POSH player/coach Andy Legg is due to make his 700th Football League appearance this weekend. ALAN SWANN looks back on his illustrious career.
POSH player/coach Andy Legg is due to make his 700th Football League appearance this weekend.
ALAN SWANN looks back on his illustrious career.A DISAGREEMENT over a haircut almost stopped one of football's most durable careers before it had started.
Andy Legg was a 22-year-old with a huge reputation in the Welsh League when he was invited for a trial at Middlesbrough. Boro were then in the old Second Division and managed by strict disciplinarian Bruce Rioch.
Legg recalled: "I went up to Middlesbrough for a month, but Rioch was a very strict manager and he had definite ideas about what footballers should look like.
"He wanted all his players to have short hair so one day he said to me that either I turned up the next morning with a new haircut or I shouldn't turn up at all.
"So I just went home which was quite a brave thing to do, especially as my haircut wasn't that great anyway."
Luckily for such a passionate player, other clubs were also interested in taking on a left-winger (contrary to popular belief he's never been a left-back) with blinding pace and a quality left foot.
And Legg, who didn't start taking football seriously until he was well into his teens, was soon on the way to a belated start as a professional footballer.
Legg added: "I was a goalkeeper when I started out, but as I wasn't the biggest I soon gave that up and played outfield.
"I just played locally in the Neath area where I grew up, until I was picked up by some Welsh amateur clubs and then by Briton Ferry in the Welsh League.
"I had only played one game for them when the chance came to go to Middlesbrough or Manchester City. After my Middlesbrough experience I played two games for City reserves and they invited me back for pre-season so they could assess my attitude.
"But the day before I was due back up there Swansea manager Terry Yorath knocked on my door and invited me to play for them.
"As they say the rest is history, although I have to say I've been ever so lucky throughout my career."
Winning six full Welsh caps and spending much of a 699-game career just short of the top flight is not all about good fortune.
Legg has never been short of admirers and twice in the mid-1990s he was transferred for fees in excess of 250,000, to Notts County and to Birmingham when he was signed by one Barry Fry.
But his happiest footballing time arrived fairly recently. Legg said: "The five years I had at Cardiff were fantastic.
''Every season we were involved in relegation or promotion battles and before I left we had moved up two divisions into Division One.
"That was a great experience for me, although I've enjoyed most of my career. Notts County were a good team in Division One when I was there and we missed the play-offs by a point.
"I can remember beating Peterborough twice that season and obviously I never thought I'd ended up playing here.
"Birmingham were a big club with passionate support and the only place it didn't really happen for me was Reading.
"I bowed out of Cardiff straight after a brilliant win at the Millennium Stadium and it was a bit of a culture shock to go straight from that to Peterborough.
"But I have also enjoyed my time here. We did well to get out of trouble last season and we are confident we can do the same again this year."
Legg factfile ...
Height: 5ft 8ins.
Weight: 10st 7lbs.
International caps: 6 full Welsh caps.
International debut: v Sweden, 1996.
Last international match: v Armenia, 2001.
Professional debut: 12/8/1988, for Swansea in 3-2 win at Gillingham.
Posh debut: 9/8/2003, in 4-3 home defeat by Hartlepool.
Club Appearances Goals
Swansea (1988-93) 207 38
Notts Co (1993-96) 123 15
Birmingham C (1996-98) 52 5
Ipswich (loan, 1997) 7 1
Reading (1998) 13 0
Posh (loan, 1998) 5 0
Cardiff (1998-03) 209 12
Posh (2003-??) 83 3
TOTALS 699 74
Legg's appearances can be broken down to (568 Football League, 53 FA Cup, 38 Football League Cup, 40 others).
Included in his total of 699 are 71 substitute appearances.
Legg still has some way to go to force his way on to one Football longevity list.
There are 37 players who have totalled in excess of 700 games in the Football League alone.
The top 10 are:
1005 Peter Shilton
931 Tony Ford
909 Graeme Armstrong
863 Tommy Hutchison
824 Terry Paine
790 Neil Redfearn
782 Robbie James
777 Alan Oakes
773 Dave Beasant
771 John Burridge
• Others in the exclusive list include former Posh players Ernie Moss (749), David Seaman (731), John Wile (705) and Mick Gooding (700).
• Winger Tommy Robson holds the record number of Posh appearances in all competitions (559) and in the Football League (440).
Fry's glowing tribute
POSH boss Barry Fry, who signed Legg for Bimingham City and Posh, said: "To last as long as Andy has and to keep turning in the performances he does at his age you have to look after yourself.
"Andy has been a model professional for a very long time and young players at our club should loook up to him as the ideal role model.
"Andy Clarke is the same. Even though they're both getting on a bit, they retain their enthusiasm for the game and they are both winners.
"Andy Legg is still one of the fittest players at the club and I have no doubt that he will still be running around in midfield next season."
Most memorable match:
Cardiff v QPR, Division Two Play-off Final, 2003.
"My last game for Cardiff in front of a full house at the Millennium Stadium and we won 1-0 to earn promotion."
Biggest influences on career (players);
"Tommy Hutchison and Robbie James when I first started at Swansea. They looked after me and told me to play as long as I possibly can."
Biggest influences on career (managers):
"I still speak to Cardiff manager Lennie Lawrence on a regular basis and also Bobby Gould. They both reckon I'd make a decent coach or manager, which is nice."
Best players played with:
"For Wales, obviously Neville Southall and Ryan Giggs were different class. At club level, Hutchison was outstanding even in the later stages of his career."
Best Posh player played with:
"Leon McKenzie wasn't the most complete striker, but he was a great finisher."
"Never scoring an international goal."
ANDY Legg regrets not being more popular with Posh fans, but he is not about to change his approach.
The veteran player-coach has come in for plenty of terrace stick during his two seasons at London Road. He believes it's because of his habit of bawling out his team-mates.
"I only moan and shout because I care and because I want to win all of the time," Legg revealed.
"I'm a passionate footballer, but today's players have things easier compared to when I started out.
"When I joined Swansea, Tommy Hutchison was the senior pro there and he was absolutely horrible to me and yet I class him as one of the biggest influences on my career.
"That's because I realised why he was so nasty. He was forever pushing me, he was forever on my back and he was forever criticising my efforts, but he did it for my benefit and I am grateful for it.
"I consider myself to be 'old school' which is why I am always demanding more from everyone on the pitch, including myself.
"I realise my moaning is partly why I've received criticism from the Posh fans, but I want the same as them – to help the club be as succesful as possible."
ANDY Legg intends to be playing professional football past his 40th birthday.
The former Welsh international's current Posh contract doesn't expire until the end of June 2006. He will then be 28 days short of his personal milestone.
Legg said: "I love playing the game and I can't imagine doing anything else, but as soon as I feel I have nothing to offer I will stop playing.
"I won't need anyone to tell me, I will just jack it in and do something else in the game. I am very ambitious and I want to have a go at coaching and management.
"It's been difficult combining playing and coaching at Posh as I believe I am still capable of doing a good job on the pitch.
"Age doesn't really come into it. Obviously fitness will determine everything, but at the moment I am not too bad apart from the odd niggle.
"At Swansea Tommy Hutchison played on the wing until he was 41. In fact at that age he used to race younger players for his wages and he'd usually win
"I may still be playing at that age, who really knows? But I would be very proud if I was."