New brooms

Date: 14th January 2022

Our latest blog piece from our resident writer Donald Stewart.

New brooms, sweeping up?

“Winter breaks, January transfer window, new COVID regulations, new managers/head coaches…

Of such things, Scottish football is traditionally like come January and it’s almost becoming a bit like Christmas – expected on an annual basis. For my own club, and for its nearest rival, we have both been in the business of replacing managers and both, for supporters, have an interesting background to them.

For Ayr United, my own club, we had witnessed the departure of Ian McCall, a man who had saved us from relegation to League Two before catapulting us up to the Championship and almost into the playoffs for the Premiership. At one point we had headed the Championship and believed the possibility of returning to the league of which we were once proud founders, was within our grasp.

Alas, it was not to be and McCall, having reestablished himself as a serious manger with much still to give jumped ship to his beloved Partick Thistle and has proved, once more, that he is indeed a very good manager.

Upon the loss of such a captain, we promoted from within the ship and Mark Kerr took the reins, for his first foray into management. Kerr had been a very able apprentice. He was a leader on the park and he had been working on his coaching badges whilst coming to the end of a very decent career. There was plenty to make you believe he would be a decent manager. It was not to be. Why is for the terraces and the internet moaning boards.

Once he left the club the search for a replacement began. The club decided to take one of the consistently banded about names in Scottish football that you get when vacancies happen – what about that guy who did a great job at X, went down south, didn’t do such a great job down there but knows the Scottish game so well and would do a job for us?

David Hopkins suited the bill and in he came. When things started to go badly a deputy was brought in – Jim Duffy. Hopkins had raided his old club during the summer – Morton – for players and people started to complain that we had the look of a Morton reserve team. Then things went badly once more, and Hopkins got the chop.

The thoughts turned to who we needed to steady the ship before making a serious appointment. Duffy took over for the duration and secured some very decent results. It became a no brainer. Give Duffy the role until the end of the season, shouted the terraces, giving us a chance to reevaluate and then we can decide on whether he gets the job permanently or we seek fresh blood. There was an incentive for Duffy to do well.

Then, wouldn’t you know, things went badly. Duffy was let go and the job became vacant.

Up the road in Kilmarnock, they had more glorious times under Steve Clarke, than we ever had under McCall but given where both McCall and Clarke had started from it could be argued, McCall moved us further up the Scottish football tree; no matter who was best, Clarke did an amazing job at Rugby Park. It is hard to underestimate just how iconic a manager Clarke was. When Clarke departed, Killie did a very interesting thing. They brought in Italian, Angelo Alessio. It was bold, but his tenure did not get off to a great start when the club were unceremoniously dumped out Europe by a little-known Welsh team and it did not take long before results elsewhere were not matching up with Clarke’s tenure. Things having not gone well, Alessio was politely shown the door.

His replacement came from within the club. Whilst Ayr’s inner appointment was a bit of a gamble, Killie had a man of some experience. Killie also have a pretty decent record in ethnic diversity and cemented that with the appointment of Alec Dyer. Initially as caretaker, like Duffy was at Ayr, but then permanently, unlike Duffy. Unfortunately, after a really poor start to the season, things were clearly not going well, and Dyer was also let go.

Like Ayr had done with one of their appointments, Killie turned to another name often associated with Scottish managerial vacancies – you know the guy who took a provincial club to really good heights and won a few things along the way but decided to take time out the game and should be refreshed enough for a new challenge?

You know the one – Tommy Wright.

Wright lasted less than a year and, in that time, saw the club drop out the Premiership for the first time in nearly 30 seasons. Things had truly not gone well. To compound things, the beginning to their time in the Championship similarly did not go well, leading to the club allowing Tommy to return to the bosom of his family.

And so, the search began for who would be next in the hot seat at Rugby Park, as well as in Somerset Park.

Both clubs have been imaginative and gone in different directions.

Ayr have taken Sheffield Wednesday legend Lee Bullen whilst the man who nearly became the Rangers manager – Derek McInnes – is now in the chair at Killie.

As supporters we shall know fairly swiftly, or at least have a strong opinion, if these have been the right appointments but the initial games, they have both taken charge of have been promising. Ayrshire senior fitba might be looking up!

What is undoubted is that as supporters we are expected to back the appointments and provide vocal support for the teams. Again, according to initial reports from each of their first games that’s job done for both sets of fans.

If we play to type there shall not be too long to wait before someone has a dig at the new management team or lament that they should have got X candidate or Y was available – why did we not get them etc. That is the nature of fitba, is it not? If it wisnae fur yer moaner, where would we be?”

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