Saturday’s game against AFC Wimbledon marks Andy Thorpe’s final game as Dale’s Head Physio and we hope you’ll join us on our social media channels to wish him well for the future and to share any memories or stories you may have of Thorpey from his time at the Crown Oil Arena.
Recently turned 60-years-old, ‘The Fizz’ has decided that it’s time to hang up his boots after 43 years of service to football, including 21 years as the Club’s Physio, in order to pursue his long-time ambition of setting up his own business.
However, we are pleased to say that he won’t be a stranger, as he will continue to work on home matchdays to assist the medical team at the Club.
He was presented with a signed framed shirt and an engraved watch earlier this week as a thank you for his dedicated service to the Club.
Whilst Andy admits that it was a tough decision to leave his full-time role due to how long he has worked for the Club, he says now is the right time for him to go it alone and achieve a long-held ambition.
“I’ve had thoughts of going private for a number of years, but never got round to doing it. I tried to do it some time ago, alongside my work here, but it didn’t work out – I had too much going on. It came to a halt then but it’s something I’ve always thought about since,” he said.
“Being on furlough gave me chance to think a bit more, and, to be honest, I didn’t miss all the long trips. I’ve been travelling for 43 years as a physio and a footballer, so it grinds you down at times. With all the travelling I do, most weekends are gone, because I also work Sundays in addition to the Saturday matchdays.
“We get six weeks off a year, which is all in one block during the close season. But if anyone finishes the season with an injury, then I still have to come in, even during that six-week period. You can’t just leave a player with an injury. So, you’re still at work, even although you’re meant to be having a break. When furlough happened, it was a complete break – it wasn’t allowed to work, and I had so much time to think about things. I must admit, I enjoyed the break.
“I spoke to my partner about it and she thought it as a good idea as well, so I had been in discussions with the Club for some time about my plans and thoughts before I made the final decision.
“I’ve recently turned 60. That birthday was a big milestone for me. Turning 60, I feel now is the right time for me to go in another direction, because I’d like a new challenge. Brian [Barry-Murphy] has been great about it, so have the Board. They’ve all be very supportive and I’m grateful for that.
“I’m also hugely greatful for the opportunity to continue working home matchdays. That suits me perfectly – I don’t have to travel and I can work on my business during the week. It means a lot of me to have been asked by Brian to stay on in this capacity.
“I’ve not set up my own business yet, but I’m getting sorted behind-the-scenes and I’m trying to generate interest, so watch this space!”
After 43 years of travelling – anyone wish to hazard a guess at how many miles Andy has notched up?! Not only that, we reckon he’s been involved in well over 1000 games during his time at Rochdale, a fantastic achievement! He has also worked under eight Managers, two on two occasion – Steve Parkin, John Hollins, Paul Simpson, Alan Buckley, Keith Hill, Steve Eyre, John Coleman, Brian Barry-Murphy.
So, what has changed since he joined the Club in 1999?
“If I look back at when I first started, there was no kitman. We had someone called Anne who used to come in two days a week to wash the kit, and we trained on the pitch.
“I was the Physio for the first team, the Youth Team and the reserve games. I was on my own, there was no-one to help me. I used to do the warm-ups and drive the van to the reserve games! There were no protein drinks or anything like that, and you had to get your own food.
“When Steve Parkin first gave me the physio job, which was July 19th 1999, my first day at the Club was pre-season in Edinburgh. We were staying at an army camp in the barracks there. Now we go to Tenerife and Portugal for a week!”
Before joining Dale as a physio, Thorpey enjoyed a successful career as a player, plying his trade at the likes of Stockport Country, Tranmere Rovers and Macclesfield Town. He was a legend at County, where he played a remarkable 555 games for them. To this day, he is still their record appearance holder.
“I left English football to go and play in Australia and snapped my achilles tendon. Then I was stuck – I had nothing, so I came back to England and got rehab at Stockport, my old club. I then decided to go into physiotherapy, so I got in touch with the PFA who were brilliant and got me onto a course. Diplomas followed then I got my degree in 2001.
“I didn’t expect to be here as long as I have been, to be honest. Managers tend to bring their own staff, they change things, so physios don’t tend to stay around for a long time, they move around a lot.
“But I was very happy here and that’s one of the main reasons I’ve stayed for so long. I had job opportunities elsewhere, but because I was happy here, I’d rather be happy here than get more money elsewhere and be doing even more travelling at a club I wasn’t happy at. Money isn’t always everything.”
What are Andy’s favourite memories from his time at Rochdale?
“The first time we got to Wembley is up there, as is getting promoted. It’s those special times that you live for in football, and the Manchester Uniteds away, the likes of the Tottenham when we scored in the last minute to go to Wembley and the Newcastle game. Those are days, nights, moments that you’ll never forget.
“On the flip side, getting relegated in 2012 was my worst experience. In my time here, I have only ever been relegated once at this Club, and that was then. It was horrific. I had never been relegated as a player, so that was my first experience of getting relegated that I’d had. I remember we were playing Chesterfield and we had to win, but we didn’t, and it was over. It was a horrible feeling.
“But on reflection, I must admit that one of my best experiences here, linked directly to my time as physio, involves Chris Dagnall.
“He had a cruciate ligament injury and needed an operation, so I was doing the rehab. The earliest return from something like that is usually six months, but often longer. With Chris, everything went for him – he was young, naturally fit and strong. He recovered very quickly and after five months he was ready to go and had done two weeks of training with the first team.
“I think we played Rotherham United here and Keith Hill said to me ‘I want him on the bench, because we need to win this game. Is it a risk?’ I said ‘yes, of course it’s a risk!’, but we put him on the bench. It was 1-1 when he came on with 22 minutes to go. I remember his first tackle – it was a crunching challenge – and there were all sorts going through my head, mostly worry! But I don’t know what I was worrying about, there was no need. He went on to get a nine-minute hat-trick and we won 4-1, which put us just a point outside the play-offs. It could have been the worst day, but it turned out to be the best. The surgeon who had done his operation phoned me up to check in on him, and he couldn’t believe it when I told him that he’d come back from injury, played and scored three goals!”
Before bowing out, Andy would like to say thank you.
“I’d like to thank everyone for being so understanding, especially the Manager, Brian, who has been a long-time colleague and friend. Thank you also to Andrew Kelly, David Bottomley and the Board. I really appreciate their backing. I also want to thank the management team, medical and sports science team, and the players. Its been a privilege to work with them all. I’ve always got on with the fans and I’d like to thank them for their support over the years, too. But you’ve not quite got rid of me yet, though, as I will be around on matchdays to give a helping hand.”
All the best, Fizz. Good luck with your new venture!
If anyone does need any treatment when his clinic opens, you can contact Andy at his email address via email: email@example.com Or mobile: 07870134072
We’ll let supporters know when Andy’s business is up and running.
Andy will be on an upcoming episode of our Podcast. Stay tuned for that!