Alex Smith: Scottish clubs should not overlook experienced managers

Alex Smith
Alex Smith is chair of the League Managers' Association

Alex Smith fears experienced managers are being overlooked for jobs in Scottish football as part of a thirst by clubs to appoint younger bosses.

Smith has managed eight Scottish clubs, including St Mirren and Aberdeen, winning the Scottish Cup twice.

The 77-year-old also chairs Scotland's League Managers' Association.

"A lot of good, experienced managers get ignored now because they are experienced, they have set ways of working," Smith told BBC Scotland.

"You see a lot of trends where clubs will go and get the experienced manager in when they're in a desperate situation. He'll get them out that situation, but then they want a young manager.

"There's no set rule - the ideal situation is to have a good, experienced manager with very good young coaches."

In Scotland's top flight, half of the league's 12 teams are under the stewardship of first-time managers.

Ian Cathro, 30, is in charge at Hearts, former club stalwart Richie Foran, 36, manages Inverness, and ex-Hamilton defender Martin Canning, 35, has the reins at New Douglas Park.


Meanwhile, Kilmarnock have 39-year-old Lee McCulloch in charge and Dundee are led by Neil McCann, 42, with both men in charge on an interim basis.

Partick Thistle handed Alan Archibald, 39, his first managerial role in 2013 and the former defender remains in situ four years on as the division's longest-serving manager, having guided the Jags to a maiden top-six finish this term.

Despite his advancing years, Smith remains active within the Scottish game, working with Falkirk manager Peter Houston as the club's technical director.

"At Falkirk we have Peter, who is excellent, and has served his apprenticeship throughout the game as a coach in several clubs and as manager with Dundee United," Smith added.

"But he's got two very good coaches with him in James McDonaugh and Alan Maybury. These two bring their enthusiasm and their freshness to the table. And Peter has the knowledge and experience."

During a tumultuous two-year spell at Dundee United, Smith says he drew on his experience to haul his side from perilous situations.

Trailing by two goals to St Johnstone at half-time, United were heading for relegation in the penultimate weekend of the 2000-01 season.

Smith believes a younger, less seasoned manager would not have had the nous to make the requisite changes, and rouse his players to snatch a dramatic 3-2 victory, all but securing their top-flight status.

Pedro Caixinha and Ian Cathro
At 30, Ian Cathro (right) is the youngest manager in the Scottish Premiership

"A young manager couldn't have done that," Smith said. "He could have had the anger, he could have had the aggression, but the knowledge in his head wouldn't have been as complete.

"Because whilst you were angry and ranting a bit, what you were saying was absolutely bang-on, and you were depending on your experience of past situations to get you through that game.

"That's where it becomes vital, and the young manager then picks that up and he takes it forward with him."

Former Dundee United midfielder John Rankin believes players need an experienced lieutenant to guide them through their first steps in management.

"When you make that transition from player to manager, I think you need a more experienced member as an assistant to help you along and bridge that," said Rankin, who is PFA Scotland's chairman.

"Ultimately if you've got that man on your shoulder, he would be able to help and advise you."

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