"GRIT and determination were what my game was all about," said former Boro defender Tony McAndrew after we spotted him in Ferryhill Workmen's Club last week.

Former Boro player Tony, with Gary Pallister and Eddie Kyle, were at the launch of the book No-brainer, written by former Echo columnist Mike Amos which tells the life story of former Boro centre half Bill Gates who passed away in October last year after becoming a victim of dementia, which was brought on by repetitive heading of a football.

The Northern Echo: Tony McAndrewTony McAndrew in 1977, playing for Boro

Tony and lots of other footballers have their concerns about Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). As a centre half and defender, he did more than his fair share of heading a football. Unfortunately, CTE cannot be detected by a scan, and, at the moment, is not curable – only preventable.

Tony was born and bred in Glasgow and as a teenager took part in some football trials organised by Middlesbrough Football Club in Cumbernauld.

"I must have impressed someone, because along with five other lads, I was invited to Ayresome Park for two weeks of training and trials,” he said. “I was offered an apprenticeship at £6.63 a week, but manager Jack Charlton soon had me on a professional contract at £18 a week.

"I knew my limitations as a player. Basically, my job in the Boro team under Jack was to win the ball, and pass it to players like Bobby Murdoch, Graeme Souness and David Armstrong who could play.

"As a Celtic and Scotland player, Murdoch had been one of my all time favourites when I was a youngster, so I will admit I was star struck when I was sat in the same dressing room as him at Middlesbrough – I couldn't take my eyes off him."

The Northern Echo: Tony McAndrew heads his second goal against Sheffield in April 1976A fabulous picture from the Echo archive showing McAndrew scoring the second of his three goals against Sheffield United at Ayresome Park

Tony and his hero Murdoch were in the same Boro team which played Sheffield United at home in a Football League Division 1 game on Saturday, April 17, 1976. Jack Charlton gave Tony an attacking midfield role, and at 20 years and six days of age, he made history, when he became the youngest Boro player to score a hat trick in a 3-0 win over the Blades.

Funnily enough, his first goal on 16 minutes was from an inch perfect cross from Murdoch.

Tony was at Ayresome Park for almost ten years and made 247 league appearances with 13 goals, before John Neal, one of his managers at Boro, signed him for Chelsea.

The Northern Echo: Middlesbrough line up with new manager Bobby Murdoch at the start of the 1981/82 season. Front row, from left, Dave Hodgson, Terry Cochrane, Lew Clayton (physiotherapist), Murdoch John Coddington (coach), Craggs, Ian Bailey. Middle row, left to right, Joe Bolton, Billy Woof, Garry Macdonald, Kelham O'Hanlon, Jim Platt, Billy Ashcroft, Dave Shearer, Billy Askew. Back row, left to right, Colin Ross, David Armstrong, Graeme Hedley, Tony McAndrew, Irving Nattrass, Mike Angus

His early days at Stamford Bridge were marred by injury but he did captain the side for a time in the 1983-84 season.

He returned to the Boro in October 1984 as part of the deal which took Darren Wood from the Boro to Chelsea, before he was released in the summer of 1986 when Middlesbrough nearly went out of business.

He then had brief spells at Darlington, Hartlepool and Willington and Billingham Synthonia in the Northern League before he joined the coaching staff at Darlington, with Brian Little as manager in 1989.

After Darlo he went on to work alongside Little at Leicester City, Aston Villa, who won the Football League Cup twice in 1993-94 and 1995-96, and finally Stoke City. Tony returned to Villa in 1999 as youth team coach and led Villa's youngsters to victory in the FA Youth Cup in 2002.

Of the players players who gave him the most problems during his career, he singled out Garth Crooks and Tony Woodcock. "I could never get to grips with those two," he said.


The Northern Echo: Tony McAndrewMcAndrew's signature on the Boro programme versus Newcastle in 1977