Writer: Mikey Delap
Date:Wednesday January 7 2009
Never before has there been a backlash against a signing from the Rovers faithful as the signing of Keith Andrews in the summer of 2008 by then manager Paul Ince. Keith cost £1.2 million from MK Dons and was instantly branded as 'not good enough' and a 'friend' signing, without really taking into account his actual ability.
Keith had never played at Premiership level and because many weren't over pleased with the managerial appointment of the Guv'nor in the first place, they as a result didn't like that an unknown would be taking his place in a blue and white shirt.
The first few appearances were solid if slightly worrying as he looked off the pace fitness wise. Howvever, this perhaps was down to the fact he started training later than everyone else, no-one really accounted for the fact that Premier League training is a different world from League One training. One game in particular was the 4-0 defeat to Arsenal at Ewood Park where Andrews came up against Cesc Fabregas.
Many people were aghast that Andrews performance was not a 7 or an 8 out of ten. Keith was highlighted as being a massive under performer in that game - even if players such as Stephen Warnock and Morten Gamst were worse. They were Premier League players though, it was an off day for them.
For Andrews though - he just wasn't good enough apparently.
It is worth noting that Andrews, for all the abuse he got from fans, all the booing he got FROM HIS OWN fans didn't chat back to the media and hog the limelight, he did what a pro does - he gave his all in training and earnt the respect of his team mates.
Since the first few months of his Rovers career, Keith has been the defensive midfielder that plays the quiet unassuming role. His ability is limited but he literally gives it his all in every game. He is not the first choice midfielder in either spot - Dave Dunn and Vince Grella/Tugay are but when he has been called upon he has put in a steady shift.
Rovers have in general over the first half of the season been poor, no-one really has over-excelled. Only really Ryan Nelsen and Brett Emerton could argue they have been as good as in previous seasons.
It is a testament to the character of the Irishman and the work he has done that when the announcer reads his name out to the masses on a Saturday afternoon that the sizeable boos have turned into warm applause. He still isn't a terrace favourite and I don't think he ever will be but he has earnt the respect of yours truly for sticking it out.
Games in which he has played against Portsmouth, Aston Villa and Man City recently have seen a remarked improvement in the performances of the man who will forever be called 'That MK Dons guy'. Which is a shame as he is a genuine steadying influence on the team and is a good squad player.
Note also that Sam Allardyce has singled Andrews out recently as the one player he inherited in the first team squad that doesn't have the 'Premiership experience'- however Sam was quick to say that 'very few adapt to the jump from League One to the Premier League as quickly as Keith'.
After all he has done to conquer the apathy the question remains - do Rovers fans in January 09 feel he is worth his place in the team? Sadly the answer in most cases is no.
When Dunn and Grella get back to full fitness he will be relegated to the bench but he has already played more games by January than most thought he would play all season - this may be through more necessity than opportunity but he has never once stood down or hidden when called upon.
Very few players follow Keith's career path and that he is being kept by a manager who didn't even buy him in the first place shows how someone with Keith's experience has grown and become a part of the club against all odds.
Yes, he'll never be the best footballer at the club but for all he has overcome and for getting to where has now I say the following -
I salute you Keith - the hero no-one loves.
Date:Wednesday January 7 2009
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