KEEP believing. These two words perhaps best sum up Wrexham FC player Marvin Andrews’ philosophy on life. For the 34-year-old Trinidad and Tobago defender, belief in God and the literal word of the Bible is at the heart of who he is.
For anyone who knows anything about his career, his recovery from two potentially career threatening injuries, in layman’s terms at least, could be described as miraculous.
The first took place just after he moved from his home town club Carib FC in 1997, to sign for Scottish side Raith Rovers – the beginning of a 12-year stint north of the border, which included a spell with Glasgow Rangers.
Marvin said: “Not long after I signed for Raith I developed a groin inflammation. I went to see the club doctor and various specialists and some of them told me I would have to have a metal plate inserted to be able to carry on playing.”
One of his teammates, Tony Rougier, knowing he was religious, told him to pray instead, and invited him along to the Zion Praise Centre, a Pentecostal church in Kirkcaldy. He did just that and prayed with the church’s pastor Joe Nwokoye. “Pastor Joe told me about the healing power of Jesus Christ, we prayed together and I was healed. The pain in my groin just went away. It was a miracle.”
Others might argue it was a placebo effect or an overly pessimistic diagnosis, but nothing will shake his conviction it was divine intervention that saved his career.
Nearly six years on and his full hearted approach to playing had earned him a cult following among fans, plus a big move to one of Scotland’s biggest clubs.
But in his first season at Rangers in 2004-5, while the club was in a nail-biting title scrap with arch rivals Celtic, he picked up a serious knee injury – the kind which put the likes of Paul Gascoigne, Michael Owen and Ruud van Nistelrooy on the treatment table for the best part of a year.
Marvin said: “I was playing against Dundee when I injured my knee, which forced me out of the CIS (League) Cup Final (which Rangers went on to win).”
Once again the medical opinion was unanimous: he had ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament and would need major reconstructive surgery if he wanted to play again.
Guess what Marvin did? “I prayed to God and he told me not to take surgery. When I told the Rangers doctors and the specialist that I was going to pray to God to heal my knee, they couldn’t believe it.”
But that’s what he did, again with Pastor Joe. Within six weeks he was back playing again, a story which made news around the UK at the time. Marvin believes he is the only player to carry on playing with knee ligament damage without resorting to surgery.
“My first game back was against Celtic and we lost 2-0. Everyone said the league was over but I told everyone to keep believing.”
Needless to say Rangers pipped Celtic to the title on the very last day of the season after Celtic conceded a last-minute goal.
“We won the league title and I helped my country qualify for the 2006 World Cup in that time. For me that is all about having faith in the love of God.”
But he does concede that he eventually went under the surgeon’s knife in 2008 to remove cartilage from that knee.
Both those injuries changed his life, deepening his belief and marking the start of a long association with the Zion Praise Centre, where he is now an assistant pastor.
Even now, almost every weekend he travels all the way back to Kirkcaldy from Wrexham for Sunday might church meetings
“The manager (Dean Saunders) has been very good, he gives me time off when he can because he knows how important my faith is to me.
“This is what God has directed me to do, everything I do is directed by God. There wouldn’t be a Marvin Andrews without the Lord Jesus Christ.”
That openness about his beliefs is bound to raise a few eyebrows in the dressing room and on the terraces, but he seems to be a popular figure around the training ground.
Comfortably over 6ft tall, he is an imposing presence but with a warmth, approachability, and a refreshing willingness to speak freely, at odds with the stereotype of the professional footballer. And frankly he doesn’t care what other people think about him, perhaps best illustrated by controversial comments he made about homosexuality in 2006 – although at the time he said he was taken out of context
“People know God is the main thing in my life. The boys have been very good to me. I stay 10 minutes from the training ground and the club and everyone – the fans, manager, the staff and players – have made me feel welcome and I’m really enjoying myself.”
The good news for Wrexham fans is he believes there are more minor miracles to come
“I believe we can reach the play-offs and maybe win the title this season,” he said.
At 34 he shrugs off any suggestion that he’s near the end of a long career. “I am strong and healthy. I would like to think I could, like David Weir at Rangers, at least play until I am 40.”
Whether that will be at the Racecourse, well , only God knows, but he will remain devoted to his faith and may retain some interest in the game. “I would like to be involved in football in some way.
“I like to motivate and encourage young people in particular to believe in themselves and use the skills and talent that God gave them to their full potential.”
The eldest son of Cynthia Albino and Anthony Andrews, he has eight siblings, most of whom still live in the Caribbean. Marvin has come a long way from the day in 1997 when his club manager at Carib FC gave him his first break. “He bought me a plane ticket to Scotland and said: ‘Marvin go and show the world your talent’.”
It’s fair to say he’s done just that.