MARVIN ANDREWS is used to uphill struggles. Wasn't he a key man when Rangers came back from the dead to snatch the title from Celtic in the most remarkable circumstances in 2005? And what about that day in Bahrain when Trinidad & Tobago made the 2006 World Cup finals after they were seemingly out of contention, only to win five of their last six games and then beat the Bahrainis on their own patch in the play-off?
Then there was Livingston's 2-0 CIS Cup final win over Hibs in 2004, a triumph eked out against the backdrop of unpaid wages, impending redundancy and discord in the boardroom. Andrews can even point to picking up silverware with Raith Rovers. Then, of course, there's the fact that he confounded medical advice by refusing a knee operation; he put his faith in God and the Lord kept his Christian soldier hobbling onwards.
Andrews knows what it's like to stare down the barrel, to triumph against the odds. Yet few challenges have been more daunting than keeping Hamilton in the SPL. Last season, their continued presence in the top flight was only guaranteed with a final-day 1-0 win over St Mirren, a victory that was preceded by some schizophrenically streaky swings in form: a fantastic start with three wins out of five games, a dire mid-season run of ten games without a win, followed by a 12-game run in which they amassed 25 points from a possible 36.
This season promises to be even harder. With Inverness Caley Thistle's departure, Hamilton have the smallest crowds and most meagre financial resources in the division. The loss of the prodigy James McCarthy to Wigan and defender Bryan Easton to Burnley has been a body-blow to a side short of star quality; of the saleable assets, only 21-year-old James McArthur remains in Lanarkshire.
Manager Billy Reid has been busy in the transfer market, signing Portuguese twins Marco and Flavio Paixao, Rennes midfielder David Louhoungou and Leicester City's James Wesolowski. Yet none are proven performers in the SPL and all are 24 or younger. Reid has an eye for a player, but so far none of his domestic targets – Inverness's Dougie Imrie, Motherwell's Jamie Murphy, Kilmarnock's Craig Bryson and Falkirk's Scott Arfield – have responded positively to Hamilton's overtures.
All of which makes the signing of the positively geriatric 33-year-old defender from Raith Rovers the most important bit of business Reid has done over the close season. In tough times, many of the tyros at Hamilton will turn to the imposing West Indian, a proven leader of men. It is, he believes, why Reid has taken a chance on a player many thought would never grace the top flight again. It's Vieira and Wenger in northern climes.
"One of the main reasons Billy brought me in is because of my character and because I can help with the younger lads," said Andrews. "The young guys look to me because of where I've been, the things that I've achieved, because of playing with Rangers and the national team. They look at the way I carry myself, the things that I say, they look at my faith.
"I tell them that impressive men make impressive footballers; young men who are willing to listen, willing to learn, willing to take advice, they're the ones who stand a better chance of making it like wee James (McCarthy] and Bryan (Easton]. So many youngsters think that they know it all – their name's in the paper for a couple of weeks or they have two or three good games, and they think they're great. Look at Rangers with the young boy John Fleck. Where a young boy comes in, everybody's writing him up and, before you know it, there are problems.
"That's why you need older guys like me around, to remind kids that they haven't yet achieved anything because that point when they get their first praise, sometimes too early, is dangerous and can destroy them. If you're not humble then before you know it you'll find yourself in trouble; God hates proud people and will demote them. Pride comes before a fall."
Ah, God. Talk of the supernatural peppers marvellous Marvin's chat, which is hardly surprising given that he's just been ordained as a minister at his evangelical church in Kirkcaldy. But given that football dressingrooms are places where any physical or cultural diversity is ruthlessly dissected, how have his new team-mates reacted to his Bible-thumping?
"I blend in well," he laughs. "The banter in the dressingroom is incredible, but I can take it. I'm a very light-hearted person who likes a joke about my God. The boys say 'pray for me, Marvin', but I'm not a touchy type of person. I'm in an environment where you will get that type of thing."
If Reid's rationale for taking a punt on a 33-year-old with a dodgy knee is easy to understand, why Andrews was attracted to a club where the season could be a slog is more difficult to divine. He was, he says, attracted by the community aspect to a club which reminds him of Livingston, by the chance to help with the development of young players, and by Reid himself ("very nice and likes a good laugh, but above all the man's a winner"). But most of all, he was lured by the lustre of the SPL.
"I really missed the SPL," he says. "God took me away for three and a half years, but I've no regrets about going back to Raith Rovers. Those were my Wilderness Years: like God took Moses out of the Promised Land, so he took me out of the SPL, but I thank God for bringing me back."
He talks with relish of playing against Rangers for the first time. Most of his old muckers have gone, but he has still got mates there like Kris Boyd, Nacho Novo and the kit man Jimmy Bell. But mostly he talks simply about his joy at being back in the big time. Even a man of God is allowed to enjoy his job, and now that Andrews is back after an 11-month lay-off following knee surgery, it's clear that he's here for the long haul. His church's congregation has already started praying for Hamilton, for a clean sheet against Motherwell and for his dicky knee to hold up.
"My knee is in top shape and I feel like I'm getting back to my old self," he says. "After six months back every day is getting better. I'm 33, but I'll play until God tells me otherwise. I'm hoping God will tell me the same as He told David Weir and (Paolo] Maldini, because I'd love to play until I'm 40. It's not about the money – I just love playing the game.
"But most of all I'm thankful for this opportunity because people thought that was it for Marvin Andrews. But God hasn't finished with me yet, he still has many things for me to achieve in my career. I'm a born-again footballer."