Saturday, July 17, 2010

In The Black

Massively underwhelmed.

How else to describe the reaction to the news that Kenny Black was to become an assistant coach with Craig Levein's Scotland squad?

Well, they maybe found another way to react in Airdrie where running, screaming to the hills probably seemed like the best option.

Black was the Airdrie manager who presided over three successive relegations, a treble claim to fame that's probably not much sought after in managerial circles.

Obviously there is a chance that this achievement has made Black an almighty Jonah and we're all doomed. Let's not dwell on that.

Thinking about it a few things came to mind.

Good coaches don't always make good managers. Alex Miller was endured as much as celebrated as manager of Hibs for a decade. But he went on to coach Liverpool to a Champion's League win.

Managing and coaching require different skills that are maybe not always obvious to the outside observer. Miller's obsession with tactics and systems was a massive plus point as a coach. But as a manager they blinded him to the different personalities within the squad rendering him less effective and often resented by his players.

Black may well fall into the same category.

And Levein has now got the old crew back together. Peter Houston and Kenny Black.

Scotland 2010 will be managed by the men who cut through Leicester in the mid-2000s like a cold knife through partially defrosted butter.

It's a funny thing. I can't think of another profession - maybe politics - which relies on old friends as much as football management.

Time and again we see management teams arrive as a job lot or watch a new boss gradually fill his coaching staff with names from his past.

Maybe it is the transitory, brutal nature of the job. The axe always hovers, blame is always about to be laid at your door. So you surround yourself with old friends and the manager's room becomes a sanctuary, as comfortable and easy as the 19th hole.

Does it work?

Alex Ferguson has, mainly, relied on people he knows and trusts at Manchester United. Brian Clough was diminished without Peter Taylor.

But Bobby Robson, who did alright when he moved abroad, was adamant that to have a chance of success in Holland Steve MacLaren should make the move alone. Maybe that's why Shhteve was so quick to learn the accent.

Fabio Capello had both old friends and new colleagues in his England set-up.

So it can work and it can fail. There's probably not much science to it.

If it makes the manager more comfortable then it's probably a good thing. I've not felt Craig Levein has yet looked at ease as an international manager. That will eventually transmit to the players. If he needs Kenny Black as a security blanket then we'll just have to live with it.

We've not got much in Scottish football. So, for now, we'll just need to make do with putting our trust in Levein.

And how much damage can the assistant coach of the national squad do? Sprain his ankle putting out cones?

Not like he can get the national squad relegated.

Still. Might be worth buying a rabbit's foot for your next trip to Hampden.