- Tell us a little bit about yourself, background, where you grew up etc?
I am extremely proud to say I was born in the town of Falkirk in Scotland, and we lived in the North Broomage housing estate in Larbert.
I have great memories of playing football down the local park after school every day.
It started off 5 v 5 but most nights finished 15 v 15 when all our fathers and the older lads joined in after they had finished work. It has always puzzled me how we played without bibs then.
We used other communication skills to recognize who was in your team. It was tough but a great platform for all the kids to learn how to dribble, be competitive and learn what was required to be a winner.
From a very early age I supported my local team Falkirk FC and always wanted to play for them. All my early football heroes were Falkirk players. We named our house in Sydney ”Brockville” after their old stadium.
Scottish football at that time was very good and we had plenty of players we idolised. Rangers and Celtic were very strong and always performed well in the European competitions. With Celtic winning the European Cup in 1967 and Rangers winning the European Cup Winners’ cup in 1972.
There was also a lot of the top Scottish players playing for the top teams in England. It was very easy to name some outstanding players then: Dennis Law, Jim Baxter, Dave Mackay,
Billy Bremner, Jimmy Johnstone, Graeme Souness, Danny McGrain, and Kenny Dalglish. Scotland stopped producing that quality of player for a long time ago.
I have high hopes for Scotland and the future as we are starting to produce more top players that are playing in the EPL like Kieran Tierney, Andy Robertson, and Billy Gilmour.
- What are your first recollections of playing football?
I started playing organsied football for Larbert Primary school at the age of 8 and then onto Larbert High school at the age of 12. At high school we played Saturday morning for the school and played for Larbert boys club in the afternoon. That’s when I got introduced to cramps. At the age of 15 I joined a local club called Gairdoch. They were a local youth club that were famous for producing players that went on to play professional football. While I was a Gairdoch I was invited to train at East Stirling which was Sir Alex Fergusons first club as a manager after playing for Falkirk. He called my mother’s house and asked me to sign, and I would have been his first signing as a manager but had to let him down as I had already signed for Dumbarton FC who were in the first division in Scotland at that time.
- What level of professional football did you manage to achieve and when did you finish?
I was 16 when I joined Dumbarton FC who played in the Scottish 1st Division at that time. I didn’t have a driver’s license at the time and initially had to travel 40 miles there and back to training. We had a strong squad which had a great balance of experience and very good young players. I learned a lot about life and football in the three years I spent there. I started well and was made the reserve team captain at 17 but only played 8 games in the first team.
I was released from my contract at 20 years old and was lucky to get several offers from other clubs. Falkirk FC was one of the clubs, so it was an easy decision for me about which club I was going to join.
Falkirk had just been relegated to the second division and wanted to build a new team to get promotion back to the first division. Things didn’t start well for me in the first few games as I was asked to play in a position that didn’t suit but I was happy just to be on the team sheet and be playing. I was determined and soon got the position that I wanted and never looked back. In the second season we won the League and promotion to the First division. I featured in over 269 games for the club and scored 30 goals. I was lucky enough to made captain and become a fan favourite. In 2001 as part of the clubs 125 years of existence I was inducted into the Falkirk Hall of Fame. If my football life had finished then I would not have cared as I was very lucky to have played for, captained and then to be recognised by the club, that was enough for a boy from the Broomage in Larbert.
In 1984, I moved to Australia to play with Brunswick Juventus as a guest player for 6 weeks, but decided not to return to Scotland and to stay at Brunswick. I was made captain after two games and in my second year with Brunswick we won the NSL. We claimed silverware three times and were crowned Australian Champions defeating Heidelberg United, South Melbourne and Preston Makedonia in the southern conference play-offs before eventually defeating Sydney City over two legs in the Grand Final. The club took us to Italy as an incentive for winning the grand final. We played against AS Roma whose team was filled with superstars such as Graziani, Pruzzo, Conti, Boniek, Cerezo, Tancredi and Ancelotti. What a great experience that was to play against a team like that managed by Sven-Goran Eriksson.
- When and why did you first get into coaching?
I started coaching in Scotland when I was playing at Falkirk, I went and coached the under 12’s at my old club Gairdoch. I had a great group of players who were unlucky to lose in Scottish under 12’s cup final.
While I was at Falkirk and at the age of 21, the manager sent me to do the first level coaching badge with the S.F.A. That was another great experience as Walter Smith, Craig Brown and Alex Ferguson who are all legends in Scottish football were running the course.
My senior coaching career really started at Brunswick where Terry Hennessy the ex. Derby and Wales player made me a player coach. That was a tough job that I would not recommend to anyone. It’s hard enough being a coach without being a player as well.
I then was transferred with work and lived in NZ for three years and did a bit coaching there at our local club in Howick. I had a great time there as I got take all the sessions and do it my way.
We moved back to Australia and in 1994 and my close friend Laurie McKinna asked me to join him at Hills United. I started off assisting Laurie and Randolph Easthorpe coaching the first grade but the under 20’s coach left and I took over the under 20’s, which was a team that lacked ability but were a group of boys who gave everything when they went on the pitch and made it an absolute pleasure to coach.
I then spent a year at Blacktown as Alex Robertson’s 1st grade assistant and the under 20’s coach for a year. We had instant success and finished second in the league and won the grand final in the first grade. Alex left Blacktown in 1999 and I was offered the first-grade job which I happily took. Over a 6-year period we had an unbelievable run of success being premiers 4 times, played in 6 grand finals although we only won 2. I was blessed in that time to have the best group of players, assistants, and support from everyone at the club that made our success possible. It was in my fourth year at Blacktown that I took on Cliff Pointer as my assistant. That was one of my best decisions as a coach as we stayed together for the next 15 years and we worked so well together until Cliff retired from football in 2016.
I moved to Marconi in 2006 and spent just over a year at the club. It was a great experience for me, and I learned a lot about myself and what was required to be the head coach at a big club.
Too much of my time was taken up talking and in meetings instead of being on the field with the players and coaching. They are a great club with great people, but it was just the wrong time for me.
I left the club in the middle of the second season with the club in third spot on the ladder and went to Scotland and England to re charge and visit some clubs and watch and talk plenty football.
My next job was at Sutherland in 2008 where I met Bruce Spiteri for the first time. He is a great football person and talked me into joining the club who had just finished fourth bottom the previous season.
This was a rebuild where we brought in eight new players. This added to a very good core of experienced players, and we also called up some very good young players with lots of ability and energy.
This team played to a system that suited the group players we had but also followed our team principles around how we attacked and defended. A great group who made that season very enjoyable and we won the league on the last day of the season. We lost both Pedj Bojic and Brendan Gann to the A-League before losing to a very good Wollongong team in the grand final. That was a great year and we played very good attacking football in front of decent crowds. The players and the culture at that club was so good that it would ensure perennial success.
Bruce left the club at the end of the season, and I followed.
- What has been your greatest personal and coaching achievement in football?
My biggest challenge as a coach started in 2009 and lasted till 2018. Cliff and I joined Bonnyrigg who had just been promoted to NPL1 and were second bottom after 7 games.
At that time the club had a reputation that if the team lost two games in a row the coach would be leaving if it went to three.
The previous coach had done a great job to get them promoted and stayed loyal to his players and did not add to the squad that got promoted. Our job was to make sure we could keep the team in NPL1.
In the end we stayed up quite comfortably and could start planning for the next season. I had a great time at Bonnyrigg with some great people who are still friends today.
The players were outstanding in the first 8 years and made Bonnyrigg a club that no one wanted to play against especially at our home ground. The supporters were so good and played a big part in helping create an atmosphere that our opponents struggled with. We had a lot of outstanding players in that time that made the training and football something beyond being just doing a job. It meant so much to us all being part of that club at that time and that played a big part in the club winning three league titles and playing in four grand finals and winning two. All good things come to an end and in 2018 as part of the new direction the club wanted to take, I was asked to leave. The communication of the decision could have been done much better but that’s football.
I then spent one full season at Mounties and did a full preseason in preparation for the next season and then along came covid and the club lost interest in football, made a lot of changes that I did not want to be part of, as they missed the key things that I want from coaching a team which is winning and striving for promotion.
My biggest achievement as a coach was being at Bonnyrigg for 10 years.
- You have coached at many NPL clubs in the past, what are you doing at the moment in terms of football activity?
I have just agreed to coach at Hills United for next season.
- Did you or do you have any coaching role models you look up to or base your coaching philosophy on?
Because I have been involved in football for so long, there are many role models that inspire me, and they are from all different countries. I was lucky to play for a few great coaches here in Australia who were so different. Terry Hennessy being a brilliant manager of people and with great knowledge of football and the other Len McKendry being a great coach and teacher of how to play football. The principles of play I learned back in 1986 from Len remain with me today. Like life football has changed and you need to adapt or die. You must stay up to date with everything that you can control. I spend a lot of time watching Man City and Liverpool as I believe they have the best two coaches in the world. Interesting that Ange is another I follow, and he also played for Len and his principles are very close to Len McKendry’s. Stevie G is another who inspires me as he talks with passion about parts of the game that you can’t get from a book or from watching the internet.
- What coaching ambitions do you aspire to achieve in the future?
Be an integral part of Hills United winning the league and gain promotion next year
- You’ve played football with and coached many great players over the years can you tell us some of their names and what set them apart from the others?
This question is impossible for me to answer at both playing and coaching, as there were so many great players I played with and have coached.
In both categories the best ones performed when you needed them to. They prepared themselves by training well and doing the correct things, not necessarily physically
but more mentally as the hard work part was already expected. They always made the correct decisions or scored goals when you really needed them.
What I will say is there are some players that I played with and coached that were outstanding as players and people. I am very proud that a lot of the players I coached have gone on and excelled in their football careers.
- Finally what message do you have for all the kids out there who want to chase their footballing dreams?
For the kids chasing a football dream there are plenty great examples of players who played and starred in the EPL. One I would use as an example would be Matt Ryan who is not the tallest goalkeeper but has an unbelievable attitude and focuses jumping higher than his team mates.
Why players with average talent succeed
-They work hard
-Practice hard and with intensity
-Do all the little things well
-Value their role and position in the team