|LOCAL BOY MAKES GOOD||12th February 2003|
Andy Aitken is a typical example of a 'local boy making good'. Although just turned 25, Andy is our longest serving player and has the most club appearances to his credit--218 to date. Born in Dumfries, Andy moved to Annan with his family when only five years old and his first senior club was Annan Athletic."I owe an awful lot to Derek Frye who was manager then " confessed Andy " He gave me a chance and was always there to offer advice when needed"
He joined Queens in the summer of 1996 along with Jamie McAllister, Alex Nesovic and goalkeeper David Mathieson. "Rowan Alexander had just become manager" recalls Andy "And Mark Shanks was his assistant. Mark was a great guy and he guided me through those early days at Palmerston. Even now he's only a 'phone call away' if I require any help".
He made his first team debut on the 18th January 1997, but it wasn't a match to relish, Queens losing 3-1 to Stranraer at Stair Park. Despite being in his sixth season with Queens, Andy admits he'll never be remembered for his goal scoring prowess. "I've only hit the net four times so I'm no George Rowe who, I believe, netted 23 in his spell at Palmerston. But two of my goals I'll never forget. The first was on my 100th appearance when I grabbed one against Partick Thistle, however we still lost 2-1. The other was at the old Bayview Park against East Fife but this time we went on to win--I think it finished 5-1.
"I've met up with a lot of players since I first joined Queens but big Jim Thomson is one I've always looked up to. He took me under his wing the moment he arrived at Palmerston and we've been the best of mates ever since. He's always looked after me except for Saturday nights when we're out on the town when I look after him"
Andy's ambition has always been to move to a bigger club although he's always loved Queens. His big chance came in 1999. Jamie McAllister, David Lilley and Andy had all been invited up to Pittodrie for a trial period by Aberdeen coach, Keith Burkinshaw. "Jamie and David were both signed" he recalls "But just when it looked as if I'd follow them up the road
the manager, Paul Hegarty, was sacked and that was the end of it. It had been a golden opportunity to join a Premier League side and go full time and I must admit it was a real blow for me and the biggest disappointment of my entire career.
"After that setback my form slumped for a while but I soon pulled myself together and realised I'd just have to get on with the game.
"The following season there was another disappointment. Carlisle United came forward with an offer but it was a derisory one and Queens turned it down"
Andy openly states that his favourite position is playing in central defence. "From time to time I've been asked to play as a left-sided defender" he confirmed "I think it's because I'm a bit younger than some of my fellow defenders and have a wee bit more pace. However, I just get on with it and try to give 100% in every game".
Having turned out well over 200 times for Queens, Andy has had many memorable matches. But the most memorable of all was that 'gala day' at the end of last season against Morton. "We'd just clinched the league championship the previous Saturday at Forfar and the whole town was buzzing. It was a 'full house' that day and the atmosphere was electric. The fans were tremendous, we won 4-0 and before the game the championship flag was raised and we were presented with the trophy. It was a day I'll never forget as long as I live!"
Three other matches Andy will long remember are the two Challenge Cup finals. "We won one and lost one" he said "But they were both great days out for fans and players alike. Also my 200th appearance earlier this season against St Mirren at Paisley, but I was sorry to lose that one after leading at half time.
"Those past 18 months have brought us two trophies and I'm convinced the reason is the great atmosphere in the dressing room. We all get on so well together and that makes all the difference. We've got some right characters as well--wee Joe McAlpine is a real 'belter' and Andy Goram, despite being Scotland's greatest ever keeper, is very down to earth and a real laugh a minute" Away from football Andy is a very busy young man. He works as a pipe fitters mate; is studying Business Administration and is also on work experience one day a week with the council.
He is a true family man at heart and is happy to confess that his family is right behind him. "My wife used to hate football" he admits "But now Kerry's at nearly every game and is my biggest critic. My parents have always encouraged me throughout my career and have been there for me through good times and bad".
To relax Andy likes a round of golf at his local Powfoot course. In winter he plays badminton and enjoys nothing better than walking his two dogs.
He has always been a big favourite with Queens' supporters, young and old, who appreciate his genuine enthusiam for the game. Long may it continue !