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The continuing adventures of Andy Hessenthaler

Paul Fletcher | 10:46 UK time, Monday, 1 December 2008

In some ways Dover Athletic manager Andy Hessenthaler is back to where he started.

The midfielder was in his mid-20s when he gave up his business as a builder/plasterer and left behind non-league football to try to make it as a professional.

Hessenthaler took a wage cut when he left Redbridge Forest to sign for Watford but it was a gamble that paid rich dividends. The 43-year-old, who had cost the Hornets £65,000, went on to make more than 500 Football League appearances for Watford, Gillingham, Hull and Barnet.

More than 300 of these came with the Gills, with whom Hessenthaler experienced both the pain and ecstasy of the play-offs.

Andy Hessenthaler at Gillingham

He was a member of the side that lost in THAT final to Manchester City in 1999 when their illustrious opponents scored two of the most dramatic late goals ever witnessed at Wembley.

Tenacious, steely and ultra-competitive, the midfielder was back at the Twin Towers 12 months later as Gillingham defeated Wigan to finally reach the second tier of English football.

By this stage of his career Hess, as he is known throughout the game, was 35 and had become a hero at the Priestfield Stadium - if not always with opposition supporters - but there was more to come.

Peter Taylor left Gillingham to take over as manager at Leicester after the play-off victory and the midfielder had four seasons as player-manager.

He eventually resigned in November 2004 with the Gills struggling at the bottom end of the Championship and went on to have brief spells as a player with Hull and Barnet.

Shortly after leaving the Bees, Hessenthaler surprised many with his next move when he was unveiled as the manager of Dover in 2007.

Dover were in the Isthmian League First Division South, six tiers below the Championship. So why did Hessenthaler take a job so far down the footballing pyramid?

"A few eyebrows were raised after I dropped down so many divisions but I didn't really look at the level, more the people at the club and how ambitious they are," said Hessenthaler.

And the key personnel at Dover are nothing if not ambitious. Long-term financial problems almost resulted in the club, who were in the Conference as recently as 2002, going out of business in January 2005 but former director Jim Parmenter returned to the club at the head of a consortium.

Money has been invested, a new clubhouse has been built and Hessenthaler has been able to bring players with considerable League experience such as Guiliano Grazioli and Alan Pouton to the club.

Hessenthaler's first season in charge culminated in the first promotion of his managerial career, and the club's average attendance of 943 was way in excess of any other side in the division.

The promotion form has continued this season and the club are currently eight points clear at the top of the Isthmian Premier Division having played two fixtures less than their nearest rivals Carshalton, while the crowd at the Crabble is now averaging more than 1,000.

"If you look at the gates we have people will probably say we are the Manchester United of the division," admitted Hessenthaler. "There are lots of rumours about budgets and the players we have got but that does not matter, you still have to go out there and perform."

A recent FA Cup tie against AFC Wimbledon saw 3,500 pass through the turnstiles and Hessenthaler, the only full-time member of the club's staff, is confident the club has the potential to go a long way.

"There is no reason why we couldn't push Dover all the way to the Football League," he told me.

There are, however, limits to what he can do with a squad that is part-time. Training takes place on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. He would like to be able to do more video work with them but does not have the time. "It is very difficult at times to give them enough information," he said.

There is less banter with a part-time squad, with the day-to-day banter that Hess enjoyed in the full-time game now restricted to the twice-weekly training sessions and matchday.

But working with less-polished players has helped the Dover boss to develop his managerial skills.

So what is the key to being a successful manager?

"For me 85% of management is how you handle your players. If you get them playing for you and ensure they respect you then you have a very good chance of being successful."

Some players need an arm putting around them, others a kick up the backside. Hessenthaler belonged to the latter category.

"I remember a game I played for Watford," Hess explained. "I did not have a good first half and got a rollicking from Steve Perryman at the break. In the second half I performed and it was because he knew how to work me.

"Once you know your squad you have more or less cracked it."

Most of what Hessenthaler has learnt has come from Peter Taylor, his mentor in the game and a former Dover manager. He played for the current Wycombe boss at Dartford, Gillingham and Hull, while Taylor was assistant boss at Vicarage Road when Hessenthaler was signed by Watford.

The two men are still close and Taylor is often used as a sounding board. Hessenthaler also talks in glowing terms about Harry Redknapp and Sam Allardyce when discussing managers who know how to get the best out of their players.

He believes that being honest with his players is absolutely fundamental and says he would never tell a player something that is not true.

Everything that he has learned will make him a better manager and help him fulfil his managerial ambitions. Hessenthaler has made no secret of his desire to return to full-time management and been linked with several vacancies over the last few months.

But for the moment he is more than happy to keep climbing up the non-league pyramid with Dover, while the plastering business has been sidelined for good.

"It is nice to be linked with other jobs, but this is a club on the way up and I want to get them to where they belong," said Hess.


  • Comment number 1.

    Andy was an excellent player that the Gills were very lucky to sign. Came from an era when midfielders like him were ten a penny in the champ or division one, but very few as good as him. Shame many of them never got a chance in the prem.

    Andy may not have been able to spend the whole of his career in the prem but he was a damn site better player than Neil Redfearn for his role in the team. Indeed I wish he was in Charlton's squad for our failed 98-99 season in the prem. Even more indeed I wish we had a younger version of him in our current non-competitive midfield. If we did we'd be challenging the play offs. He really was a player that could set the tone of play for a whole team.

    I wish Andy well in management. He really deserves to work his way back to league management. I hope he gets Dover into the Blue Square Premier and then maybe eventually a shot at a club like Watford or ourselves.

  • Comment number 2.

    I too wish Hess the very best of luck with Dover and hope his managerial carreer is long and successful.
    He was a great player for Gillingham, a greater captain and for a first timer a better manager than the fans had expected when he first got the job.
    Good Luck Andy unless you are in the visitors dug out at Priestfield!!

  • Comment number 3.

    Hess is doing a great job down at Dover, and I hope he stays and can guide the team back to the Conference where they belong. It was an amazing cou to get him to Crabble, and the club is reaping the rewards.

    After a meek few years, the Whites are firmly on the road to recovery. This amazing turnaround in fortunes is undoubtedly down to the Chairman and board who have brought stability to a well supported club who experienced a lot of mismanagement off the field and were victims of the non league restructure.

    Getting around 1000 at a Blue Square Premier is a good attedance, and to have done it at several levels below it is testament to the fan base the club has.

    I hope Hess stays on to guide the latest incarnation of my beloved home town club back to where it belongs.


  • Comment number 4.

    I remember Hessenthaler scoring a phenominal last minute 30 yard belter into the top corner against Stoke in the Division 2 (now league 1) play-off semi-final first leg. They lost 3-2 on the day but his goal was the crucial moment in the tie, which the Gills won and eventually got promoted (if it wasn't that year, certainly the year after). Sad to see he didn't last as manager there, but all the best to him. That goal was one of the most unforgettable moments I've seen at the Brit (although I'd have liked to forget it until Stoke's recent success!) so good luck to him.

  • Comment number 5.

    Andy Hessenthaler, what a legend. The man loves football and is one of my favourite players of all time. I always find it such a shame that it never worked out for him at Gillingham and would love to see him back at Priestfield

  • Comment number 6.

    I've been following the Hess Express ever since he joined Dover and it's been a really spectacular transformation of the club.

    Long story as to why I'm a fan of Dover, it's mainly down to wasted hours on Championship Manager and it's great to see them getting back to where they belong!

    Just wish I lived nearer so I could add to their increasing gates!

    COYW indeed!

  • Comment number 7.

    "For me 85% of management is how you handle your players. If you get them playing for you and ensure they respect you then you have a very good chance of being successful."

    Some players need an arm putting around them, others a kick up the backside. Hessenthaler belonged to the latter category.

    Furness u/18.....

    'I need your arm round Andy, I could have made to the Kent league'

  • Comment number 8.

    Post 4 - You are spot on there, that goal made all the difference.

    I started watching the mighty Gills regularly around '98 (I don't really remember the games before that) and Hess really is a legend. Similar to that Charlton fan, what we'd do for someone his mould this season.

    Paul - I find your blogs on characters lower down the leagues fascinating, and while I recently disagreed with your assessment of Dirty Gregan, you couldn't have picked anyone more worthy of praise this week.

    Hess was a little terrier, not dirty, gave his absolute all week in week out and because of that was a real fan favourite. I was in tears at Wembley '00, just knowing how much Hess, Smudge, Trigger, Adey, Barry, Butters, etc all deserved that so much after Citeh the year before.

    Maybe I'm being romantic but there seems to be so few players of his ilk around anymore, who the fans really have an affinity with.

  • Comment number 9.

    Slightly surreal to see an article about my local team on BBC Sport, but loving it anyway!

    Hess can take us all the way to the top!!

  • Comment number 10.

    Homeoftheshoutingmen wrote:

    "Hess was a little terrier, not dirty..."

    Actually, Hess could be dirty and could be as cynical as the typical Gills view of Sean Gregan - remember the rugby tackle on the Forest player on the half way line that prevented the Forest player running through on goal ? I recall a few more cynical tackles that brought down other players. Hess was a wind up merchant on par with the likes of Robbie Savage, but he was our wind up merchant so we loved him.... Hess was unpopular with some other teams as Gregan was to us....

  • Comment number 11.

    John Knee - fair enough, I realise I sound pretty one-eyed, what I was getting at is he doesn't break legs.

  • Comment number 12.

    It's great to see Dover featured on BBC website - we've been through some tough times over the past few years but we are storming back up to where we believe we belong.

    Great job from Hess and all the players and staff at the club.

  • Comment number 13.

    As a Gills fan Hess is definitely a legend in my eyes.

    I have countless favourite memories, including the Stoke goal but one that always sticks out is how he wound fatty Viduka up when he was playing for Leeds and we had em in the FA Cup.

    I also think had Stan Ternent played him against Forest we would have stayed up in the Championship the year we went down. It probably would have postponed it by another year but it would have been nice to have another year in the Championship.

    I tend to agree more with homeoftheshoutingmen than John Knee, Hess was tough n a wind up merchant. But he never intentionally tried to end someone's career, even if he had others try to end his (the tackle by a Bournemouth player in a R3 FA Cup match when Paul Shaw scored the winner).

  • Comment number 14.

    Haha, Hessy was such a scrappy player.

    I remember being really irate with the lack of style of the team, which I think I mainly blamed him for... We used to play battling, ugly, no-nonsense football rather than the flowing football european football that a lot of the other division 1/championship teams were trying to play, which I so badly wanted to see.

    Anyway with hindsight it turns out (unsurprisingly) that I was wrong and that he really was such a brilliant asset to the club. I hope perhaps one day there is serious conversation about his return to the gills.

  • Comment number 15.

    Although I don't supoprt Folkestone Invicta (my home town club) it does hurt me to see Dover doing so well. Folkestone and Dover have been big rivals since the formation of both clubs. Hess is a quality manager, and he has worked wonders over at Dover, I wish Folkestone could have the Cahonas to get a decent manager and new chairman in to propel them somwhere up the leagues.

    Still, no denying it, Hess is a quality manager, and I wish him all the best.

  • Comment number 16.

    The irritating thing about Hessenthaler was that he was a pretty moderate midfield battler, of the sort that most clubs can boast atleast one, who gave the impression that he thought himself much too good for the 3rd or 4th division.

  • Comment number 17.

    Add a Barnet perspective on Hess. Saved us from relegation in 2006. We were a talented team but had no idea how to win games until he arrived. He took the team by the scruff of the neck (aged 40 at this time he would still run further than anyone else on the field) and drove it to grind out ugly victories which ultimately kept us up. One of those players whose effect on the other 10 means that their own performance hardly matters.

    He's doing everything he can at Dover and hopefully he will be back as a manager one day. That virtually every club he's been at says that about him says a lot about him.

  • Comment number 18.

    Seems a bit blinkered of someone concerned with this article to eulogize on the remarkable attendances at dover when just a casual glance at the league attendances sees that Dartford, who aren't doing nearly as well in the league, are a mere 69 behind in their average - surely worth a small mention?

  • Comment number 19.

    Good luck to the Hess and his seemingly always freshly washed fluffy bonce. Seems a good bloke, always best to go for the club and not the league position.

  • Comment number 20.

    Andy Hessenthaler, absolute legend, I remember watching him play for Watford in the mid-90s - ooh ah hessenthaler etc. I always thought he looked a bit like a robot with his chiselled jaw, he certainly had robot like endurance, he never stopped running!

  • Comment number 21.

    What deserves a mention is the style of football Hess has got Dover playing.

    Thpousands pay a fortune to watch Arsenal, Chelsea and United play slick, pacey, passing football with an end product. Thousands pay a similar fortune to watch mediocre stuff from most of the 90+ league teams.

    We lucky souls in Dover pay a fraction of that cost and are served up a feast of scintillating football both home and away.

    Anyone disillusioned with their team (Gills/Milwall/Charlton/Palace fans) should get down to Dover and begin to enjoy their football again. Why, you can even mingle with the other supporters and change ends at half time!

    Remember those days?

  • Comment number 22.


    Oh I know Hess hasn't deliberately tried to break anyone legs, but he has gone in with a few crunching tackles down the years that could have injured people if they had landed wrong etc.... And he has been known to go in with tackles that he deliberately did to bring another down...

    I've always felt with Gregan though was that if he was a Gillingham player, we'd love him and support him....

  • Comment number 23.

    Great article Paul, both about Hess himself and drawing attention to what is being achieved down at Dover.

    The current success that Dover are enjoying is down to having a top quality manager and forward-thinking board - how many boards would respond to having 6 home games over the Christmas period by deciding to make one of them free to enter for all supporters? (Tuesday 16th December 7:45pm kick off vs Tooting and Mitcham by the way - new recruits at Crabble are most welcome!)

    Spiderkins is right on with what he says about the standard of football that Hess has Dover playing - in a league where conventional wisdom is that you have 2 giant centre halves, pace up front and a midfield that suffers neck ache watching the ball being punted from end to end, Dover have passed teams off the park all season, with a mixture of experienced ex pros and good young players, geniune wingers and defenders who play the ball out from the back. Long may it continue!

    A word on attendances - Dover have been one of the best supported teams in the non league for over 20 years - even in their lowest ebb the club have had a hard core of 800 fans which had risen to c1500 when the team were riding high in the Conference. Dartford (who like Dover dropped down the leagues and have rebuilt over the past few seasons) are the only other Ryman League side whose average gate exceeds 500 (their average boosted by an attendance of 1750 against, you've guessed it.........Dover!)

    Dover's attendances are even more impressive when you factor in that 2/3rd's of its catchment area is either sea or France!!!

  • Comment number 24.

    Great to see an article about Dover on the BBC. Born in the town, but lived in Folkestone for a large part of my life and now living in Tours, France, I am rediscovering my connections with my spiritual centre. Took my 15 year old daughter to see her first footie match at Crabble last year, the 'derby' between the mighty whites and Margate. The atmosphere was incredible, right from being involved being asked to get one of the ground official's thermos of soup filled up for him to the Margate supporters up our end 1st half singing 'you're French and you know you are' (the sponsors at the time ). Couldn't work out where everone had disappeared to so close to kickoff and at half time. Went into the inferno that was the Centrespot bar and quickly got the message. Really looking forward to returning for Maidstone on 28th Dec and seeing the team riding high and the new even better bar facilities. Will be taking my seven-year old to the pantomine there on the following day . Fabulous stuff!!

  • Comment number 25.

    Fantastic article,
    I was at the infmaous wembley play off thankfully supporting man city.

    We happened to be in the hotel near to the ground where the Gillingham players came after the game as they entered through the packed lobby looking absolutly gutted, Hessenthaler walked past me tapped me on the head and said, 'good luck next year in the first division kid you boys deserved it today'.

    Even at the age of twelve I remember thinking what a gent he was even though he was cleasrly distraught.

    I wish him all the best and hope to see him managing in the Premership in the not too distant future.

  • Comment number 26.

    You're totally wrong redredrobbin. I wonder how many times you actually saw him play? also Yes he was all about energy and combativeness.

    But he played in two eras of second tier football. One in the early 90's when it was predominantly a UK based players league, apart from the odd Uwe Fuchs. At this time he'd often win man of the match awards on the ITV match. During those years in the early 90's he was one of the best players in a good Watford team. Then he still competed well into his mid thirties in the champ when foreign players were ten a penny. You're not just a midfield battler if you're still one of your team's better players at 35+. His control of the game was immense for let's face it a Gills team punching above its weight. He wasn't just a third or fourth tier player.

    Personally if you ask me the quality of the champ has gone down in the last ten years. Hess's Watford era there were many better players who'd dropped out of the top league. It now seems many awful players stick around in the prem because of big wages. Back then Brian Clough could decide a player was past it and that was his top league career over. That happened to Colin Walsh for us and he was a more talented winger than virtually any present day winger in the champ bar Kightly. At that time we constantly had quality ex top league pros.

    Now the champ is mainly full of never beens like Ambrose and Omerod, still on ridiculous wages. Hess's era he was one of the best players in the second tier and it was packed full of good players, unlike the myth many journo's try to purport.

  • Comment number 27.

    Nice post , mostly agree with the comments on here. It's good to see Dover doing so well and a lot of that is down to the management style of Hess and the great supporters that Dover have. So now i've built Dover up how about putting a reserve team out on the 27th of December as you have plenty of points already:).

    Stones supporter still wondering when our bloody ground will be built.

  • Comment number 28.

    Just a quick line from a Dover fan that lives in Houston Texas, Hess has brought back my home team to a level to be proud of. Back where I grew up for my first 23 years... Been here a long time...

    He has had a wonderful effect at the club just like his own career...
    the web site is brill and I can watch highlights of most of their games over here...

    Can't wait to be back at Christmas as I always do and to go see the Hess express.... come on you whites

    Thanks Andy and the board for everything you have brought back...thanks BBC a great article...

  • Comment number 29.

    Am a football supporter from the North Island of New Zealand. Love the BBC sports blogs for this reason, finding out information about clubs right through the leagues and about smaller clubs with big support and tradition. Sounds from the comments as if it is a great place to go and enjoy some football. Good luck to Hessenthaler and Dover.

  • Comment number 30.

    If he'd stepped down sooner I think Stan would've kept us up.

  • Comment number 31.

    I was lucky enough to know Andy when he was top bob at Gillingham. He took a Soccer School near where I used to live and he was an excellent coach.

    What this blog doesn't tell you is how commited Andy was when he was younger.

    This tale is only what I've heard from the peers of my father as I am too young to be that age, but here it is:

    Andy was playing near Gravesened in a old Bexley League game. Andy was not the nostable of players there at the time, but his committment to the game could not be matched. The side he was playing for included some local heroes so to speak so Andy was not the most sought after talent there.

    The game belonged to the North West Kent side as they thrashed their newly Londonised opponents 3-0. The lads of the team were boyant to say the least . Virtually running out of the shower to the bar. But as they sat there drinking, and discussing the battle won, one happened to look out the window at the pitch...
    There was Andy doing doggy sprints between the hyalfway line and the edge of the box. Some laughed at him, some tried to call hiom in, but he was focused and uncomprimising.

    Andy Hessenthaler is a good example to any young player who feels he or she is falling behind. Andy went on to Captain Kent SChool Boys and Played for England School Boys before he was pulled into work because he was failing to earn his crust through football.

    I'm pleased he is still regarged and thought of as a top manager and football personality.

  • Comment number 32.

    In many ways Andy is the last of a dying breed. A player and manager who will give everything to the club to the exclusion of almost all else. You just don't see his level of commitment anymore. I've been a supporter of football in Kent all my life and I would argue that Andy's influence can be seen in almost every corner of the county. Now he has turned his attenton to Dover, a sleeping giant of non league football. Watch them fly up the pyramid. The only downside is that Hess will at some point be lured away to the Big League. Hopefully just not yet

  • Comment number 33.

    I only saw him play for Gillingham in the late 90s, by that time he was just another ordinary clogger, but he still had the ego of a big time Charlie.

    He was no better than the players around him in the lower leagues, but clearly thought he was.

  • Comment number 34.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 35.

    Yep, anyone who disagrees with you about a player is a muppet who know nothing.

    Grow up.

  • Comment number 36.

    Andy Hessenthaler is a good footballer, definately not the most talented technically but maybe he provides more than that. Something that maybe a lot of fans seem to miss nowadays is the bigger picture, of having a "team player."

    The term "clogger" has been banded about unfairly, as a Luton fan I unfortunately watched him drive a Watford team consisting of the likes of Bruce Dyer, Paul Furlong both who made million pound plus moves to the "promised land."

    As has been mentioned so many times Hess would be man of the match, be it on TV or from the real fans who went to games week in week out. As much as the media make out the star players a la Cantona, Bergkamp, Lampard etc to be the players that win the teams trophies none of these players would have succeeded without the likes of Keane, Viera, Makalele as team mates. Not only do these players provide the platform for other more "creative" players they stop the oppositions key players from performing.

    Take a look at Spurs, Newcastle and the likes over the past 15, 20 years full of good players but without a team ethos and bar the odd "cup run" unable to achieve any major success. They miss a Hess type figure someone at whatever level to have the teams best interests at heart.

    After Gillingham Hess helped Hull get promoted and saved Barnet, still playing till the age of 40+. There are not many combatitive midfielders that play on until this age, keepers do, and the likes of Furlong, Sheringham and David Eyres of course but not many "run of the mill midfielders."

    The fact that he is disliked means he did a good job against your team, winding up fans, players, refs etc and probably coming out on top more often that not.

    Back to the bigger picture again, as the Premiership becomes more glamorous and less British players participate, the lower the level that our players will reach. As it becomes more expensive and less interesting (at the top- Big 4plus 1 other fighting out top 5 spots) every season I do hope more fans starting watching football at different levels, because believe me it does make a difference watching a game actually there.

    My team have fallen from grace fast, just outside Championship playofss to good chance of conference foortball in 3 years, and boy we could do with Hess in our midfield right now.

    All the best to Dover and Hess for the future.

  • Comment number 37.

    Aye, clogger was probably a bit harsh. It was just that at the time that I saw him he was (ego apart) interchangeable with many midfield players plying their trade in the old 3rd and 4th divisions. So I was surprised to see him so lauded.

    Perhaps I just caught him during a lull in his career and was a better player than he appeared at that point.

  • Comment number 38.

    Hessenthaler, what a legend, a model of passion and commitment.

  • Comment number 39. to be a Swindon fan then. No surprise you have no respect for a Gills player

  • Comment number 40.

    Red Robin - my apologies - All I saw was a typical Swindon Fan slagging off the most committed footballer I have ever had the pleasure of seeing - and Gillingham's greatest footballer ever.

    The fella is a legend in the lower leagues and a much better player then people ever gave him credit for.

    I'd have him back at Gillingham in an instant

    I actually shed a tear when he resigned and sat in the directors box with Scally watching the Notts Forest Game - he got about a 5 minute standing ovation when we was announced by the PA guy - can't think of any other manager that left a club fighting relegation that got a standing ovation!

    Typically he gave the Gills every chance of staying up by standing down when he did - proving that the club meant so much to him.

    Stan had plenty of time to turn it around but bottled it with selection on the biggest games.

  • Comment number 41.


    I'm a Cheltenham Town fan, I agree that Hessenthaler was a good lower league player and exactly the sort of player that can become a club legend.

    But he (and it appears quite a few others) seem to have thought he was more than that. It was that ego that made him particularly annoying to me having seen him as a neutral and as an opponent.

  • Comment number 42.

    RedRedRobin, I can't see where you get this ego thing from?

    I can think of plenty of premiership players with a big ego - Drogba as one example - Hess was never like that - he was a good player and he knew it - there is nothing wrong with that - especially when he had continued success with his career as he got older.

    As an opponent I can't really remember playing you much until the last couple of seasons - when Hessy had left the club apart from an awful day at your place in the FA Cup in 1999 which, incidently I went to thinking that it was actually Chelmsford and an hour and a half away. It rained all day - we got soaked and got a lucky 1-1 draw - but turned you over in the replay easily from what I remember.

    So as our clubs were not in the same leagues when Hessy was playing - I can't see what you are basing your opinion on?

  • Comment number 43.

    I also saw him play against Reading.

    Certainly his behaviour in that FA cup tie didn't endear him. Definitely gave the impression he was too good to play the likes of us (despite spending the game being outplayed by Mark Yates) and playing the big star.

    It was just mentioned that he was an annoying player, and as he was one of very few players annoying enough that I remember him 10 years later, I thought I'd mention why I thought that was. Down at those levels we played against plenty of spiky midfield players, but very few who were as irritating as he was.

    You'll be happy to hear that we have covered the away end now, rather than just having a tin roof at the very back.

  • Comment number 44.

    against Reading for Whom?

  • Comment number 45.

    Gillingham again.

  • Comment number 46.

    I will tell you now Mr Hessenthaler is one of footballs gentlemen as well as being a damn good player for Watford Gillingham Hull & Barnet.
    Who else enters the professional game at 26 and STILL makes 500+ league appearances??
    some dont even make that many despite coming into the professional game at 18.
    Another story.
    My son died in 2006 from cot death and I was fundraising for FSID.
    I contacted Andy Hessenthaler and not only did he donate his signed testemonial shirt, a match ball and other stuff from GFC, he even came to the fund raising night in person with a couple of others to lend their support to it. No charge, No ego, just Andy Hessenthaler being himself.
    Some clubs or players I contacted didn't even reply to say no.

  • Comment number 47.

    Maybe I have judged him harshly on the basis of his behaviour during that Gills/Chelt Cup tie, which presumably was a particularly poor day for him.

    It certainly sounds like he was a decent chap off the pitch.

  • Comment number 48.

    Your articles about sports' undercard are superb.

    (PS: Hope you read my golf stuff!)

  • Comment number 49.

    As someone who works with Andy at Dover, I can tell you that he is a grounded, professional and highly motivated man - don't mistake that for undue arrogance or an ego.

    Andy is a winner, who has belief in himself, his backroom staff and his players!

  • Comment number 50.

    I was lucky enough to be a mascot at gillingham several years ago when we were in the ascendancy. It was amazing how professional Hess was in the run up to the game - yet he still had the time to speak kindly to me. I will never forget that meeting!

    I wish him the best of luck with dover and maybe one day he can return to gillingham.....


  • Comment number 51.

    Hess was a legend at Gillingham, not for anything particularly spectacular (he can't be critisised for doing a step-over) but just for being a great professional who always gave 100%.

    I think that's why he was always a fan favourite. Even when he didn't have the best game, you knew that it was because he was having a bad game and not because he lacked commitment. Not something that can be said of some professionals now who strop off when subbed etc...

    Given that he also played football in the twilight of his career in a higher tier of English football when Gillingham had already been relegated also shows what kind of player he was. What I wouldn't give to have a young Hess at Gillingham now.

    As previous comments have stated, he was able to drag a team up purely through the force of his personality and he wasn't afraid to "mix-it" as well, generally against people much bigger than him. That's not to call him a dirty player, far from it, but when one of the opposition decided to get a bit physical, it was never Hess who seemed to come off worse.

    A model professional, a very nice man and, as one of my friends is fond of quoting "at 4ft 2 and 100mph, Hessenthaler is the heart of the Gillingham midfield. At times it looks like he has 3 lungs".

    Up the Gills.

  • Comment number 52.

    Glad to hear - but not surprised - that Andy is doing a great job at Dover. A true professional!

    Andy - You'll always recieve a warm welcome back at Priestfield.

  • Comment number 53.

    My Dad worked with Andy for a few years just before he went pro and we used to occasionally go and watch him play for Dagenham. Since then I have always looked for the result of whichever team he was playing for / managing and all credit to him for keeping Gillingham up as long as he did.

    He really was a top bloke and a true professional and it's a shame he and my old man didnt stay in contact, but I am over the moon at how well his career has gone so far and the respect that he has built up over the years.

    Keep it up Hess, you are a legend.

  • Comment number 54.

    You only get a few players like him in a lifetime at any club. Gillingham were truly blessed to have him as a player as he WAS the engine room.

    Perhaps managership came too early and now he is earning his spurs.

    A toast to the past and a toast to the future. Cheers Andy

  • Comment number 55.

    I used to work with Andy's wife at a local call centre and met him a few times, and my overall impression was that he was a thoroughly nice bloke, and overwhlemed at being 'famous'.

    He was always delighted to chat about the game with a supporter of the club, regardless of how recent results had gone and always had time for anyone who wanted it.

    I also saw him a couple of times in the pub near where I worked with a couple of other players, and they were always on soft drinks, talking quietly and causing no bother. Certainly not the sort of behaviour you associate with today's premiership idiots.

    Anyway, good luck Hess, hope you come back one day - a true gentleman of football (off the pitch anyway!).

    Up the Gills!

  • Comment number 56.

    Fair enough RedRedRobbin I could imagine he was an annoying player to watch against you, especially for a very successful and physical Gillingham side. They were a typically Pulis team that I hated watching. He had an undying desire to force his team on whether he was losing his personal battles that day or not. Personally I can't ask anymore of a footballer if I'm a paying punter but I rarely ever see it.

    I remember them beating Luton I think 2-0 in 2000 and hated every moment of it as the Gills played awful but successful percentage football whilst Luton played great football without a cutting edge. Luton was packed full of brilliant young footballers like Matty Taylor, Matty Spring and Emmerson Boyce who've gone on to be good prem pros. The difference was Gills' strikers, whilst the only Gills midfielder that looked like he'd help the Luton midfield was Hess.

    Those Gills teams had some good lower league players and especially good strikers for their divs Carl Asaba & Robert Taylor spring to mind. Whilst Taylor and Asaba were great in the third tier, they were clearly not consistent or long term good enough for the champ. Taylor was a massive joke to anyone who saw him in the champ apart from his lunatic-love-in manager Peter Taylor. Whilst Asaba drove around in his Porsche earning 1000's missing chances and thinking he was great.

    Hess was the one in that Gillingham era who was truly champ class not just in determination but footballing skills. R Taylor was ponderous and slow in the champ, which made his finishing look non-league, whereas Hess handled the better pace and skill level with aplomb well into his thirties. For me out of all the 'good' players that the Gills had from Jimmy Corbett, Ty Gooden to Marlon King that may have or did make it to the prem Hess was by far the better player. Marlon rarely has two successful seasons, Hess did it year after year with whoever playing next to him.

    Having lived around the Medway area for most of my life there are countless stories of Hess's contribution to local life. I know a couple of people who work in that call center and all say he was an utterly decent and generous man. Others involved in charity fund-raising have sung his praises about his help and support.

    All I can say is cheers Hess for many afternoons being improved with your presence on the pitch.

  • Comment number 57.

    Sorry, to spoil things but there was little Andy could do last Saturday. What a great display by Harrow Borough. By the way there's only one Red Red Robin; Robin Shroot.

  • Comment number 58.

    Interesting thread but surprised no real mention yet of his time at Barnet.

    Although it was only a "brief" stop in a long career, Hess's impact at Underhill was still impressive. He arrived in 2006 along with Paul Warhurst to bolster a failing team. Overnight they probably doubled the average age of the team but more importantly added important backbone to a side, newly promoted as Conference champions but struggling with the intensity of League football.

    We avoided relegation that season and the following season reached the 4th round of the FA Cup for the first time, in no little part due to the effort of Hess. For somebody in his early 40s he was tireless and it was ultimately only continual injuries which forced him to stop at the end of 2006/7 season.

    Hess is fondly remembered at Underhill for his grit and determination. Who knows, at some point he might return as manager but, until then, I wish him well in his managerial career, and at Dover with that other Underhill legend, Giuliano Grazioli.

  • Comment number 59.

    Man I remember those two goals, they were pretty dramatic!


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