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Marvin Andrews has made a good living in the clouds. His vertical leap is one of the most awesome sights in football. Standing at 1.85 metres and weighing 81 kilograms, his strong legs propel him into the stratosphere well above taller opponents, while his uncanny sense of timing allows for flawless contact with the ball.


Glasgow Rangers manager Alex McLeish, who represented Scotland as a central defender in the 1990 World Cup, said he never saw anyone better in the air or as dogmatic on the ground when he signed the Trinidad and Tobago international last June.

It was not an immediately popular decision with fans or the Scottish media but there is something in Andrews' single-mindedness that instills confidence in unbelievers. Here is a man who cleaned toilets at Carib Brewery in Champs Fleurs as a 20-year-old and, ten years later, is a well-paid professional at one of Scotland's biggest football clubs.

He must be doing something right. His rise is a testament to the virtues of hard work, discipline, bravery, self-belief and good fortune. At least, that is our interpretation.

For Andrews, his successes are nothing more than an example of God's grace.

His supporters have remarkable faith in his no-nonsense approach that has tamed more talented players like Brazilian World Cup winner Juninho and giant Welsh striker John Hartson.

For them, and us, Andrews moves mountains.

To Andrews, though, it is God who moves the mountains for him.

In a time when the word "Christian" has become such a cliche that writers take to adding the adjective "devout" to inject a degree of sincerity, Andrews is the real deal.

He sees Jesus at the epicentre of life flanked by worldly daily concerns rather than the other way around. In a country where football is a religion, a clash of beliefs was inescapable.

It came last month when Andrews suffered cruciate ligament damage in his left knee during a league fixture with Dundee. A similar injury kept his international teammate and Wrexham winger Carlos Edwards out for seven months and almost ended the career of Brazil and Real Madrid star Ronaldo.

Rangers doctor Ian McGuinness said surgery was the only option and manager McLeish instructed his new signing to accept this verdict.

But Andrews answers to a higher calling. There could not be a more unlikely rebel.

Rangers ordered the player to take a vow of silence and refrain from giving interviews without the club's approval while they attempted to use the media to exert pressure on the player.

And Andrews is going against the tide of popular opinion.

Sports psychologist Tom Lucas, who is employed by fellow Scottish Premier League club Motherwell, begged Andrews to reconsider.

"I do not want to run down the guy's beliefs but he is defying irrefutable evidence which says he must have an operation," Lucas told the Scottish Herald. "And if he does not get it sorted, then it is serious. If he believes in the power of God then he must believe that He has enabled us to use X-rays and modern science to remedy these problems.

"He is in denial like a lot of athletes If it is not dealt with soon, there is a real chance that in the future he could end up incapacitated. The longer you leave it, the harder it is to repair and the osteoporosis might already have started."

Andrews has kept his own counsel but it is the makings of a remarkable battle. Man against his peers; faith versus science.

For all his achievements in the game, Andrews might be forever remembered for his stance against the wisdom of contemporary medicine-at least in this particular dilemma. If he is listening to his maker, one hopes he listens carefully. The risks could not be greater.

In the religion of sport, nothing is more sacrosanct than an athlete's health. The doctor's verdict is dogma.

McLeish allowed Andrews to play for 45 minutes in a reserve fixture last week to test his resolve. The defender allegedly reported for training the following day with a painfully stiffened knee. So round one goes to the unruly knee and the disbelieving medical staff.

Andrews will determine the duration of the contest and the extent of his wager on a successful outcome.

His faith remains unswerving. But for the grace of God, the defender, who has 84 national caps, believes that he would be loading boxes on the Carib production line for minimum wage.

The Lord giveth and taketh away.

For Andrews' sake, one hopes that this script is written in heaven.