The danger of cult heroes becoming coaches.

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In the last few days Barry Ferguson has been linked with a return to the Ibrox in a coaching capacity.Some Rangers fans do not seem too happy after his record as a manager at Clyde. This seems highly unfair, that failure can hinder one’s coaching career. It is of course true that often you learn from your mistakes.

I  remember when  Willie Miller took up the manager role as manager at Aberdeen after his playing career had ended. It never went as well as he would have liked but I am sure even he learned from it and took those experiences into his future roles. But there is some who may feel his cult hero status is slightly diminished . I am not one. .

The same is true of Frank Sauzee who as a Hibs legend stepped in to the vacant managers position at a time of need, but unfortunately was found wanting at a managerial level. There is a real danger for former players to coach or manage at their former clubs that they may not have the same success as they did in their playing career. At the moment Richie Foran is have a tough battle to ensure Inverness  survive in the SPFL Premiership. He like many former players  managing at clubs which they were cult heroes at do get  more goodwill and time from fans than others would normally. And as we know time is not something that managers normally get.

But Barry Ferguson return to Ibrox should not be affected by his performance at Clyde as he would be returning as a coach rather than a manager.  He is bound to have learned from his experiences at Clyde. It is clear when you listen to Barry Ferguson on the radio  that he has developed in his knowledge. But we should not forget that coaching part-time players is difficult especially if you have never been a part time player yourself. He will have learned a lot from that experince. Finally as fans we should certainly have more understanding of the management role and ensure that former players are always helped in high regard. Coaching and playing are different careers and we should recognise that, being a great player will not guarantee that you are a great manager and vice versa. But their achievement ssould be acknowledged on merit.

Scottish football magazines/fanzines in the internet age.

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Today I done something rather unusual . I actually read the matchday programme at Pittodrie . Nearly every week I buy a programme, mostly as a memento of the match. Some fans treat their programmes with white gloves and store in airtight pockets,never actually reading them. I do not read them but end up curling the programme in my pocket and storing  it once I get home in a shoe box. But not today. I read the articles during the warm up and at half time and have to say I was impressed with the quality of the articles. Why had I never taken the time before? Of course the programme has the usual contributions from players and management but it is the other articles which make this publication such an enjoyable read. There are articles from established journalists and broadcasters.But it is the articles on matches from the past or the  fans view from abroad that provide an alternative dimension to the matchday programme.

Matchday programmes used to  be a team list and have a managers column in amongst all the local company advertisements.They were quite small publications. For detailed analysis and comment about their team fans would buy a fanzine. I  have only ever bought a fanzine a couple of times  mainly because I didn’t like the editorial line my clubs fanzine took.  These fanzines are now in decline which is sad as many a talented football journalist started out writing in fanzines. The fanzines provide real critical analysis and views which usually differed from the official club line as it was written by  fans for the fans. Many fanzines were influential in communicating with the wider fan base and were important in campaigns to save clubs and oust managers and directors.  Some printed fanzines are still kept going by committed volunteers  but their print runs can be very low. In this internet age there is plenty of media outlets for fans to follow whether it is  online fanzines, magazines or forum sites. All these have contributed to the decline of the printed fanzine at a time when it is probably just as needed as it ever has been.

There is a revival of printed football publications with the launch of magazines such as the Scottish Football Periodical   Nutmeg and The Blizzard . At a time when football  news is dominated by a 24 hour news culture  fans are looking for magazines/websites that provide  critical analysis of the game. In many ways clubs have been able to manipulate the media for their own means.  Now fans are looking at outlets where they can voice their own views where they are not moderated.  Of course there is plenty of websites,social media  and online forums that allow this. But actually fans voice can get lost in the internet as it is so vast. There is something far more powerful in the printed word. The printed word is not of course eternal although can be perceived to be, which is more important when you are trying to make your point.

The matchday programme will always be an official club publication , to inform fans, provide a souvenir  and raise money for the club. I would dread to think that this would move to an electronic format like the daily newspapers have.  So I certainly will be buying my matchday programme at every match. Ironically as I write this blog I am all for supporting the fanzines and magazines which have given fans a voice for many years and hopefully many more. We certainly need publications that enable fans to articulate their views otherwise we may lose our game to the money men.  And of course equally they are a good read as well.

PS: National Library of Scotland is trying to preserve some of the old club fanzines.NLS

Scottish foreign transfers

We all know that Scotland is a nation of migrants. They reckon that there is more folk of Scottish descent living abroad than living in Scotland itself. This has happened through the ages. Scottish football is no different from other industries,our talent has been exported throughout the world.

Recently the BBC Football Focus TV programme  interviewed Oliver Burke the £13 million pound Scottish international now playing for RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga in Germany. It is fair to say he has made quite an impact as RB Leipzig are second, chasing Bayern Munich.

Oliver Burke Interview on BBC Football Focus

This got me thinking about how little Scottish players are actually now playing abroad.Apart from Ryan Gauld at Sporting Lisbon I am struggling to think of a notable Scottish player playing abroad. There are of course others but at the top-level we have struggled with our foreign exports. This  obviously correlates with our football standing in the world. It was not always like this. You can go back to the 19th century and find Scottish football exports like Thomas Donohoe.who introduced football to Brazil.

Through the years players have moved abroad to further their career , like Dennis Law, Steve Archibald, Paul Lambert and John Collins to name a few. Some of these players were playing at the top of their game when they transferred. But not all , Paul Lambert was in my opinion  fairly average player at Motherwell before signing for Borussia Dortmund where he went on to play a key role in winning the European Cup.He developed into an accomplished midfielder adored by the Dortmund fans. It is fair to say that the Scottish national team and Celtic who he later played for benefited from his development.

Scottish footballers seem to be attracted down south to the big mony in the lower English Leagues rather than think of their  own career development. Playing in a foreign country is a huge personal challenge, as well as adapting to the different footballing style there is the adapting to a new language and culture.  But history shows fortune favours the brave. You learn more about yourself when you move out your comfort zone.

The SFA is developing the game through its Project Brave initiative. This will focus on home-grown talent and how we can develop the talent here in Scotland. But we should not forget that players can develop in other countries and systems. If I was to use an example of our country’s greatest sportsman Andy Murray . he went to Spain to develop as a young player as the British  tennis system was not right for him. We should not discourage our young talent from  moving abroad and developing. If we get the structure right the opportunities will arise but we need our footballers to be brave and ambitious to move to where the challenges are. Other smaller nations like Croatia, Czech Republic, Slovakia have weaker leagues but their players ply there trade all over the Europe. This has had a positive effect on their national team and the game in their own country

.In order for this to be achieved it will require a cultural shift and a real change in the national mind-set .But it is happening  Gordon Strachan, Brendan Rodgers and Ian Cathro to name a few of the coaches now  travel all over Europe looking at new coaching techniques. This personal development  needs to be enforced throughout our game as we have become too insular in our outlook of the game.