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Sunday, 10 February 2008

RIP Shandy, The Gooner In The Gallery


I was shocked to receive a text message from my good mate Nell on Friday, to inform me that his close pal Andy Harris had passed away suddenly during the night. Tragically Andy will be laid to rest on Tuesday, when he should have been celebrating his 44th birthday the day before.

Footie fans in the UK and Ireland who've watched Sky's Soccer AM on Saturday mornings over the years will have undoubtedly heard Tim Lovejoy & Helen Chamberlain refer to "Shandy the Gooner in the Gallery". Although there were occasions when Shandy appeared in front of the cameras, in pastiches of the likes of Postman Pat Butcher and Mike Reid, it was for his work as a producer for the first few seasons of this relatively groundbreaking footie show that we all owe Andy a debt of gratitude.

If I'm honest, there've been occasions in recent times when I've whinged at the way Soccer AM has stuck so rigidly to its original formulae. Yet I'd invariably be annoyed if I missed my favourite bits of the program Soccer Locker, Showboat or the Third-Eyes, either because I failed to wake up in time, or because of leaving the house too soon, to travel to an away game. Moreover the incredible role call of celebrity guests and professional players who were happy to give up their Saturday mornings, to spend several hours squeezed onto the orange sofa in Sky's Osterley studios, in the shadow of the M4 flyover in West London (hardly the most glamorous of locations) stands as testament to the amazing mass market appeal of this TV show and the way in which the combination of fan based silliness, casual conversation and the occasional insight into some of the private and dressing room habits of many of our footballing heroes, managed to plug a yawning gap in the landscape of football related TV scheduling.

You only have to look at the way many of the program's catchphrases and Tim Lovejoy's slapstick routines have entered the lingua franca of popular culture, to appreciate the massive influence of Soccer AM's Saturday morning shenanigans. Only at Eastlands last weekend, when we went two up after 25 minutes, I found myself waving my hands above my head shouting "Easy, easy!"

Meanwhile aside from his TV work, Andy was husband to his wife Lucy and father to his two kids, Thomas and Joseph. Although I had the privilege of meeting him on several occasions, usually at the Arsenal's annual pre-season friendly at Underhill, I would've felt a bit of a fraud offering some sort of "Alas poor Yorick, I knew him well" type tribute. As a result it seems far more appropriate to include the thoughts of those who were closest to him, by way of the messages from Andy's oldest mate, the text message terror that is Jonathan "Nell" Moser and his colleague and pal since their days working on the Big Breakfast, Tim Lovejoy :-

Nell Moser - "My friendship with Andy goes back many, many years. The one common thread running through all those years of friendship was our devotion to Arsenal. We shared so many fond memories of our time as Gooners that whenever we got together, we would spend literally hours reminiscing.

Only a couple of weeks ago, we met for lunch and proceeded to spend the entire afternoon discussing obscure Arsenal players, from Geoff Barnet to John Matthews to Trevor Ross to Brian Hornsby to Ritchie Powling to David Price to John Hawley. We discussed how, in those days, every London football fan would follow the progress of their team by listening to Sportswatch on LBC 261, presented by Dominic Allen.

His favourite or most vivid memories as an Arsenal fan?... Well, here's a few that we talked about recently.. Terry Neill's first game in charge of Arsenal (1976- we lost 1-0 at home to Bristol City and Supermac also made his debut that day), our amazing hat-trick of FA Cup Final appearances (1978/79/80- when the FA Cup actually mattered), all those semi-finals v Liverpool, Alan (Alan) Sunderland running off like a madman having scored THAT last minute winner, Paul Vaessen v Juventus, Willie Young v Hadjuk Split, Charlie Nicholas' League Cup Final winner v Liverpool (1987, having beaten Spurs in the semi), the Gus Caesar Cup Final (1988 v Luton), Anfield 89 (obviously), and George Graham finally losing the plot in the early-mid 90's. Andy would often recall George's latter years at Highbury by reciting his favourite poem: "Morrow, Selley, Hillier, has there ever been a midfield sillier?"

Just as his father had passed on his passion for Arsenal to Andy, Andy did the same for his kids, Thomas and Joseph, to whom he was so devoted. I'm not sure if Lucy ever did or ever will fully understand what it was all about.

Somehow, going to Arsenal will never seem quite the same again. I'm still waiting for his next text message, rejoicing in Chelsea's demise.
'Shandy' Harris, a true Gooner legend, gone but NEVER forgotten.
It was a privilege to have been his friend."


Tim Lovejoy - "Andy Harris or Shandy The Gooner In The Gallery, as Soccer AM fans will remember him, will be sorely missed by everyone. In all my time in TV I've never known a death cause such a stir. It seems everyone knew him and no one will ever forget him. I first met Andy working on the Big Breakfast, the first thing he wanted to know was which team I supported. I told him Chelsea, he laughed and then spent the next 13 years taking every opportunity to tell me we're not as good as his beloved Arsenal.

When I got offered the job of producer and presenter of Soccer AM I needed someone to help me and Andy was my first choice as he was a great producer and loved his football like me. He was tenacious and persuasive and pushed the show further then I ever would have. If it wasn't for Andy the show would never have been as big as it became. The show back then was run on pure passion of football, we had many arguments and they were normally about Arsenal vs. Chelsea.

My memory of working next to him was him sitting holding a new Arsenal shirt that we got in to feature on the show. He was smelling it and saying things like "smell that it's perfect", "you'll never know what it's like to be a fan of the Arsenal" and "it's so sad, you'll never have this experience". He honestly believed he was blessed being an Arsenal fan. He took me to see Arsenal V Coventry once insisting I came to see what a real club was like, a "big club" as he called it.

I had been to Highbury many times as an away fan, but he wanted me to see his experience. I remember him being so proud of showing me the Arsenal fans in his local pub, his stadium and his seat, he couldn't understand why I didn't think that he was the luckiest man alive because he was a Gooner. A couple of drunk Arsenal fans decided to have a go at me for being a Chelsea fan and it got a little out of hand. Andy was horrified, he lost his temper with them and got the situation under control. He was deeply upset that a couple of Herberts would pick on me when clearly I was just there to watch the game, he explained that they were not proper Arsenal fans.


He was a proper fan, not an idiot "real" fan, but a proper fan, who took as much pleasure in hating Chelsea, Spurs and Man U as he did in loving The Arsenal. His banter was always spot on and he knew when to send a text to give maximum misery to me. After we had won the league he was always telling me the Chelsea's bubble was going to burst, after a string of poor results last season, I got a simple text message which just said "POP!". I'll truly miss the ritual of losing a match and 2 minutes later receiving "I love football" or "it's a good day for football" text. Andy was a great friend and a true Gooner."

ANDREW EMMANUEL HARRIS 1964-2008 RIP

PS. Please don't hesitate to add any messages of condolence, or any personal memories in the comments section and I can add them to this post for everyone to read

gunner glory said...

i'm gutted. Shandy was indeed a legend. i used to have a pint with him at the arsenal tavern when we played at hughbury.lovely guy. a great loss.

blazer said...

gooner in the gallery. goonr legend. shandy, where ever you are, we gonna win the league for you. RIP

danny solomon said...

Being an old mate of Andy I want to add my sincerest condolences to his wife and children. Andy's sudden death is truly shocking especially as he was such a vivacious guy who became vivacious in the extreme when my team, Chelsea, lost.

Before Andy settled down, and even after he allegedly did, he used to come round to my house to watch whatever footy was on the telly. Always funny, often ridiculously so, we would delight at watching Man U and especially the hated Tottenham lose. However, not being a supporter of Andy's beloved Gooners we could never share the intimate football memories that only fans of the same team can.

However, there are not enough true fans like Andy and I know he shall be sorely missed both at The Emirates and in the wider world. Although I was often on the end of Andy's sharp humour when my team lost I shall still miss his text messages when we inevitably come a cropper. It is a very sad time for all who knew him.

Anonymous said...

I would like to say how shocked and saddened I am to hear of Andy's passing and to wish long life to his wife, children and parents.

I met Andy again very recently in a work context, having been at school with him many years ago. His first words were to remind me that I had been reponsible for ending his illustrious (?) cricketing career, having bowled him out with a yorker. He had that way of immediately putting you at ease. We spent a good time reminiscing about days gone by, what we had both been up to etc. Without my realising it, he had effortlessly created an easy, relaxed and friendly environment - so typical I guess of what I can see from others, that Andy was all about.

I spent such a short time with him yet I was marked by what a genuinely nice chap he was; touched by his generosity in our discussions and amused by his sharp sense of humour.

I can understand those who knew him so much better than I, feeling such a void at his passing. I only wanted to add that from someone who only met him for a brief moment, Andy created such a strong impression.

Taken so prematurely, may he rest in peace.

Daniel Bobroff

bbc production team said...

I am so saddened by this news. What a breath of fresh air he was to all those who encountered him, either at work or socially. One could not fail to be infected by his enthusiasm and joie de vivre. I am so sad for his family. May he rest in peace.

phil said...

I'm so saddened to hear this news. I used to sit next to Andrew and his family for many years. They were all such delightful people.

Banta-Shrink said...

I've had the privilidge of working with Andy and knowing him as a friend. I worked with him at the BBC on the Bosnich Vs. Spoony boxing, and then at Fanbanta where he gave me the name "banta-shrink" - working with Andy was a pleasure - everything was "lervley" and his enthusiasm and charm somehow always made me priritise the work for Andy over the day job.

But it is as a friend i shall miss him the most - the way he would burst into a party, larger than life and incredulous of the world - his warmth, his energy, his love for his family and for the Arsenal. The world is a lesser place without him but he will live on in our hearts

Avalon prod team said...

words cannot possibly describe the void that Andrew's death has left. He was always so full of life and energy.Every project we worked on was made so much fun by his wit and humour.I will never forget him, and neither will my colleagues. May he rest in peace.

Wrighty7 said...

I've never had the privilege of meeting Shandy. From what I've heard he is indeed an Arsenal legend, a proper GOONER. It's a shame that he has been taken away at such an early age and I reckon he'll still be cheering the Gunners on from his place in heaven. RIP Shandy, I hope we win the league for u pal.

Nick Richmond said...

It's very tough to put into words how much Shandy will be missed by all that knew him . Since I heard the news of his death my head has been filled with memories of many times we spent at Danno's , watching football , playing pool , eating takeaways etc . Shandy and I went to the Champion's League final together and eventhough Arsenal lost , the whole time in Paris is a fantastic memory , due to the fact that the two of us had such a laugh . Being counted as one of his friends was a true honour and I'll miss him always . Rest in Peace .

Juliet Solomon said...

I had the greatest pleasure of meeting Andy last year. I did not know him personally but he agreed immediately to help me with a book I was compiling for a neurological charity. With enormous generosity of spirit he helped me hugely and the book would certainly not have been what it is without him. He left a great impression on me - such a kind, warm and funny guy. I was so sad to hear of his tragic death and I send my sincerest condolences to his family. May he rest in peace.

rsj said...

what an incredibly sad day this has been. andy's larger than life presence will be so sadly missed. RIP

Titi 14 said...

one of arsenal's finest is gone. he felt like part of the family.

Simon said...

As Andrew's brother on law, Simon, I have been overwhelmed with all the love and affection that so many people felt for Andrew. He was a true 'one off'. The joy in his face when I asked him to play in a journalists team against an Arsenal X1 at Highbury - I was then doing the PR for JVC; the many times we laughed, drank, argued as only Andrew could argue. The times when Lucy my sister was travelling abroad and he came round to see me and my young boys every Saturday before going to Arsenal to play and talk about how much he was looking forward to Lucy coming back and his plans for their future. Thanks to everyone on behalf of Lucy, Thomas and Joseph and all his family. He will be so missed.

Anonymous said...

Andy was a terrific bloke with a great sense of humour and a lovely bitchiness which made him so entertaining. I first worked with him on Fantasy Football and he was always enthusiastic, quick witted and resourceful. We stayed friends over the years and I enjoyed several trips to Sky to watch soccer AM with the Gooner in the gallery. He so loved Arsenal but he also loved football which made him such a rounded bloke. He will be sorely missed by those he touched while on this earth. And you can't say much better than that. - Andy Jacobs - talkSPORT

17 comments:

gunner glory said...

i'm gutted. Shandy was indeed a legend. i used to have a pint with him at the arsenal tavern when we played at hughbury.lovely guy. a great loss.

blazer said...

gooner in the gallery. goonr legend. shandy, where ever you are, we gonna win the league for you. RIP

danny solomon said...

Being an old mate of Andy I want to add my sincerest condolences to his wife and children. Andy's sudden death is truly shocking especially as he was such a vivacious guy who became vivacious in the extreme when my team, Chelsea, lost.

Before Andy settled down, and even after he allegedly did, he used to come round to my house to watch whatever footy was on the telly. Always funny, often ridiculously so, we would delight at watching Man U and especially the hated Tottenham lose. However, not being a supporter of Andy's beloved Gooners we could never share the intimate football memories that only fans of the same team can.

However, there are not enough true fans like Andy and I know he shall be sorely missed both at The Emirates and in the wider world. Although I was often on the end of Andy's sharp humour when my team lost I shall still miss his text messages when we inevitably come a cropper. It is a very sad time for all who knew him.

Anonymous said...

I would like to say how shocked and saddened I am to hear of Andy's passing and to wish long life to his wife, children and parents.

I met Andy again very recently in a work context, having been at school with him many years ago. His first words were to remind me that I had been reponsible for ending his illustrious (?) cricketing career, having bowled him out with a yorker. He had that way of immediately putting you at ease. We spent a good time reminiscing about days gone by, what we had both been up to etc. Without my realising it, he had effortlessly created an easy, relaxed and friendly environment - so typical I guess of what I can see from others, that Andy was all about.

I spent such a short time with him yet I was marked by what a genuinely nice chap he was; touched by his generosity in our discussions and amused by his sharp sense of humour.

I can understand those who knew him so much better than I, feeling such a void at his passing. I only wanted to add that from someone who only met him for a brief moment, Andy created such a strong impression.

Taken so prematurely, may he rest in peace.

Daniel Bobroff

bbc production team said...

I am so saddened by this news. What a breath of fresh air he was to all those who encountered him, either at work or socially. One could not fail to be infected by his enthusiasm and joie de vivre. I am so sad for his family. May he rest in peace.

phil said...

I'm so saddened to hear this news. I used to sit next to Andrew and his family for many years. They were all such delightful people.

Banta-Shrink said...

I've had the privilidge of working with Andy and knowing him as a friend. I worked with him at the BBC on the Bosnich Vs. Spoony boxing, and then at Fanbanta where he gave me the name "banta-shrink" - working with Andy was a pleasure - everything was "lervley" and his enthusiasm and charm somehow always made me priritise the work for Andy over the day job.

But it is as a friend i shall miss him the most - the way he would burst into a party, larger than life and incredulous of the world - his warmth, his energy, his love for his family and for the Arsenal. The world is a lesser place without him but he will live on in our hearts

Avalon prod team said...

words cannot possibly describe the void that Andrew's death has left. He was always so full of life and energy.Every project we worked on was made so much fun by his wit and humour.I will never forget him, and neither will my colleagues. May he rest in peace.

Wrighty7 said...

I've never had the privilege of meeting Shandy. From what I've heard he is indeed an Arsenal legend, a proper GOONER. It's a shame that he has been taken away at such an early age and I reckon he'll still be cheering the Gunners on from his place in heaven. RIP Shandy, I hope we win the league for u pal.

Nick Richmond said...

It's very tough to put into words how much Shandy will be missed by all that knew him . Since I heard the news of his death my head has been filled with memories of many times we spent at Danno's , watching football , playing pool , eating takeaways etc . Shandy and I went to the Champion's League final together and eventhough Arsenal lost , the whole time in Paris is a fantastic memory , due to the fact that the two of us had such a laugh . Being counted as one of his friends was a true honour and I'll miss him always . Rest in Peace .

Juliet Solomon said...

I had the greatest pleasure of meeting Andy last year. I did not know him personally but he agreed immediately to help me with a book I was compiling for a neurological charity. With enormous generosity of spirit he helped me hugely and the book would certainly not have been what it is without him. He left a great impression on me - such a kind, warm and funny guy. I was so sad to hear of his tragic death and I send my sincerest condolences to his family. May he rest in peace.

rsj said...

what an incredibly sad day this has been. andy's larger than life presence will be so sadly missed. RIP

Titi 14 said...

one of arsenal's finest is gone. he felt like part of the family.

Simon said...

As Andrew's brother on law, Simon, I have been overwhelmed with all the love and affection that so many people felt for Andrew. He was a true 'one off'. The joy in his face when I asked him to play in a journalists team against an Arsenal X1 at Highbury - I was then doing the PR for JVC; the many times we laughed, drank, argued as only Andrew could argue. The times when Lucy my sister was travelling abroad and he came round to see me and my young boys every Saturday before going to Arsenal to play and talk about how much he was looking forward to Lucy coming back and his plans for their future. Thanks to everyone on behalf of Lucy, Thomas and Joseph and all his family. He will be so missed.

Anonymous said...

Andy was a terrific bloke with a great sense of humour and a lovely bitchiness which made him so entertaining. I first worked with him on Fantasy Football and he was always enthusiastic, quick witted and resourceful. We stayed friends over the years and I enjoyed several trips to Sky to watch soccer AM with the Gooner in the gallery. He so loved Arsenal but he also loved football which made him such a rounded bloke. He will be sorely missed by those he touched while on this earth. And you can't say much better than that. - Andy Jacobs - talkSPORT

perce said...

just read the news on supporters club site. what a terrible time to lose one of our own... just before we stuff man u and milan and win the league! rip shandy, true gooner

Anonymous said...

I say at the end of last weeks programme that Andy the gooner had passed it really affected me and I was so shocked.
My love goes to all his family mother father wife and kids god bless you all.xx