View From the Ninian’s Ben Price caught up with former fan favourite and, until fairly recently, Under-23 manager; Andy Legg. In part one, they discuss lockdown, health issues and his playing career, with part two arriving tomorrow.
Hi Andy. How are you? How are you coping with the whole coronavirus and isolation situation?
It’s very frustrating, but it’s got to be done.
Are you finding it difficult? Obviously, you’ve not long recovered from cancer. Are you finding it difficult to take the necessary precautions and are you being a bit more cautious than normal?
Yeah. When I go shopping, if there is anyone near me, you tend to be more cautious and try to get out of the way. So it’s a little bit frustrating for me because I think I’m all over it, but when you go out, you’ve still got doubts in your mind that you can catch something easily. So yes, it’s frustrating, to go out shopping and stuff, but other than that, I’m OK.
Good to hear. It’s just been a bit of an eventful 12 months for you really. Let’s start with looking back at the South Wales derby. Obviously, you have got a foot in both camps, playing both for Cardiff and Swansea. What did you think of both games?
They were both just really disappointing games for a start. I thought they were both poor games to watch. There wasn’t much excitement and not a very good atmosphere. I think Swansea probably edged the first game and Cardiff probably did better the second game, but Swansea still got a point from it. I was a little bit disappointed in both games to be honest.
What do you think was lacking then in the atmosphere? Both the game at The Liberty and the CCS both felt a bit flat. Is a lack of local lads for both sides playing, especially for Cardiff, or is it just a game where the hype got the better of both sides?
Yeah, I think you’ve just nailed on the head; I think not enough local lads on the pitch. During my time when I was at Swansea, to play against Cardiff, I think there’s probably eight or nine local lads in the team for each club. I’m not sure I can really put my finger on it though. I think possibly a lack of local talent in the team does go amiss when you play local derbies.
You joined Cardiff after a loan spell at Peterborough in 1998 and you received death threats early on because of your links to Swansea. Do things like that make you regret signing for the club and make you reconsider your decision?
I knew what I was going into, I wasn’t naive. I think I put something on Twitter the other day about Jimmy (Goodfellow) and how he helped me in my early days at Cardiff. He was brilliant to me.
It was tough, you know, and until I actually won the fans over it was tough. I’d go and speak to the wife and say that maybe I’ve made a mistake, but we’ll get through it. Fortunately for me, I did get through it and had probably one of the best times of my career at Cardiff.
You won the fans over and became a fan favourite. You mentioned Jimmy there, who sadly passed away a few weeks ago, talk to me about your experience with him and what he did for you at the club. You mentioned he was a big part of helping you settle in and I know a lot of other players have said the same. Even players in the more recent years such as Aaron Ramsey and Joe Ledley have come out and said what influence he was in and around the club.
I think Jimmy was just a natural football man and a down to earth bloke who would tell it to you as it is. Also, he had that the experience of seeing a lot of things in the past. I can recall a game where he had a little word in my ear before I went out to the game and what he told me actually paid off. So I owed Jimmy a lot. He was brilliant at the club and I could always go to him. The same with people like Billy Ayre and Frank Burrows. They were old school characters and I really loved my time with them.
The club has had a really tough 18 months obviously first with the tragic Emiliano Sala accident and more recently the tragic death of Peter Whittingham, do you have any memories of Whitts?
I wasn’t at the club with him for very long, but obviously I watched him quite a lot during this time of Cardiff and was a very special player. I think I spoke to him probably once or twice. I think it was when we played in the opening game of the Cardiff City Stadium. He had such a great left foot on him and I just remember him being such a nice guy. As you say, it’s been a tough year for Cardiff. You go back to last year with the Sala situation, then Whittingham and now Jimmy, it’s been tough.
You were there during the Sam Hammam years and the start of the rise of Cardiff City to where they are now. From the promotions from the bottom two divisions and in to the Championship. What was it like playing for the club at that time and what was Sam’s influence like, in and around the club?
It was an experience! He was mad. He was a smashing fella and he had a heart of gold. Yes, I know I fell out with him towards the end, but when you look back at that time, it is when the club really got turned around. It wasn’t going anywhere until Sam came in and all of sudden, the funds were there and that was a belief. He helped make the club back in to a big club.
As I said, we fell out, but we still keep in contact to this day and we have a laugh about it now. In fact, he rang me about three weeks ago to see how I was, so that’s the type of person he is. I think his heart was in the right place.
As you said, it started the turnaround of the club and you won at the Millennium Stadium against QPR to gain promotion to The Championship, but your contract was up. A massive pay cut was mentioned if you were to sign a new deal, so what actually happened?
I had spoken with Lennie (Lawrence) during the season and I was willing to go to the end of the season to see my contract out, so we just concentrated on promotion. Lennie wanted to keep me for another year. I know I was getting on in age, but I didn’t feel I was that old and I felt I could go another couple of seasons because I was quite fit. When I came back and I spoke to Lennie, he told me that Sam would want me to take a 70% pay cut!
Sam and I had one or two harsh words to say to each other, but it’s all forgotten now. We were man enough to shake hands and we are good friends now, but the disappointing thing for me was I never said goodbye to the City fans.
If I knew that was my last game, I would’ve made more of it. I think if you look at the celebrations after the game at the Millennium Stadium, I had gone. I was in the change room by myself. I just wanted to take some time by myself. I don’t really know why I did it, I just did. I went in to the changing room and sat there for about 10 or 15 minutes on my own, which when I think about it is a little bit sad because I missed the celebrations and saying goodbye to the City fans.
Do you think that you knew deep down that was it at Cardiff, or was it just a case of it being was such a big time for you, with a lot going on your life, you just needed to get away from everything and just take five minutes yourself?
Yeah, I just needed five minutes to myself. I had gone through cancer the year before, so it was tough to come back at the end of a season and then start the season in pre-season. But I got through it and I think it made me a better person and a tougher person. Mentally stronger. I wanted to get away for a minute. I celebrated with the team, we lifted the cup and walked around half of the stadium and then I just wanted to be my own. I went in and sat there until the rest of the lads came in and then I enjoyed the big party afterwards!
I bet the following days were fun times. A bit of a blur!
I think that night we all stayed out, all the players and wives and stuff, and then the wives disappeared somewhere, so the players stayed out. I think we went to Stuart Cable’s nightclub in Cardiff and we spent a bit of time in there. I think I went all night. I got home about 24 hours later!