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Old order faces youthful challenge

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Jim Spence | 21:31 UK time, Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Craig Levein, Mark McGhee and Jim Gannon signify the changing of the old guard and the coming of the new breed of football manager in Scotland - and it's a welcome development.

All three are articulate, media savvy and thoughtfully opinionated in their musings on the game. They ally their football experience with an understanding of social trends and change, and a readiness to embrace these, whether it be in re-working youth systems, their managerial techniques, or their willingness to challenge a cosy media consensus.

Similarly, a new breed of supporter has been patiently working to ensure that the old order of Scottish football must accept change.

Dundee United manager Craig Levein
David Edgar of the Rangers Trust once told me that Light Blues fans had the "big man in the big hoose mentality" - that cringing Scottish readiness to accept what one's betters insist is good for you.

Along with his fellow Trust members, he must now be gratified to witness a much more bolshie side to the Rangers support, as the fans contemplate a buyout.

Presumably, they've concluded that they can make no worse a job of running the club than those who got it into the current mess.

But highly intelligent managers and highly qualified fans alike face some serious opposition. They are often too sharp and too clever by half according to those who currently run the game and whose power is threatened by those inclined to a more open, democratic and accountable approach.

For the three managers mentioned and others emerging of a similar ilk, the game's ruling bodies and, indeed, even some referees and members of the media, may see them as too much of a threat to the status quo and that marks them out as dangerous and unpredictable.

All three have been eloquent and vocal in defence of perceived wrongs against their clubs and, while those in authority bristle at criticism, in a healthy and mature democracy, a concept often alien to Scotland, it is a welcome and overdue development.

For organised fans groups, too, there is a danger. They threaten the power base of some who instinctively feel it is their birthright to run clubs or organisations like the Scottish FA, Scottish Premier League, or Scottish Football League as personal fiefdoms and who respond with arrogance and disdain to fresh and innovative thinking.

But the good news is that intelligence will win out.

In a world of modern communications, the truth shall indeed set you free if you are a manager or a supporter ready to challenge the established order.

Football fans now communicate instantaneously and, in a world of Twitter, email and You Tube, the football establishment is open to a scrutiny never before endured.

Information is shared in an instant around the football community and there is no hiding place for duplicity.

The old football order will fight to the death, but "the times they are a changin", as Bob Dylan said, and football will have to change with them.


  • Comment number 1.

    There is nothing new about these guys. Jock Stein visited Italy to see how the Italians trained and Eddie Turnbull had his own unique ideas. There are a host of others that were 'new' in their day. Of course the present ones are railing against decisions taken against their own clubs but that is nothing new either. If they were speaking up on perceived wrongs against other clubs . . . . now that would be a first.

  • Comment number 2.

    If they were speaking up on perceived wrongs against other clubs . . . . now that would be a first.


    you mean like Jim Gannon on saturday?

  • Comment number 3.

    Yep, Motherwell were not hard done by on saturday, but Gannon was complaining about the general standard of refereeing - hindering the game rather than letting it flow.

  • Comment number 4.

    I'm not entirely convinced that Mr McGhee's comments are or have been the most 'eloquent'. His and indeed those remarks from the AFC website in the aftermath of the Hibs game would tend to suggest rampant paranoia. The comments and attitude spouting from AFC suggest a Ferguson like adoption of a' wronged' mentality. That is neither an adult or responsible attitude.
    In Gannon's case,I understand that during his tenure at Stockport he acquired a reputation for verbal jousting with officialdom. Therefore, his criticism of Refereeing in the SPL is a rehash of his opinions historically.

  • Comment number 5.

    Change is what it's all about. I didn't know that Bob Dylan was a fan of Scottish football but if he was he would probably have said:

    Come gather 'round Fans
    Wherever you roam
    And admit that the waters
    Around you have grown
    And accept it that soon
    You'll be drenched to the bone
    If your Clubs to you
    Are worth savin'
    Then you better start swimmin'
    Or they'll sink like a stone
    For the times they are a-changin'.

    Come journalists, critics
    Who prophesize with your pen
    And keep your eyes wide
    The chance won't come again
    And don't speak too soon
    For the wheel's still in spin
    And there's no tellin' who
    That it's namin'
    For you’re losers now
    And you know you can’t win
    For the times they are a-changin'.

    Come Club Chairmen, Managers
    Please heed the call
    Don't stand in the Goalmouth
    Don't deflate the ball
    For he that gets hurt
    Will be he who has stalled
    There's a battle outside
    And it is ragin'
    It'll shake your existance
    As Third Lanark still calls
    For the times they are a-changin'.

    Come SFA fathers
    Throughout all the land
    Please don't criticize
    What you can't understand
    Your sons and your daughters
    Are beyond your command
    Your old road is
    Rapidly agin'
    Please get out of the new one
    If you can't lend your hand
    For the times they are a-changin'.

    The line it is drawn
    The curse it is cast
    For clubs that were once first
    Are now sinking fast
    As the present now
    Will later be past
    The order is
    Rapidly fadin'
    We’re no longer first now
    ‘Cause we’re comin’ last
    For the times they are a-changin'.

    Like Bob Dylan had the sense to point out, we all contribute to Change.

    If anyone is thinking of making a contribution - make it a good one.

  • Comment number 6.

    Its good to see this in managers. The two Jimmy's went round europe to try and improve their coaching abilities. I think there should be a rule that any manager working in the SPL has to spend at least week every year at a top european club watching how they train players (should be extended out to the SFA and SPL blazers). Could tie it into a two week winter shutdown.

  • Comment number 7.

    Now that I’ve calmed down after venting my Spleen at your evoking the name of Bob Dylan, I suppose I can forgive you for what I saw as misconstruing the message he was trying to convey.

    On Your Call recently, Jim Traynor asked 3 questions on behalf of one disillusioned fan:

    ‘how do we get rid of the Blazers?’
    ‘how do we make them look at league reconstruction?’
    ‘how do we make them admit that things are wrong and that we need to start again?’

    Whilst Your Call, Sportsound, Blogs and the like offer fans a means of getting things off their chests, they are hardly likely to have any real effect. People have the right to express their views and it is right that they do so but as I pointed out in an email to Jim Traynor (which I doubt will se the light of day), references to ‘Blazers’ and ‘Old Farts’ will only harden the resolve of the SFA.

    Looking for a hero to lead the charge against them may give some fans a feeling of hope but whether we like it or not, the only person in a position to provide real leadership needed to bring change is the SFA Chief Executive.

    Write to him, keep it clean (he has a secretary), keep it short, don’t confuse the issue by demanding this change or that, just demand change. Tell him what you will do if he fails to deliver, make it something that is within your power to do, e.g. find some other way to spend your hard earned cash, join the growing campaign for his resignation if you feel that way, vote with you feet or whatever, but keep it short and to the point.

    They say the ‘pen is mightier than the sword’ but don’t wield it like an axe.

    People have suggested that’s time we dig a big hole bury the SFA. Why go to all that effort when you can bury them under a pile of mail.
    Write that letter, tell your friends and telll them to tell theirs. Send the letter and resend it until the message gets through.


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