitty gritty, chasing after people and working hard. Players who played against me used to ask if I ever stopped and it made me feel good because I had those qualities and Elliott saw it.

Sunderland v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League 2
SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - AUGUST 11: Jaden Brown of Tottenham Hotspur out runs Andrew Nelson of Sunderland during the Premier League 2 match between Sunderland and Tottenham Hotspur at Eppleton Colliery Welfare Ground on August 11, 2017 in Sunderland, England. (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)
Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

RR: Which first team manager gave you the best advice and encouraged you the most?

AN: I would say Jack Ross. I knew him better than the other ones before him. He took me to St. Mirren on a trial. Him and Fows [James Fowler] were great with me. I was only 19-years-old and they’d come and speak to me, they’d talk to me about the Scottish leagues and the players and educate me on the game in Scotland.

When they [Ross and Fowler] came to Sunderland I thought it was a brilliant appointment. He knew who I was and he knew what I was about, so I thought I’d be able to maybe get into the first team. What I saw from him and Fow at St. Mirren I knew they something about them.

RR: Are you frustrated you didn’t get a chance this season then?

AN: Not at all, Sunderland gave me the chance to be a professional footballer and I’m so grateful so that. They stuck by me through the good and the bad times, they kept me right and they shaped me into the person and the player I am.

I’m gutted I didn’t get the chance to play for the first team of course because all I ever wanted to do was play for the club I love, but before that my aim was to play professional football and Sunderland have helped me with. I can never not say thank you to them.

RR: Would you come back to Sunderland?

AN: How soon?

RR: Once you’ve scored 30 SPL goals...

AN: I have to repay Dundee for the faith they’ve shown and they’ve taken the chance on me and is paying me - I am concentrated on Dundee for the next two years, that’s all my focus is. But maybe one day if I’m lucky enough to get a chance to come back, I think of course I would.

You can listen to our Podcast interview with Andrew Nelson in full by clicking here or searching your Podcast app for ‘Roker Rapport podcast’ - make sure you subscribe!