From the outside, the building looks like a Barcelona art gallery and the car park glitters like the forecourt of a Ferrari dealership. In fact, this is Murray Park, the multi-million pound exclusive training ground of Glasgow Rangers FC. Situated on the outskirts of the city, it provides a championship-style welcome to the world of top-flight football.
A taggle of Rangers fans gather at the electronic gates waiting for another 4X4 driven by one of their heroes, to enter or leave the complex. Their patience is rewarded when a blacked-out window is silently lowered and a Rolex adorned hand reaches out to sign an autograph for Aunty Mary.
As my photographer and I arrive, we are greeted with smiles of expectation by the weather-beaten fans who gaze into our car (well, the photographer does drive a Merc), which quickly turn to disappointment when we are confidently identified by a nine-year-old boy in a Rangers top, as "nobodies."
Above our heads, an electronic eye scans our car, then an electronic voice opens the gates and we are admitted silently into Murray Park.
Is that Marvin Andrews or the back of a 4x4?
As we wait in the brightly lit reception room, I catch sight of the footballer I’ve come to interview, collecting his mail from a secretary. At 6ft 3ins and built like the back end of a 4x4, Marvin Andrews, Rangers’ star defender, inspires terror in the hearts of attacking centre forwards.
However, he quickly whirls round and greets us with a huge smiles saying “Welcome, guys” before inviting us into a spare boardroom. Marvin Andrews, 29, is a breath of fresh air in a sport littered with pampered, over-paid, glitzy, foul-mouthed, never-out-the-tabloids footballers.
Captain of the Trinidad and Tobago team, he moved to Scotland where he was signed by lowly First Division clubs. Then his talent was spotted by Rangers, one of the UK’s richest clubs, and he was rescued from obscurity.
Marvin showed a special talent for preventing attackers getting anywhere near his side’s goal. Rangers fans quickly adopted him and nicknamed him Marvellous Marvin. It was a prophetic word – for a strange thing began to happen. During after-match interviews, Marvin frequently used the word Jesus, but not in the way footballers usually refer to the Son of God, such as when they miss a penalty.
He stunned football commentators and fans alike by saying things like “We deserved that corner and I want to give Jesus thanks for the way I played today” or “There’s no reason why Rangers can’t win the league and I praise God for showing me His will in my life.”
In Scotland, religion frequently divides football supporters, especially between the largely Catholic supported Glasgow Celtic and the Protestant supported Glasgow Rangers. Suddenly, here was a footballer talking about faith in Jesus – and football’s fans and pundits had no idea what to make of it.
“I cannot help but give glory to Jesus for what He has done in my life,” Marvin explains. “I have to say His name frequently, to thank Him. I don’t just want to praise Him in my private prayers. I want to use every opportunity to praise His name.
“He is the source of my life, my talent and I cannot keep that to myself. If Jesus was not in my life, it would be meaningless. I don’t care what success I might have on the field, even if I scored the winning goal in the World Cup final. Without Jesus it would not matter.”
From Trinidad to Ibrox
Marvin Andrews grew up in a house in Trinidad where the family were expected and encouraged to attend church. Yet, it was only when he arrived in Scotland that he realised his faith was not so much alive as merely on a peep. He suffered a severe groin injury while playing for Raith Rovers, an injury which could have ended his playing career.
“The doctor told me I needed an operation which would include placing a metal plate low in my stomach. I knew other players who had had this done and they could still play but you would never be quite the same again.
“Then someone at Raith told me about his church and how he believed Jesus could heal people today just as He did two thousand years ago.”
Marvin went along and was invited to come forward to be prayed over. He felt an intense heat in the injured area and a sense of the Holy Spirit healing him instantly. “I went to see the club doctor the following day and told him I knew God had healed me, but he said he’d be the judge of that. Well, they gave me all the tests and examinations and the doctor said to me ‘Marvin, this is miraculous. People don’t get healed from such injuries.”
Over the past year, Marvin has been inundated with requests to address youth groups and churches. Christians, even those who don’t know their Uniteds from their Arsenals, have warmed to his passionate evangelising in one of modern mammon’s most public of arenas. Whether addressing a group of ten Sunday School children or in interviews with Scotland’s leading sports columnists, Marvin never changes his message. He is passionate to win on the field, but talks about the importance of fair play, dismissing so called “professional fouls” and praises a healthy lifestyle.
He tithes on his £20,000 a week salary and still uses the club car. He turned down the chance of a penthouse in the centre of Glasgow to remain close to his church in Fife where he preaches and leads a healing ministry each week.
While other footballers are photographed in nightclubs with the latest Page 3 girl, Marvin Andrews is more likely to be spotted at a church Bible night full of 50-year-old woman who stack shelves at Tesco’s. But while this could all leave him open to ridicule, he has won a surprisingly good press.
“It is possible to be a Christian and perfectly normal,” he laughs.
“The other players know of my faith and treat me well. The media have been kind and the fans chant my name. I cannot complain but in all things I give praise to God.”
I ask if he believes footballers are paid too much?
“Football is big business and the salaries are part of it. This is not the 1950s or 60s. The game has changed and the money too and no one can do anything about it. What is important is how we use the blessings God has given us. I tithe because it is God’s money, not mine. I am only a steward. God does not need my money, only my heart.”
Do players receive too much media hype for what is after all, merely a sport? “People only look at the glamorous side of footballers’ lives. They can forget the hard work and dedication. A player may be put out of the game because of an jury and have no income but maybe a family to look after.”
On fair play in the game, he adds: “I think it is wrong to foul players simply to stop them scoring. I don’t like so called professional fouls. I would never slap a player in a way the referee can’t see, you know, hit him across the face. That is wrong. I want Rangers to win but I would not do that.
”My job is to stop the other players, not attack them. What if I seriously injured another player? How could I justify that action? I pray before every game that I will give my best and play fair.”
Christianity is used as an excuse for sectarianism
He also recently spoke out against sectarianism, which still haunts the derby games between Celtic and Rangers, known as the Old Firm.
“People use Christianity as an excuse for sectarianism. The problem is not Catholic schools but what children learn at home from their parents and relatives. It is very worrying to see a little child standing next to an adult who is screaming sectarian remarks or singing sectarian songs. The child carries the hatred into the next generation.
“I don’t want fans to sing songs attacking the Queen or the Pope. They say it’s their religion but that’s an excuse. These sentiments are not in the Bible. I pray God will change people’s hearts.”
Recently, Marvin hit the headlines again after damaging cruciate ligament in his left knee and defied medical advice to undergo an operation.
"I respect the medical people at Murray Park but I don’t want to have the operation. I know it’s hard for people to understand but God has given me strength and I am not concerned. I have my beliefs, God is in control of my life and I believed my knee will be fine.
"I don’t feel any pain and there have been no problems. I appreciate the doctors and specialists want to help. I respect that but I put my faith in a higher power."
One month later, against all medical expectations, Marvin took to the field in a vital match against Celtic – and went on to help his team clinch a win. He was photographed running back from scoring a goal, behind which two fans held a large banner reading: “Marvin, keep the faith.”
No one doubts that’s one team in which Marvin Andrews will always be a member.