If a week is a long time in football, four months must feel like a lifetime.
Andrew Barrowman had spent the best part of a year training on his own and sitting in the stand under Terry Butcher at Caley Thistle before he finally clinched a move back to Ross County on deadline day in January 2010.
A couple of months later he started and set up a goal at Hampden Park as County upset Celtic 2-0 in the Scottish Cup semi-final.
It lifted the Staggies to their first major final and was personal redemption for Barrowman, capping his season by playing in Scottish football’s showpiece event less than four months after escaping purgatory.
“When Butcher came in, I could see pretty quickly that I wasn’t going to be part of his plans,” Barrowman said.
“I was in Siberia towards the end. I was being taken away to Queen of the South just to sit in the stand, there were deliberate things like making me turn up on Saturday in a squad of 19.
“There would be one person not in it and that would be me. I’d have to walk out of the dressing room while everyone else was getting stripped, that was happening every week.”
I got given the same runs when i was in Siberia at Inverness. The ball would have been as well being a stick 😂 pic.twitter.com/IIP6MlxFMF
— Andrew Barrowman (@a_barrowman) April 20, 2020
‘The relegation was devastating for everyone’
It was a sour end to his spell at Inverness which had started so brightly.
Craig Brewster had brought him to the Caledonian Stadium on a back of a stunning season in Dingwall which brought 29 goals and a Second Division winners medal.
A debut goal at Pittodrie as ICT triumphed 2-0 on the opening day of the 2008-9 season had Barrowman and his new team’s supporters full of hope.
But the goals dried up as Inverness struggled and Brewster was sacked in January 2010 after a run of seven straight defeats that left the club in relegation trouble.
Butcher couldn’t halt the Highlanders’ slide and a final day defeat against Falkirk consigned them to the drop.
Barrowman said: “The relegation was devastating for everyone.
“I still had two years left on my contract so when we got pulled in for a debrief that summer, the manager said ‘look, I know you didn’t play much but dropping down a level, I see you as a big player and think you can help get us back up’.
“That’s what you want to hear. I went away and got myself really fit for pre-season.
“He was chopping and changing the team at the beginning of the season, I remember starting a game against Partick Thistle early on.
“We ended up 3-0 down at half-time, if he could’ve subbed the whole team he probably would’ve.
“He took me off and I really didn’t play again after that.”
Redemption at Ross County
When Ross County boss Derek Adams threw him a lifesaver in January 2010, he was determined to grab it with both hands.
Barrowman said: “I did want to prove a point and I slotted straight back in.
“It was seamless, like I’d never been away. There were a few new players but it was a lot of the same faces and it felt good again from the first day.”
After beginning his career as a youth player at Rangers, Barrowman moved to Birmingham City – then a Premier League club with French World Cup winner Christophe Dugarry in their ranks.
He made a solitary first team appearance during three years at St Andrews as he bounced around loan spells at Crewe, Blackpool and Mansfield.
Moves to Walsall, Kilmarnock and Queen of the South followed before he found himself without a club in the summer of 2007.
A contract from Airdrie was on the table but a meeting with George Adams, Derek’s father and then the Staggies’ director of football, convinced him his future lay in the Highlands.
“I didn’t have too many options that summer,” Barrowman said. “George Adams got in touch, we had a chat and then he just started absolutely slaughtering me.
“He was saying ‘with the ability you’ve got, you should be doing a lot better’. It was a wee bit strange because it was the first time I’d met him, I was expecting to be told how good I was, but it gave me a kick up the backside.
“He invited me up to see the facilities the next day and I couldn’t believe how good the setup was, I knew it was the right move for me.”
The goals flowed straight away and despite Dick Campbell being sacked in peculiar circumstances with his club at the top of the Second Division, the Staggies romped to the league title.
Barrowman believes the signing policy brought in by Adams junior and senior was at the heart of the club’s revival and ascent up the leagues.
He said: “It was a group of young, hungry lads who all had points to prove. Players like Paul Lawson and Michael Gardyne who were let go by Celtic, Richie Brittain by St Mirren, Iain Vigurs from Inverness.
“It was a deliberate action to sign players trying to rebuild. Every week we were going out there to prove a point, that was our motto.”
The Scottish Cup run
County could consider themselves unfortunate to come away from their Scottish Cup quarter-final clash with Hibs at Easter Road with only a draw but they got the job done in the replay, thanks to a last-minute Scott Boyd goal under the lights in Dingwall.
Then came the famous semi-final against Celtic.
Barrowman said: “We believed in ourselves, we trusted each other and were all great mates off the park.
“From where we were, it was an achievement just to be in the semi-final. I don’t think the club has had a bigger result and for me personally, it was the biggest one in my career.”
There have been a few wild stories of party buses heading back up the A9 following big Caley Thistle victories but it was an altogether different story under tee-totaller Derek Adams.
The Staggies also had to contend with being in action three days later in Greenock, one of 10 fixtures they had in May.
Barrowman said: “After the game the boys went up to the hospitality lounges. It was a free bar so we were sticking them in our kitbag and clinking back onto the bus.
“Derek Adams got on and said ‘go and put them back, we’re professionals, there’ll be no drinking on the bus’.
“So the boys all had to traipse back into the lounge and put their bottles back.
“We stopped at Perth and the manager bought us all a McDonald’s, that was his way of treating us.”
Dundee United ultimately ended County’s dream run to the final in the Hampden sunshine in May.
It was a result that undoubtedly hurt the players at the time, but 11 years on, they know they can look back on that season with a lot of pride.
“Obviously, when you get to that stage, you are desperate to win,” Barrowman said.
“Peter Houston (United manager) did his homework on us. We had 10 matches in April and I think he was at every single one of them.
“You’re disappointed and gutted but looking back, we achieved something very special.”
Life after football
Just how fragile a career in football is was hammered home to Andrew Barrowman at the age of 28.
Then at Dunfermline, he was one of seven Pars players released as the club plunged into administration in March 2013.
The club’s financial problems were not a bolt from the blue.
Wages were paid late on numerous occasions and rumours that the club were struggling to keep the lights on were swirling long before the axe fell on Barrowman and his six teammates – club captain Jordan McMillan, fans favourite Joe Cardle and ex-Scotland international Paul Gallacher among them.
“When the administration happened, I thought I really need to have some other plans,” Barrowman said.
“It’s fine when you’re younger, you can chase that dream but once you reach a certain age it’s not just about you and you’ve got to think about other people.”
He embarked on a degree in sports management while carrying on his playing career and finished up his honours at the age of 32.
That wasn’t the end of the hard work though. Barrowman applied for 76 jobs and secured only two interviews before he was sounded out about an opportunity at Spanish sportswear brand Joma.
It worked out and three years on, he’s loving life with his young family having progressed to being the label’s senior brand manager for Scotland.
“I really enjoy it now,” the retired pro said. “I’d never had a job before, I left school at 16 and my CV was blank.
“It’s a transition when people are looking at you and going ‘this guy’s 32 and he’s never worked before’ but fortunately I’ve got a great job with a great company now.
“I miss playing but I’m still involved in the football side of things.
“It’s amazing how many players get to 30+ and have no plans.
“It’s something I’m always happy to talk about with players because I know how tough it can be out there.”