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Jukebox: I could play with the Stones

YOU DON’T get many League One footballers outlining a future that involves playing part-time for Maidstone United, but Crawley Town’s Andy Drury has got it all mapped out.

Not that the Broadfield wideman lacks ambition. After all, he was in the Championship with Ipswich until the end of last season and that’s a level he believes the Red Devils can gatecrash, as Yeovil have.

And if a move into the Premier came along, the man known as “Jukebox” wouldn’t say no.

It’s just that with his 30th birthday in November, a player who worked on a building site while playing semi-pro until he was 24 knows that it’s most likely to be the Ryman Premier where he’ll happily still be playing in five years’ time.

“I had a little girl in the summer, so I didn’t really want to move away a month after having my first baby,” said the Kent-based player. “I had a great loan spell at Crawley under Steve Evans a couple of years ago, and coming back ticked all the boxes for me.

“The gaffer, Richie Barker, spoke well about the way he wanted to play football. In the end it wasn’t really a hard decision.”

As it wasn’t when the Tractor Boys gave Conference club Luton £150,000 to take him three divisions up the pyramid in January 2011.

“I had to wait until I was 27 to get my chance in the Football League, and at first it was a big jump, but I was always confident I could do it,” says Drury, who learned his trade with Sittingbourne, Gravesend & Northfleet (now Ebbsfleet), Lewes, Stevenage and the Hatters.

Unlucky

“I played almost 70 times in two-and-a-half years, but I just never got that run in the team to establish myself. I’d go in, do well and then I’d come out and Paul Jewell would say: ‘You’re unlucky to be dropped’ – but he still dropped me.

“I always felt like I was looking to get replaced at Ipswich. Mick McCarthy was brilliant when he came in. The best manager I’ve played for and so honest, just tells you like it is. He gets his teams so organised, and together with Terry Connor – the best coach I’ve ever had – it was decent.

“I would have been more gutted at being let go if I’d been playing, but because I wasn’t it was like: ‘What am I going to do? Just sit on the bench, hardly ever playing?’

“I’ve always tried to play throughout my career, wherever I’ve been, so it was a no-brainer for me to come back to Crawley. At my age, I just want to be out on the pitch. I’m knocking on a bit now!

“I’ve played about 500 first-team games at every level of English football from Southern League Division One – the eighth tier – right up to the Championship.

“There can’t be many players who’ve done that. You learn something every time you go on the pitch, whether it’s Hastings United away or Elland Road. Sometimes people harp on about younger players too much. Every team needs experience, whichever level it’s gained at.”

Ipswich Town v Charlton Athletic - npower Football League Championship

Drury during his Ipswich days.

Wins over Peterborough and Gillingham lifted Barker’s side to the verge of the play-off places, but a lack of a finishing touch – apart from Drury’s first goal of his second Crawley spell – cost them two points against Shrewsbury last Saturday.

“I think there’s a play-off place up for grabs for a smaller club, like Stevenage and Yeovil have shown in the last two years, and we hope it can be us,” Drury said. “We’re playing some good stuff.

“We’ve got Sheffield United and Bristol City coming up in the next fortnight and we’ll know more about where we’ll be after that.”

Where Drury will be later in his career is already on the agenda.

The pilates classes and gym sessions might take up more time at Crawley than the training regime at Ipswich, but Drury is still back home to look after four-month old Sienna – and his body.

He says: “You can’t complain about being a footballer. It’s a good life because you get home a bit earlier than most people do, and these days I have sleep to catch up on! I’ve got two years at Crawley and I’ll be 31 at the end of my contract, so we’ll see what happens after that.

Extra

“I was 24 when I went full-time with Stevenage in the Conference and some people think you can add those extra years on at the end of your career. I don’t think I’ll be playing until I’m 40 though!

“You look after your body a lot better nowadays and you can keep playing. You’ve got supplements and things like that to help you, but I don’t know. I like to think that if I can play full-time until I’m 34-35, I’ll have done well.

“Eventually I’d like to go part-time again and keep playing for someone like Maidstone or Dover. It’s what I’ve been used to all my life, so I’ve no problems doing that. I’d go back to the Conference as well if it was a big club or the right club, like Luton or somewhere. I just love playing football.”

This article was brought to you by The Football League Paper. On-sale every Sunday, the newspaper provides extensive coverage for all 72 Football League clubs with news, features and gossip plus comprehensive match reports.
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