Dave Woodhall pays tribute to the late, great Andy Lochhead.
Some players achieve mythical status because they were supremely talented, or because they took part in legendary successes. Andy Lochhead would be the first to admit that he wasn’t one of the great Villa centre-forwards. In his day he had been good enough to be on the fringes of the Scotland side when they were a match for any in the world, to have played for Burnley a couple of years after they won the league and to have scored more than a hundred league goals for the Clarets at a time when they were still a top-flight force to be reckoned with.
Always an immensely modest man, Andy would have been the first to admit that by the time he joined the Villa his glory days were coming to an end. Equally, his time with us was memorable rather than successful. Without wishing to downplay his and his team’s contribution to the Villa’s history, in the words of Harry Parkes, Villa winning division three was like Muhammed Ali winning the Boy’s Brigade boxing championships.
The reason why Andy Lochhead is still revered, and why his death was met with such widespread sorrow, runs deeper than mere goals and trophies. When he was needed, he was there. He gave everything he had in the cause of making Aston Villa great again. He was one of us.
When Andy joined the Villla we were at our lowest ebb. Vic Crowe bought him from Leicester in a vain attempt to avoid relegation, but as he admitted himself, Andy had a poor start to his time here. Villa did go down to the third division and it’s to both men’s credit that Crowe kept faith in the veteran, and Lochhead responded.
Andy was at the heart of our most memorable moments of a memorable era. Scoring the equaliser against Manchester United on the greatest Villa Park night of all. Coming so close in the League Cup final with Spurs. The goal against Bournemouth. Never was the saying ‘cometh the hour, cometh the man’ more appropriate. The hour needed effort, determination and a talismanic figure we could rally behind. Andy Lochhead fitted the bill to perfection. As we saw recently in the Championship, when you’re getting yourself out of a hole, hard graft counts for just as much as ability. Andy had both in abundance.
He had begun his working life in the Clyde shipyards, and his playing career in the only slightly less forgiving environs of Scottish junior football. Both these aspects of his early days shaped the way Andy played throughout his professaional career. He dished it out, and took it back without complaint. Many a defender when later asked who was the hardest opponent he ever faced, would say without hesitation, “Andy Lochhead”.
The last time Andy made a high-profile public appearance at Villa Park came when he returned as a coach with Oldham in 1975. As he walked long the touchline he received the sort of ovation few have enjoyed before or since. We hadn’t forgotten then what he’d done for us and the past few days have shown that we never will.