Club: Hamilton Academicals
Position: Centre Forward
Date of birth: 11 April 1986
Place of birth: Dundonald
Andrew Waterworth is one of a select few players to represent County Down at the Milk Cup at both Junior (Under 14) and Premier (Under 16) age groups. The former Lisburn Distillery striker, who recently signed for Scottish Division One leaders Hamilton Academicals, is widely regarded as one of Northern Ireland’s most exciting prospects. Waterworth is an Under 21 and Under 23 Northern Ireland international.
The former Kilmore Rec and Ards player netted 12 times in his first season at New Grosvenor in 2006. Throughout 2007, his form attracted the attention of other clubs, and Distillery boss Paul Kirk made no secret that whilst his up and coming hotshot was under contract and going nowhere locally, he felt that Waterworth was capable of forging a career at a higher level. In the latter months of 2007, Aberdeen boss Jimmy Calderwood signalled his interest in signing Waterworth. The Dons’ assistant manager Jimmy Nicholl watched the 21-year-old score in Northern Ireland Under-21s 5-0 win against their Luxembourg counterparts in November. At the same time, St Patrick’s Athletic of the Eircom League were said to be lining up a bid for the Crossgar man. Manager John McDonnell and the club’s Director of Football, former Republic of Ireland manager, Brian Kerr, watched Andrew play in Lisburn Distillery’s 2-0 win over Larne in December 2007. However, it was Scottish First Division side Hamilton Academicals who won the race to sign Waterworth just 24 hours before the 2008 January transfer window closed. And it’s likely that if Hamilton win promotion to the SPL, we could be seeing Waterworth turning out against the likes of Celtic and Rangers next season.
Andrew feels that playing for County Down in the Milk Cup gave him his first taste of top class competition football. Just like other past players, Andrew is certain that the experience aided his development as a player. Recently, we spoke to Mr Waterworth and quizzed him about his memories of playing at the Milk Cup in 2001 and 2003…
In which team and what year/s did you play?
I was fortunate enough to play in both the Junior and Premier sections. I played under Bobbie Reid and Ronnie Cromie in the Junior team in 2001. Davy Taylor and Sam Robinson were in charge when I played in the Premier side in 2003. Sandwiched in between that in 2002, I played with the County Down Under 15 development squad in the Foyle Cup.
What club side were you playing for when you were selected?
I was playing for Kilmore Rec Under 14’s when I was in the Junior side and for Hillsborough Boys Under 16 team when selected for the Premier.
How did you do at the trials?
For once I can actually say I did well at the trials. I think I scored two goals in every trial game. I always think trial matches are difficult because there is a lot of pressure on you as an individual to do well, and you know you only have limited chances to impress. But as my dad has always said – “that’s football”.
How did the team fare in the tournament?
The first year (with the Junior team), we didn’t really do that well. The matches were tough and we didn’t have much success. In the Premier section in 2003, we finished 13th overall which I thought was very respectable. I reckon that we had a better run in the Premier section due to the fact that so many of us had played together in the Junior team two years earlier. Having had prior experience of the competition, we knew exactly what to expect. That gave us more confidence.
What memories do you have of the Milk Cup and the north coast?
I hold fantastic memories. I loved every minute of it. It was the first time I felt like a real footballer. We were looked after in every aspect. We had physio’s and kit men running after us. Our diet was strictly monitored and the accommodation was top class. One memory that stands out in my head is from the year I was there with the Premier side. Brazil’s Under 21 team was staying in the same hotel and I found myself occasionally playing keepy-ups with World Cup star Branco – who was their manager at that time. The fact that everyone was up in the north coast purely for football reasons was brilliant too. For that week, the only thing that mattered to people was football and I will never forget it.
Do you remember who you roomed with?
Ehhh… I can remember in the Premier team I roomed with wee Stewarty (Gary Stewart), and Chris Black. We had a massive room so they stuck the three of us in it and that certainly added to the craic!
Describe your footballing journey after the Milk Cup to the present day…
When I made the Premier squad for the Milk Cup I was playing my football with Hillsborough Boys. Mark McNaught took me there and it was a brilliant club to play for. I’ve never been treated as well as a player. After the 2003 Milk Cup, I signed for Glentoran FC. I played for the reserves for a full season but left the following season as I wanted to play first team football. I was only seventeen and didn’t know if I was ready for the rigours of first team football in the Irish League. Shane Reddish, (the then Ards manager), convinced me that I was. With that, I signed for Ards FC. I couldn’t play for Ards straight away because of some contract complications with the Glens, so in the interim, I went back to play for my hometown club Kilmore Rec, where we reached the County Antrim Shield semi-final beating Ballymena United and Lisburn Distillery on the way. After getting the go-ahead to play for Ards, I stayed for two seasons. I thoroughly enjoyed my time there, but in my first season, I picked up a nasty ankle ligament injury. Then in my second year we were relegated – the worst point of my footballing career to date.
Following the pain of relegation my contract was up and I signed for Lisburn Distillery. I can honestly say that I enjoyed my happiest spell of football at New Grosvenor. At Distillery I found a lot of confidence and started to play my best football. I’m proud to have picked up Under 21 and Under 23 international caps along the way.
Greatest achievement in football to date?
Playing for the Northern Ireland Under 21 and Under 23 teams.
Who’s the best player you have played with?
Probably Michael O’Neill. He played a few reserve games when I was at Glentoran.
Glentoran’s Gary Hamilton. Although we are always playing at opposite ends of the pitch, I think he has all the attributes that a top class striker should have.
What advice would you give to those representing County Down at the Milk Cup?
Go to the tournament and be fully confident in your own ability, and enjoy the experience.
How much of an impact did the competition have on you?
It had a big impact. I made a lot of friends who I still play with and against every week. I’ve played with Jamie Mulgrew (currently at Linfield FC), from my first year in the Milk Cup. We are team mates at international level – in the Under 21’s and Under 23’s.
Tell us an interesting fact about yourself we don’t already know?
I sing in the shower!
Describe your Milk Cup experience in one word…
Former County Down Milk Cup PRO Barry Greene spoke to Andrew Waterworth in January 2008.