You signed for SK Austria Klagenfurt in the summer of 2022. How much are you enjoying your time in Austrian football?
“It’s been a brilliant experience for me so far. I’ve loved it from day one.
“I came to train at the club at the end of last season and I was delighted to be offered a contract to move to the club permanently.
“It’s a beautiful part of the world to live and the club has been welcoming at all levels which helped me settle in.
“The scenery is stunning where I am based and the Wörthersee Lake is only a fifteen-minute walk from my apartment which is nice because it’s a lovely place to spend time and relax.
“I can see the Slovenian and Austrian Alps from my balcony too.
“The Austrian people are easy going and I have made lots of good friends over here.
“The league is very competitive and we look to play open, attacking football at this club so I am really enjoying my time on and off the pitch.”
You started your professional career at Heart of Midlothian having progressed through the youth system at the club. What were those academy days like?
“My time in the academy was great in terms of my development and I will never forget the memories made during my time at Hearts. I joined at the age of eight and made it to the first team which was amazing.
“The people that I met on my journey through the age groups made a lasting impact on me and it was an extra special time in my life as Hearts is my boyhood club. So, to play in the academy there and make it to the first team was an incredibly proud moment for me.”
You had your first experience of regular first-team football on loan at Berwick Rangers in Scottish League Two 17/18. How important was that loan spell for your development?
“I loved going on loan to Berwick Rangers because it was completely different to academy football, particularly on a match day.
“I trained at Hearts during the week and with Berwick on a Thursday evening as they were a part-time club.
“Playing with players who were part-time and had full-time jobs out with football was a great learning experience for me. They showed great professionalism and shared their experiences in football with me which as a young player was invaluable.
“Playing men’s football in League Two taught me more about the physical side of the game than I was aware of in academy football and it also gave me the experience of playing in front of a fan base who expected three points on a Saturday.
“Every game matters at senior level and I made great friends at Berwick Rangers. I have nothing but positive memories from my time at the club and the learning and development opportunities that they gave me.”
You also played for Falkirk on loan during the following season in the Championship. How did the Championship compare to League Two?
“It was similar in terms of the physicality, to be honest. The tempo of games in the lower leagues is ferocious and it was no different in that regard from Berwick Rangers to Falkirk.
“The main difference in the Championship compared to League Two was the fitness levels of players which is understandable given that Championship players are full time whereas League Two players do not tend to be.”
You established yourself at Hearts following those loan spells during a challenging time for the club. How do you reflect on your time in the first team at Hearts?
“It was a dream for me to play for Hearts at first team level from the moment I first went as a kid to watch games at Tynecastle with my dad.
“So, to be able to achieve that dream was unbelievable and meant so much to me.
“I am very proud of the fact that I was able to represent the club on over sixty occasions because as I said, that was my dream as I kid and I managed to live it more than once.”
Many within the Scottish game were shocked when you left Hearts for Türkgücü München. Was playing abroad always an ambition of yours?
“It was. The possibility of playing abroad always intrigued me and as a young player, I felt that moving at that time would be the best time to do it.
“My experience in Munich was tough and difficult at times but I feel stronger for the experience as I grew as a person by living on my own and taking full responsibility for everything in my life in a new country.
“Munich is a very busy city and it is almost like a country of its own in comparison to Klagenfurt where I am now.
“I went to Munich with the hope of achieving the best outcome but things outwith my control made the experience challenging, particularly when we had a change of manager at the club early on in my time there.”
Andy In Austria 🔥
Andy Irving had a great individual performance against Table-Toppers Salzburg.
Goal & Assist along with some lovely interchanging football
— ScotsAbroadPod (@ScotsAbroadPod) May 31, 2023
What are the similarities and differences between football in Scotland and in Germany and Austria?
“In Scotland, the game is very physical and fast-paced at all times. That is not to say that there aren’t teams in Scotland who play expansive football and have technically good players because there certainly are.
“However, in Germany and Austria, the game is more tactical in comparison and the demands in each game is different. Teams over here tend to have a set plan and a way of playing that they do not overly change depending on the opponent.
“I have been fortunate to play with good players in Scotland and in Europe and challenge myself against top teams in each country that I have played in too.”
Who are the best players that you have played alongside in your career so far and who stands out as your toughest opponents to date?
“I have played alongside some really good players at Hearts including Aaron Hickey who was a top-class full-back at such a young age.
“It is no surprise for me to see him playing regularly at Brentford and for Scotland in his early twenties because he was so impressive in training and in games.
“John Souttar was another young player who was impressive when I played alongside him.
“I also played alongside Steven Naismith and Christophe Berra who came to Hearts as experienced players having played in the Premier League with clubs such as Everton and Wolves. They had good leadership qualities too.
“In terms of players I’ve played against, I would have to pick out Callum McGregor and Glenn Kamara as I was up against them both directly in midfield and they were the toughest two from my time in Scotland.
“I have also played against players like Odsonne Edouard, Mykhailo Mudryk and Manor Solomon when they were at Shakhtar Donetsk. It is no surprise to see all three of them now playing in the Premier League.
“I would also pick out Max Kruse who I played against when he was at Union Berlin who have just qualified for the Champions League.”
Last but not least, Andy, what are your ambitions for the future? Is representing Scotland at senior international level a goal that you aspire towards?
“Absolutely. Representing Scotland at senior level would be an absolute honour. I understand that I have a long way to go but I hope that I can one day achieve that honour and earn my place in the set up.
“I have played in the youth age levels up to under 21’s and I was also very proud whenever I pulled on that dark blue jersey.
“I also want to play in one of Europe’s top five leagues and I am working hard to continually develop and take my game to the highest level that I possibly can.”