‘True grit’ key to our success says visiting Scottish coach
Scottish football might struggle to unearth the quality players of yesteryear but when it comes to breeding top coaches the nation can certainly claim to be the ‘master race'.
Despite the recent retirement of manager par-excellence Alex Ferguson — arguably the most inspirational boss of all-time — the Scots continue to retain a significant presence in the English Premier League.
Ferguson's successor David Moyes has endured a baptism of fire in the Old Trafford hot-seat but left a legacy to be proud of at his former club Everton. Then there's Aston Villa's Paul Lambert, Cardiff City's Malky Mackay and West Bromwich Albion's Steve Clarke who represent the new breed of Scottish managers, carving out impressive careers in the English top-flight.
So just why do the Scots seem more canny than their English managerial counterparts?
According to Donald Park, the Scottish Football Association (SFA) head of coaching education, it seems the secret is at the very heart of the Scottish psyche.
“I think it's probably in spite of our coaching courses not because of it!” jokes Park, who is visiting Bermuda to spearhead a UEFA B Licence course in collaboration with the ABC Football School and Bermuda Football Association. “I really don't know, I think perhaps it's our grit. I hope (Scottish managers) continue to do well because it really helps our coaching courses.
“The good thing for us is that most of our coaches working in England have been through our coaching education system.
“Malkay (Mackay) is fantastic and has done all our courses. Andres (Villas-Boas) also came through the Scottish system while Jose (Mourinho) did his B Licence in Scotland.”
Park has spent almost two weeks in Bermuda helping a dozen or so local coaches work towards their UEFA B License course, having already completed the C Licence laid on by ABC Football School and their technical adviser Jacques Crevoisier.
While Park stresses the importance of coaching education, he says it's not simply tactical nous that makes a good coach: desire and drive are equally important.
“We don't want to say it's all about our coaching courses,” says the former Hearts midfielder. “It's about the people and their desire and drive to be meticulous in what they do.
“It doesn't mean to say you're going to be a good coach just because you've got a qualification. I mean, you can still be pretty poor coach with a qualification and you can be pretty good without one.”
That being said, Park believes it's vital a small Island such as Bermuda produces its own coaches.
And he feels it's important the top jobs, like the national team coach and Academy director, currently performed by Andrew Bascome and Richard Todd, continue to be occupied by Bermudians.
“It's absolutely important Bermuda nurtures its own coaches because then they will achieve more as those people will care more.”
“I wouldn't say they will be more committed (than a foreigner) but they will have a genuine love for the people and the Bermudian game.
“I'm not saying you can't get overseas guys to help because Scotland has a Dutch coach (Mark Wotte) as our performance director, but you need people from the country to fill important positions as well.”
Park revealed that Bermuda was his first overseas coaching assignment since his appointment by the SFA in 2009. He plans to return to the Island next April for the second phase of the B Licence course.
“It was great for the SFA to be asked by Jacques Crevoisier to come here and be involved in the B Licence.
“I was interested to see what the differences would be in terms culture.
“I think people are more laid back in this part of the world and I've probably had to change my style a little bit.”
The 60-year-old has a wealth of experience coaching in Scotland. Prior to joining the SFA he was assistant coach at Hibernian and previously worked at Meadowbank Thistle, Inverness, Hearts, Arbroath and Raith Rovers.
Park admits he still misses the “cutting edge” of top-flight coaching but not the pressures that come with such a results orientated role.
“I do miss being involved at the club level; I miss the cutting edge of the game but I think my wife's happier as life is a bit smoother and not so much of a rollercoaster!”