"My question follows on from Jason Roberts' retirement via hip-knack," begins Neill Rees. "There must have been someone, somewhere that decided to play on, despite the expert advice to cease? Has there ever been a report of such a player to play on despite being medically told not to continue past Go, not just in a single match, but for the rest of the season or more?"
Ladies and gentlemen, we give you: Marvin Andrews, a man who is still playing at 38, having more than once told the doctors where to stick their scalpels. We had several emails about the Trinidad and Tobago international, and by golly it's a tale worth telling. Settle down. Not long after signing for Raith Rovers in 1997, at 21, Andrews was struggling with an inflamed pelvis. "The doctors said I wouldn't be able to play again unless I had surgery that would scrape away the inflammation," he explained, "and put a metal plate inside me. I wasn't going to do that." Having been in Scotland just a wee while and warming to life in Kirkcaldy, Andrews didn't want to give up his football career, either. So he chose a different form of treatment. "Tony [Rougier, Raith winger] took me to the church and we prayed with Pastor Joe. God healed me from the pelvic injury. I had a fantastic season in 1998-99."
The following season was better (for Raith and for Andrews, who was named the club's player of the year), and in 2000 Andrews signed for Livingston. By the time they won the 2004 Scottish League Cup, Andrews was hot property, and Livingston's money troubles meant that his manager, Allan Preston, was letting everybody know it. "Marvin is the best at what he does in Scotland," he said, "and I include Bobo Balde in that. Don't ask him to hit 60-yard passes on to the toes of David Fernández, but if you want the ball won in the air or on the ground, then he'll do it for you." Rangers signed a pre-contract agreement with him before the season's end.
He took to his new surroundings immediately, helping Rangers to the title in his first season and picking up the players' player of the year award, to boot. But during what the Guardian's report described as a "dreadful match" against Dundee in March, Andrews, one of Rangers' scorers, picked up an injury late on. Afterwards, he headed off to church "to pray" – not because of the injury, mind, but because it was a Sunday. "Marvin will be fine," shrugged Alex McLeish, but a scan showed that he'd badly damaged the cruciate ligament in his left knee. Time was that the injury itself would put him out of the game; at best he could have surgery and be back on the pitch in a year. He wanted to help Rangers, who were four points ahead of Celtic when he got hurt, on the run-in, so again he dodged the operating table.
"I respect the medical people at Rangers but I don't want to have the operation," he said, later explaining that he had asked God whether he should have surgery or rely on his faith. "I know it is hard for people to understand but God has given me strength. He is in control of my life and I believe it will be fine." Most people at the club thought he was barking (and got him to sign an agreement that he was responsible for any further injury, especially when he declared himself fit for the very next match), but as Rangers' four-point lead swung to a two-point deficit, they gambled on the meeting with Celtic towards the end of April. He played 83 minutes but couldn't stop Celtic winning 2-1, getting caught out by Craig Bellamy for the first and seeing his own effort rebound off the crossbar. "Celtic," said the Guardian report, "victorious in hostile surroundings, have effectively retained their title."
Rangers stayed on Celtic's tail, though, and the final day of the season arrived with things yet to be settled. If Celtic won at Motherwell, the trophy was theirs – but if they didn't, and Rangers beat Hibernian, the silverware would go to Ibrox. Rangers had by now ordered Andrews to stop talking to the press about his miraculous healing, but he snuck word to the Guardian in the build-up that his leg "feels fantastic" and was causing him no problems. Rangers took the lead against Hibs after about an hour, and were never really made to sweat over it. Instead it was their supporters who perspired as they waited for improbable news from Fir Park, where Celtic were also leading by a goal to nil. In the 88th minute, Scott McDonald scored the equaliser that handed Rangers the title; his stoppage-time winner was simply sweet.
Andrews provided the picture for the occasion as he dropped to his knees and looked skywards, his arms cast wide. In his autobiography, Marvellous Marvin: The Life, Football and Faith of a Soca Warrior, Andrews writes: "He made my head, heart, lungs, liver and every part of me – including that famous cruciate ligament! So why do people think he cannot repair my body?" Many were converted that day. On his way to church after the match, fans threw themselves at Andrews's car, asking him to run them over. "Marv, we believe!" At the start of 2013, and not having played since a handful of games for Kirkintilloch Rob Roy in 2011, Andrews prayed. "Lord, if it's your will for me to continue playing, you know my desire. Open the door." Albion Rovers called the following day, and Andrews, now with Forfar Athletic, plans to play until he hits 40.