Dan Holland reflects on the passing of a true Red with a heart of gold, Kop season ticket holder Andrew Wheatley.
When I woke on the 20th March, on what was my 33rd birthday, the first text I read wasn’t one wishing me a Happy Birthday it was one telling me of the devastating news that my friend Andy Wheatley had suddenly died the night before.
Most of you reading this won’t know Andy, but you will have sat in the same ground as him on numerous occasions, drank in the same ale house on match days and also shared many happy memories as a supporter of our great club.
I first met Andy in the late 90’s when I joined my local Branch of the Liverpool Supporters Club; a club that Andy first had the idea of creating and that at it’s strength boasted a membership of 450 people – the majority of whom would maybe not have had the opportunity to watch their beloved Reds without Andy’s intervention.
Born in 1947, Andy soon became a Liverpool fan and a disciple of the great Bill Shankly, regularly making journeys across the country to worship at a place he considered his church. I remember him telling me of times that he even hitch hiked a journey that can’t have been pleasant in the days before comfortable cars and roads as good as the M62.
Those who were lucky enough to know Andy found him to be a kind, considerate, fun man and ultimately a gentleman. He touched the lives of so many and this was confirmed at his funeral last week when there was people standing in the aisles of crematorium such was his popularity. The exit music was predictably and rightly You’ll Never Walk Alone, which caused an impromptu sing along from the strong Liverpool connection in the congregation. A nice touch that Andy would have undoubtedly enjoyed.
Speaking at the funeral was his very close friend and current Chairman of the Supporters Club, Kevin Donovan. Kevin recalled a number of happy times he and Andy shared; their hundreds of journey’s across the M62, and indeed across Europe and to numerous Cup Finals following the Reds. Andy boasted the proud record of 3 visits to the Camp Nou and had never seen Liverpool lose – only a Red could say that!
Kevin’s son Alan recalled one of the trips to Barcelona where he and his Dad and other local Reds had toured many of the city’s bars and restaurants, while Andys companion, Betty (who sadly has also recently passed) dragged him round museums and churches much to his disgust. But Andy’s personality meant he went along with it to make his close friend happy even at the detriment of his.
What I remember about Andy is his sense of humour and how he revelled in the banter, often poking fun at himself. Andy was unlucky enough to suffer from a stutter and one of my favourite jokes shared with Andy was about his affliction. On the way to a Liverpool Man United match we discovered we had miscalculated and were actually a ticket short. Andy thought we should ring the Supporters Club on Lower Breck Road to see if they could bail us out, but no one had the number so Andy volunteered to ring directory enquiries and began to read out the number when his stutter interfered. “Dan,” he said “the number is 0 one one one one one!” I joked back “Andy where are we ringing, the moon?!”. After throwing the phone at me he had the good grace to laugh.
Kevin, in his eulogy, recalled a funny tale about Andy’s stutter. On a night out it was Andy’s round and off he went to the bar for Kev’s lager and his cider. He seemed to be taking an inordinate amount of time and when he returned he was carrying a lager and a blackcurrant! “Why aren’t you drinking?” asked Kev, “I am but I couldn’t ask for Blackthorn and got this f****n thing!”
Joking apart, Andy was a very special man and any of you that have met him will no doubt share that opinion. Andy always said Liverpool would never win the Premiership in his lifetime. We all thought this was a very pessimistic view and always argued he was wrong. Due to this unforeseen tragedy Andy has unfortunately been proved right and whilst he has witnessed numerous League titles, European Cup, FA Cup, League Cup and UEFA Cup successes, this is another tragedy.
Andy will be sadly missed and Liverpool Football Club are missing one of it’s biggest ever fans, when we do win the Premier League, please raise a glass to Andrew John Wheatley.
Andy – You Will Never Walk Alone. Rest in peace mate.