Friday, September 5, 2008
The Welsh, American Englishman in Scotland
'The lads give me stick for being American, they give me stick for being English and they give me stick for being Welsh!'
Such is the lot for Andy Dorman, the St Mirren midfielder who was born and raised in England, played at schoolboy level for Wales before beginning his professional career in the USA. Laughing off the good-natured ribbing of his teammates, the 26-year-old is thriving in the Scottish Premier League, where his performances since his January debut have made him an instant favourite at Love Street.
Dorman arrived in Paisley after cutting his professional teeth under the watchful eye of Steve Nicol in New England. The former Liverpool and Scotland player spotted the young midfielder playing college football at Boston University and claimed him in the 2004 allocation draft.
After four seasons in MLS, during which time he progressed from an intermittently-used substitute to a regular starter, Dorman left America to return to Great Britain. It's a move he is delighted to have made, with the transition having gone smoothly, both on and off the field.
'It's been brilliant. It didn't take me as long to settle as I thought it would due to a combination of the lads on the team and the fact that I am closer to home. My family comes and watches pretty much every other week when we're at home.'
Dorman, whose girlfriend still lives in Boston and whose brother, Richy, has followed his collegiate path at BU, admits he wanted to 'make a name for himself' in Britain and his eye-catching displays since joining The Buddies have enabled him to do just that. Five goals in 21 games last season, including Scottish Cup strikes at Dundee United and St. Johnstone, quickly justified manager Gus McPherson's faith in him and created a new hero for St. Mirren supporters.
'The fans have been brilliant and its really enjoyable playing in front of them as they create a great atmosphere. They travel well too, in good numbers.'
Travel, says Dorman, is something that is much more manageable in Scotland compared to what he became used to in the United States. The longest away journey, a three-hour bus ride to Inverness, pales in comparison to a multi-stop excursion from Boston to, for example, Salt Lake City and the closer proximity of opponents, as well as the more conducive climactic conditions, makes for a higher tempo on the field.
'The pace is a lot quicker (in Scotland). It's tough to say if the players are better but you are certainly under pressure a lot more here. You have to get used to one and two-touch football whereas in America you have a bit more time. The heat of the summer means that playing a high-pressure game for 90 minutes is not possible.'
The new season has been a disappointment to date for St. Mirren, with the club currently above only Falkirk in the SPL standings, having taken just one point from their opening four games, the latest of which saw them slip to a 1-0 home defeat against Aberdeen last weekend. Part of the reason for the slow start has been Dorman's own issues, which saw him sidelined by injury towards the end of pre-season training. The Aberdeen match was the first he has completed this campaign.
'It was a bit annoying because I got a couple of injuries to my achilles and then, in a friendly against Darlington, I had to come off with back spasms. I am getting back to full fitness now and just need to get the games under my belt.
'We've been playing well but just not getting the results. We need to get an early goal in games but it has not quite clicked and often we have found ourselves behind against the run of play. We won 7-0 versus Dumbarton in the (CIS Insurance) cup and all thought that we would break out from there but against Aberdeen, it didn't work out.'
A measure of Dorman's impact on the SPL came during the summer transfer window when reports linked him with a move. St. Mirren, who signed him to an initial 18-month contract, issued a firm 'hands-off' warning to any potential suitors but know they may struggle to retain his services should his good form continue. For now, however, the man himself insists he is focused only on helping The Buddies climb the table ahead of the club's move to a new stadium at the end of the year.
With European football's top leagues off this weekend due to the international break, Dorman has time to work on his fitness ahead of St Mirren's next league match, which just happens to be that long journey to Inverness. Having come a long way to get to where he is, the well-travelled Dorman is set to ensure that his current direction will be the one in which he continues to move. Up.