Andrew Waterworth: Blues striker discovers the delights of yoga and home cooking

By Grant CameronBBC Sport NI
Andrew Waterworth celebrates scoring against former club Glentoran at Windsor Park
Andrew Waterworth celebrates scoring against former club Glentoran at Windsor Park

Linfield striker Andrew Waterworth has revealed how discovering yoga has helped improve his mental well-being during the challenge of lockdown in the current coronavirus pandemic.

With 19 goals, he was the Blues' top scorer before the climax to the Irish League season was halted in early March as Covid-19 shut down sport globally.

David Healy's defending league champions were top of the table but then life changed dramatically and without the routine of training sessions at Windsor Park and match day involvement, Waterworth admits it has been testing.

He told BBC Radio Ulster's Sportsound programme that yoga had been "crucial" in helping him handle the challenging times of imposed isolation.

The former Northern Ireland U-21 international, who previously had spells at Ards, Lisburn Distillery, Hamilton Accies and Glentoran, is also savouring a whole new lease of life in the kitchen!

"Lockdown is so difficult for everyone because your normal routine is gone," says the man who is also employed as a coach education officer with the Irish FA.

Reality check

"My life revolved around football before - playing, training, coaching, watching it on TV and listening to it on radio chat shows. Then you get a reality check with this present situation and you learn what really are the most important things in life. Your health IS your wealth.

"Your well-being comes into that too and while I love reading, I have also found that devoting regular time to yoga and cooking are helping immensely."

He discovered the yoga sessions by chance on YouTube: "I just came across one woman's classes by accident and decided to give it a try.

"It has been amazing and the 10-minute daily exercises are ideal for me. But being able to clear your mind and relax has been crucial for me, especially when the times and circumstance you find yourself in can be so challenging.

Waterworth hits four as Linfield rout Swifts

"I'm no mental health expert by any means but I've been reading a lot about it and after I finish my yoga session I try to get two or three minutes where I am completely switched off.

"That's something I haven't been good at before. As you can imagine when you combine an Irish League job with a career you are 'all go.' I have never really had the chance to talk stock. Now I do.

"This is not a good time for anybody. These are worrying times but the one plus, the one positive is that I have been able to reflect a bit and have a bit more self time."

One of the major down sides to life in lockdown is losing his football connections. "I'm still able to work from home for now but without football it is tough. I really miss my Linfield team mates.

"Normally I see them four or five times a week with training and playing and the 'craic' is great. We do keep in touch via our WhatsApp group but it is not the same. When you chat to players who have retired, most tend to say that is the one thing they miss most.

I certainly would be a big advocate of staying in the game once I retire. It certainly has drawn a lot of attention to how much you take your team-mates for granted and the changing room banter. I can't wait to see the boys again to be honest."

Club guide

As far as training is concerned, all Linfield playing staff have been issued with guidelines from the club.

"I have had to vary it somewhat because I am the oldest in the squad.I have a routine. I know my own body," says the man who turned 34 earlier this month.

"One of the key things for me is not over working my training as I try to extend my career. So I run every other day on pitches. The road running is sore on the joints. I'll also do a little bit with the ball just to keep things ticking along."

Another source of comfort comes in the kitchen at home. Andy and his partner Melissa were just a few weeks from moving home when the lockdown was enforced so they are currently living with her parents.

"I'm even bigger into cooking now. I get fresh organic fruit and veg from the nearby supplier, put on some music, maybe Neil Diamond and get to work in the kitchen.

"I like Italian cuisine and I take much more time over it all. I do research it all now before I start. Before I used to rush things. I've become a bit of a master chef!

Andrew Waterworth scored the goal which gave Linfield victory in last year's League Cup final
Andrew Waterworth scored the goal which gave Linfield victory in last year's League Cup final

As to when he will be able to return to action and help the Blues complete the season which has seven more league games to run, Waterworth is unsure.

"I don't think anyone knows. We are always waiting for the news and whatever form of return is necessary then so be it.

"Whatever is best for the nation in terms of health. I think football is secondary so whatever is decided by the governing body based on health than I will totally accept that.

"In an ideal world we want football back as quick as we can because we miss it as players, as supporters, as coaches.

"If the decision is that it has to be behind closed doors then so be it. I'm sure when we are back playing we will all appreciate it much more."

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