TOWER OF STRENGTH
Whether on or off the playing field, Marvin Andrews is a force to be reckoned with
Premier League new boys Livingston have taken Scottish football by storm over the past year, finishing an impressive third in their debut season. Livvy boasts a difficult defence to breach, and at the heart of it has been Marvin Andrews. The towering centre half has been central to the clubs success, and central to his success is his faith in God.
Born and raised in Trinidad and Tobago, into a Christian family, Marvin has always been a believer. "My family always taught me first thing in the morning, and last thing at night, to pray and to read my Bible, but I wasnt deeply into my faith at that point."
While his faith and passion for God were to develop stronger later, so did his talent and love of football. A late starter to the game - taking it up at 15 - Marvin never thought he would make a career out of the sport.
"I used to play kick-about with my friends, but I decided to play for my school team, scoring five goals in one season which led me to being picked for the national under-18s and thats when I first took football seriously!"
Later, Marvin began playing for the local brewery team where he worked, and the manager there, himself a keen fan, spotted the youngsters unquestionable talent. He advised Marvin to try turning professional, and arranged a trial at Motherwell. Although unsuccessful at Fir Park (then manager Alex McLeish wanted a player with more experience), Jimmy Nicholl took him to Raith Rovers.
While he may have been disappointed at the time, Marvin firmly believes that it was Gods plan to take him to Starks Park in Kirkcaldy.
"Although as a human I felt I had failed at Motherwell, God had a plan and purpose for me. He brought me to Scotland, where He channelled the way for me. He continues to do so today."
Raith Rovers proved to be a stepping stone. Marvin soon joined Livingston in the season it won the First Division championship and earned promotion. More importantly, though, his time at Raith Rovers led to a more meaningful relationship with God.
I always prayed as a normal routine, but I wasnt born again. So God couldnt really do what He wanted in my life. Tony Rougier, the ex-Hibs player, introduced me to pastor Joe Nkowye whose church I started attending, where I did give my life to Christ and really got closer to God.
Marvin is convinced his closer walk with God is responsible for the path his professional football career has taken, and has no doubts that his fine form on the field is a result of him seeking Gods will.
"God has blessed me to cope with life in the Premier League and blessed my football this season, so that I have been performing well; so has the team."
To his team-mates, Marvin must surely create an impression, even if it has led to some good-natured ribbing.
"The boys know all my trust is in God and they respect that. They make jokes about it and ask me what God is saying. But at least they are asking about Him. I just want to keep on preaching and being an example for Gods Kingdom."
And what an example. This towering colossus has stood strong and firm against the likes of Celtics Henrik Larsson and Chris Sutton and Tore Andre Flo of Rangers this season, thwarting effort after effort from the Premier Leagues finest. While his skill and tenacity are winning weekly praise, this laidback island boy admits its a thrill mixing it with the big boys.
"Its been a real pleasure to play against the top players. As a kid, I used to watch Claudio Caniggia playing alongside Diego Maradona for Argentina and I thought he was wonderful. Now I play on the same park as him, and the other Old Firm stars, and it inspires me to become even better."
Any team playing as well as Livvy needs a happy dressing room, and Almondvale is no different. So if Marvin credits God with his success, how does manager Jim Leishman view his stars mix of faith and football.
"Marvin shows a great faith and belief in God, and I really respect him for that. He believes everyone can be better with God, and Marvin has certainly proved the doubting Thomases wrong. He has tremendous strength and aerial power and I believe he can become a top class player."
Marvin has already received a Scottish Premier League player-of-the-month award, as well as countless newspaper and magazine column inches proclaiming his prowess. So how does he keep his feet on the ground? His faith and the simple life.
Unlike many footballers who live in palatial homes and enjoy the finer things in life, home to Marvin is the bed and breakfast in Kirkaldy he came to when at Raith Rovers, with owners Linda and Harry his second mum and dad.
"Its very easy to live like this. God brought me to Scotland and these lovely people, why would I move? The money I am making, I can send home to my family, make sure they are OK. God has put me here for a reason, and Im part of their family."
As Marvins footballing profile has risen, so, too, has his spiritual one, with plenty of opportunities to preach and share his faith. Livingstons promotion to the top flight of Scottish football is not the only one in his life. He recently became a deacon in the Zion Praise Centre, Pastor Joes church in Cardenden.
"This really is wonderful for me. God spoke to me through a book Praying for Promotion, telling me what He is going to do in my life. I want to serve Him, heal the sick, preach the Good News, and let others know how much God loves them."
Hallelujah to that, but its not Amen to the football. Marvins massive presence and superior strength continue to attract interest from other clubs. But he recently committed himself to Livingston for another three years.
"My dream team is Liverpool, and I know my dreams will come true through God, His timing is perfect. As long as I continue to seek Him in everything, success will follow. The decision to stay here was His. He told me He hasnt finished using me at this club and Im happy to stay."
International honours have also come to Marvin, who has led his country in the captains role. Trinidad and Tobago failed to qualify for this summers World Cup, but, as ever, he believes his prayers will be answered.
"I know before my careeer is over, God will grant my hearts desire to play in a World Cup. I thank Him for the blessing my international career has been. I used to dream of pulling on the red, white and black shirt as a wee boy, and I am happy and enjoying playing for my country."
With opportunities to share his faith and work with kids off the park, and a career hitting the heights on, this likeable lion goes from strength to strength. So what of his future?
Marvin has no doubts he will play down south in England one day, and no doubts he will serve God as a minister,
"I know that if I continue to seek Him in everything I do, He will continue to bless me. I would love to be a minister, travelling all over the world telling people about His love, and what He can do for them."
You cant help thinking Marvin would be as powerful preaching as he is as a player.
Livingston didnt win the Premier League title this year, but they did win many admirers. As for Marvin Andrews, on the park he is winning for his club. Off it, he is
winning for God.
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