Andy Flintoff - The Saturday Interview (25 Jul 1998)

25 July 1998

Andy Flintoff - The Saturday Interview

The Lancashire Evening Telegraph

The Saturday Interview with Lancashire powerhouse Andy Flintoff

EVEN at the tender age of 20, Andy Flintoff carries an air of authority about it. Putting it another way - at 6 feet 5 inches and almost 17 stones, he's not likely to face many arguments, is he?

But the Lancashire powerhouse is a gentle giant. Which is why, just a few hours after learning via Mike Watkinson's mobile - "I haven't got one of my own" - that he was in the England squad, the Lancashire likely lad could be seen flat out on his back, after being charged by a gang of team mates' kids, the biggest of whom was around 3 feet 6 inches and five stones wet through, writes ANDY WILSON.

It wasn't a fair fight. The toddlers won by a fall to nothing before racing off for tougher battles in the bouncy castle.

'Freddie' picked himself up, smiled ruefully and found consolation in a bottle of Diet Coke. The rest of the Lancashire squad, deep in the heart of Oxfordshire countryside for a Wasim Akram benefit event, smiled, too.

Neil Fairbrother, who has worked hard with Flintoff to improve the youngster's batting, is now carefully monitoring how he reacts to off the field situations, and says: "He's got what it takes. Really, he's a typical Lancashire lad, down to earth and lets nothing faze him.

"The step-up from county cricket to a Test environment is massive. You need ability, obviously, but you also need the right temperament to deal with all the added pressures and responsibilities. The eyes of the world are on you.

"Freddie is very young, but I'm sure he will take it all in his stride. He's very level-headed, nothing ever seems to worry him."

Flintoff was 20 years and 229 days old when he made his Test bow this week, the youngest Lancashire player to make an England debut. The youngest, and probably the biggest. A lot to live up to. But he looks steadily at you and says: "I will just take it as it comes, but I don't want any labels like 'the new Ian Botham.' I'm only just setting off, and if I do half as well as Both I'd have to be satisfied. He was a great player, and one of the heroes I had as a kid along with Viv Richards. But I don't want to be Ian Botham the second, I want to be Andy Flintoff the first.

Nether does he want to be tied into a Flintoff v Ben Hollioake scenario.

There's no doubt that they are tussling for the all-rounder's slot, and that Flintoff now has pole position. But he and Big Ben are buddies, having toured together with England under 19s, have a mutual respect and understanding - and both know their own minds.

One major difference is that Hollioake is keen to speak it, while Flintoff remains wary of saying too much in public. To help him ward off unnecessary attention, he now has an agent.

But that's not to say he can't fend for himself. England's chairman of selectors David Graveney overheard him conducting some Press interviews before the Trent Bridge Test and said: "He sounded very self assured and confident. Certainly he wasn't in two minds about anything." Flintoff said: "I don't think I get nervous. I know what I want and I know I have to work for it. My ambitions are to be a success for Lancashire and England, simple as that."

Although he has recently moved into his own house, he comes from a solid family background. Parents Colin and Susan watch him regularly at Old Trafford, and he learned his cricket playing with his dad and brother Chris at the Dutton Forshaw club in Preston.

"I was always tall, a beanpole, and it's only in the last couple of years that I've put on the muscle," he recalled, with a shrug of his massive shoulders. "But I always had a bit of power, and could give the ball some hammer. There's nothing like whacking the boundary fence, but nowadays I get more satisfaction from doing it through timing, with my body in the correct position, rather than with sheer strength."

International tours have robbed him of the time to pursue many activities outside cricket, but he likes snooker, and baseball, is trying to make a start as a golfer and loves his football - Preston North End and Liverpool.

"What Michael Owen did in the World Cup was awesome," he said.

Test stardom, and growing maturity, will change him. He will soon be pulling a mobile out of his pocket, for one thing. But you get the impression that, deep down, he will remain a Lancashire lad, tucking into his curries - "Indian and Chinese are my favourite food" - tuning into some rock, and having a stroll down the Golden Mile.

"Best hotel I've ever been is in Sri Lanka. Best holiday place, Cape Town, I think. But Blackpool's great."

Source :: Lancashire Evening Telegraph (