‘In Conversation With’ were articles for the matchday programme during the 1998/99 season in which Dave Tavener interviewed various members of the team. Below is the interview with the versatile Andy Polston that appeared in the programme for the Isthmian League match against Sutton United on 24thAugust 1998.
Born: 26-07-70, Walthamstow.
Occupation: Employed by Office Cleaning Services.
Home Life: Wife Joanna, children Ellie 4, Megan 2.
Previous clubs: Tottenham Hotspur, Gillingham, Cambridge United, Brighton & Hove Albion, Hendon.
St. Albans City Playing Record: Debut: 6-08-94, away to Hemel Hempstead (Herts Charity Cup), won 5-1.
First Goal: 16-08-94, away to Grays Athletic (Isthmian League), drew 2-2.
Appearances: 211 (128 League). Goals - 2 (2 League).
Honours with St. Albans City: Herts Senior Cup Finalist 1994-95; Herts Charity Cup Winner 1994-95, 1997-98; Herts Charity Cup Finalist 1995-96; FA Cup 2nd Round Proper 1996-97; Other Honours; Football Combination Champions 1986-87, 1987-88, 1988-89 with Tottenham Hotspur; League Cup 1993-94 with Hendon.
This evening City defender Andy Polston is the centre of our attention as we extract, from 'the brother of Norwich City defender John Polston,' his thoughts on the season ahead, past experiments within the Isthmian League, what it takes to be a good defender and the grounds where he is always guaranteed a good reception. Andy joined the Saints in the summer of 1994 from Hendon and is currently 25th in our list of all time appearances having (prior to Saturday) played two games more than both Allan Cockram and this evenings visiting goalkeeper, Gareth Howells . All being well, this evenings game should see Andy climb above Terry Benning into 24thposition.
Playing in the Big Time
“My brother John and I were at Tottenham together but he got a good move to Norwich City about eight years ago and has done really well ever since. He actually left Norwich during the summer and has since signed for Reading. When I was in my final year at Spurs I got a bad injury and things didn't go well for me. I went Brighton for six months but my injury put paid to that and I turned to the non-league game. When I was playing under Allan Cockram during my early days here there were some rumours about professional clubs being interested in me again but I don't really think there was much to it and as I have always enjoyed being at St. Albans it has never really bothered me that much about not playing full-time. I've got another two years left on my contract and hopefully I'll see that out. One of the first things you notice about stepping out of full-time football into the non-league game is that the players at the higher level are fitter, they are quicker and have more movement but gradually you get used to how the non-league game is. I don't think that there is really a great difference between the pro's and part-timers except for the fitness and maybe they think a bit quicker because all they have to think about is football everyday of the week, where as we have other jobs to occupy us when we're not playing.”
“Looking back to when Allan Cockram was in charge we had a good team but we never had a big squad as such. Really, I suppose we only had about 11 or 12 good players and once we got injuries or suspensions we were struggling. In the end that stopped us from winning as many things as I believe we could have done. To outsiders St Albans is always seen as a nice attractive team that can never go the distance but hopefully this year all that will change. We have got a big squad now with good players who know this level of football, so hopefully we can definitely get into the top five and perhaps do well in at least one of the big cups. At the moment we have got somewhere in the region of 22 players and they are all of a good quality, so if someone is injured or suspended you probably will not miss them that much, as there will be someone of a similar standard ready to come in, it then just becomes a case of keeping happy those who are not in the side.”
Yeovil's ground was nice to play at, especially a few seasons ago when there were something like three and a half thousand people inside the stadium. It was a brilliant atmosphere and a good day for the club. I remember Cockram scored a great goal for us and the draw kept us at the top of the table. This season I really hope to be playing when we go to Aldershot because if both sides are doing well then it should be a great game for both sides. For some reason the Hendon fans really seem to hate me, I had two years at Claremont Road and seemed to get on alright with their supporters but every time I go back there with St. Albans they give me a lot of stick. What makes it even stranger is that I did score the winner for Hendon against St. Albans in my last season there. I remember going past Peter Risley quite easily and sliding it under, I think, Gary Westwood - Rizza couldn't believe it (he's not the only one Andy, ed). That said, I do actually love the banter when we play Hendon but after losing to them four times last season it would be nice to get our own back this year. St. Albans fans have always been good to me and hopefully this year we can really give them something to get excited about. It does help the team when you know the supporters are fully behind you and I think we really notice it in away games where the St. Albans support is always good.”
“Kevin Mudd and I have played together a lot and I think it has been a good partnership in that he attacks the ball and I sweep round. Saying that, we have let in a number of goals in the time that we have been together, but it seems to be that with the way St. Albans play we will always let goals in. The defence has not really changed much over the past four years, it has normally been Kev and I in the middle with Peter Risley at left-back. Quite a few players have been tried at right-back though, like Erskine Smart and more recently Richard Evans and Tom Meredith.”
“While I've been at Clarence Park I have played nearly all of my games at centre-half but I do enjoy playing a right-back as you can get forward a little bit more from there. But really I am quite happy at centre-half.”
Last goal February 1995
“It doesn't bother me that my last goal was a long time ago as my only aim as a defender is to try to keep goals out. It would be nice to score and just wait to see the celebration when I do. There is no way I should be blamed for the own goal at Wroxham, that was down to Tubbsy (goalkeeper Paul Newell). I gave him a nice little soft header back and I haven't got a clue as to what he had on his hands but it just slipped through and I got the blame!”
“In some ways it was a good thing for us as we didn't take one during the whole of that season, so it got us a lot of publicity we wouldn't otherwise have had. Other teams we played against didn't seem too happy that we didn't use it but maybe also it didn't do us any favours as we had some big players in our side and could have used it more to our advantage. I'm glad we stuck to our principles, it was a pathetic experiment and it was better when we went back to proper football the following season.”
The Art of Good Defending
“Eventually, say in another two years, with the way things are going there will be a ban on all tackling. You have to keep saying to yourself as a defender, stand-up. Over the last five years or so the job of the defender has become a lot harder and you really do have to keep concentrating for the whole 90 minutes, you cannot afford to switch off.”
St. Albans City in 1998-99
“Looking at the other sides in the league it seems as though Aylesbury United have spent a lot of money during the summer on certain players so you would expect Bob (Dowie) to get his side into a good position. But apart from them I would expect the usual sides to be up there, Enfield, Boreham Wood and I would think Sutton United as well. I am sure we'll be well up there, I know all sides say this but if we can get a good start confidence will grow and we'll be in there with a chance.”
Andy went on to complete 252 games for the City and took his goals tally from two at the time of the interview to….two. He is 23rdon our list of all time appearances, one game behind Steve Oliver and two behind Ron McCormack. After leaving us at the end of the 1998-99 season Andy spent the following campaign in Division One of the Isthmian League with Braintree Town, the following season saw him play 28 league games for Division One Isthmian League champions Boreham Wood. He made a handful more appearances for Wood during 2001-02 before having a short spell with Ford United. Andy returned to the Premier Division of the Isthmian League with Billericay Town for the 2003-04 season where he combined playing (three league appearances) with being assistant manager to Justin Edinburgh.