“I strongly feel that the only difference between the two teams were the goals that England scored.”
Craig Brown, Clyde Manager 1977-1986, Scotland Manager 1993-2001
FM17 A Scottish Journey – follow the trials and tribulations of lower league management in Scotland.
Episode Links: Intro | Ep 1 2016/17 Season | 3-6-1 Tactics Special | Ep 2 2017/18 Season | Ep 3 2018/19 Season
“Come on in Gary. Can I get you a drink? Fancy a whisky – its single malt?”
“Eh, yeah sure.”
The tension from The Cumbernauld Football Chronicle’s chief – read only – reporter was palpable as he tried to make himself comfortable in my office.
“Try relaxing when you’re sitting on hidden pins” I thought to myself happily before cursing myself for forgetting to put them there.
“We’ve not seen eye-to-eye, Gary, in the past.” I said, “But look – I‘ve been here at Clyde for 3 seasons now. We’ve just had back-to-back promotions. There’s a buzz around the club and around the town. For god’s sake man – you were covering us playing Edinburgh City and Cowdenbeath but now your budget is bigger, your expenses account is getting bigger. You get to do interviews at Falkirk, Ross County, Dunfermline – even Kilmarnock. This is the Championship man! You are big time now!”
I hadn’t noticed but I was now standing immediately behind my nemesis with my glass resting on his right shoulder. He glanced back unsure as to what I was going to do next. I could see fear in his eyes. What was I doing? Had I gone too far to stop now?
“What I am trying to say, Gary”, easing my voice slightly, “is that this is going to be a big year for the club and I could really do with your support. Maybe go easy with the pre-season odds this season?”
“Eh, yeah sure.” he repeated. I wondered how he got into journalism if this was showcasing his gift with words.
“Cheers!” I said and raised my glass.
We totally stormed League One last year and I felt our squad was strong enough this year to compete at the higher level. Summer recruitment was kept to a few players in with some deadwood out. The biggest signing Clyde FC made this year didn’t arrive until mid September. I picked Ryan Hardie up on a free transfer after his release from Rangers. True, Hardie hadnt set the world alight during four loan spells but I still found it unbelievable that no-one else had snapped up this young scottish prospect. Cost us a bit in wages and agent fees but I felt we had to get him on board.
All I look for in cups is glamour ties to make the club some cash. But this season was not kind to us.
After winning our first two games in the League Cup Group stages we were poor in a loss against fellow championship side Dunfermline and even worse against bottom tier Brora. A mistake in team selection saw us struggle to a draw that dropped us out of the competition.
We went a round better than last year in both the Petrofac Training Cup – out in the semi-finals to part timers Queens park during a horrible run of form – and dumped out in the Scottish Cup by Alex Rae’s Premiership side Motherwell.
Our League campaign started well with a bright win at home to Livingston but we crashed down to earth with a bump in the form of 4 points from possible 18 including 3 defeats on the trot. At this point it seemed we were just not good enough to compete at this level so back to the tactics board I went and dug out our old 3-6-1 variations. We needed more stability in defence and packing the midfield meant relying on getting more out of our new signing Hardie.
Strong mid-season run
It worked as we went the next 6 games unbeaten (with 4 wins) and over 15 games we only lost twice as we racked up 31 points from a possible 45 to find ourselves top of the Championship at Christmas.
The New Year is a festive time for most Scots but I think I might sit out NYE 2021 after the dismal form we showed this season. The pressure of being top was too much as we started to lose. First against relegation threatened Kilmarnock then again against a struggling St Mirren. 2 draws were followed by three defeats and suddenly from top spot we found ourselves sliding down to 6th place sitting outside the top four play-off places with 7 games to go.
Grinding out the wins with the 3-6-1 wasn’t working any more. If we are going down, then we are going down with a bang. I knew we had to get the best out of our attacking players again so we got the 4-2-3-1 rolled out again.
We rallied with two wins and a solid away draw to Falkirk to give us hope before a wretched smash-and-grab 2-0 defeat to Kilmarnock at home was followed up by a humiliating 5-0 drubbing by St Mirren at Broadwood – in front of our own women and children!
After tearing the team a new one in the team talk, we responded with a superb win against a strong Raith Rovers – a 6 pointer that saw us draw level on 50 points with them but still sitting in 6th place. With the final game to go against Greenock Morton, 6 teams from Morton in 8th (47 points) to Raith in 3rd (50 points) had a chance to get in the play offs. It was all to play for.
In my heart of hearts, I believed this was as far as I could take this team and that this could well be my final game in charge of Clyde FC.
With fans all glued to their phones and radios listening for results elsewhere our boys started well. Chances were being created and we were playing well without getting that break until Josh Jeffries picked the ball up in space just outside the D of the penalty box. A quick first touch to get it out his feet before lashing it home in off the left hand post. Fearing an onslaught that just didn’t come from Morton we were able to control the game through possession before a 2nd goal killed it completely. Results elsewhere went our way and we had scraped into the play offs at the death.
As was the case this season, the playoff system gives more teams a great chance to play for something come the end of the season but they are flawed. As 3rd placed team we faced a two legged tie against 4th placed Livingston. To be successful in qualifying for the Premiership we’d be looking at 6 games in just 22 days. Starting just 3 days after our Morton game, from the 5th May the schedule would be Tuesday-Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday-Tuesday before a week’s break to Wednesday 27th May. That’s a hell of task for any team but as far as I was concerned these could well be the last of my Clyde FC career and we’d already snatched an extra two games!
First Leg, away to Livingston I made the decision to drop Jeffries from the starting 11. I had found him struggling in big games before – my coaches confirmed my assertion and he was dropped in favour of the more determined Ryan Stevenson for his first start for months. I also wanted to bring Lafferty in – he’d scored twice coming off the bench in previous games so Hardie was dropped deeper into the AP slot. It paid off as Lafferty’s brace gave us a two-nil win gave us the platform to see out a defensive 0-0 at Broadwood.
Two more games!
Falkirk were the best team I faced in the Championship – John Collins’ side were very difficult to beat and with McHugh they have a striker to really fear. What you don’t want before two tough fixtures is your (only) senior goalkeeper, the dependable Wullie Muir, breaking his finger – which is what he did against Livingston. Could be worse though. Oh wait, yes there is our main man Dylan Easton out with a gammy leg.
The first leg at home was a very, very nervous affair. Our defensive midfield rock, Barry Cuddihy, decided to score his first goal of the season after 15 minutes. A lead that we managed to hold onto as we crept increasing further back until it was everyone back, contain! Contain! Contain!
Going away to the Falkirk Stadium we had that clean sheet and a lead to hold onto but we knew the chances were they’d score at some point. What I didn’t expect was for us to score after 2 minutes! Ciaran Lafferty again coming up with the opener to give us a 2-0 lead. Falkirk eventually equalised but we held on to the draw to go through to a very unlikely playoff against Motherwell. Over the two legs, our youth goalkeeper, McCulloch, was up to every test he faced showing he has a bright future. Let’s hope that includes the likely battering he’s going to face against the Steelmen.
For Glory! For History!
We’d already played and lost to Motherwell this year in the Scottish Cup. A result that didn’t mean much to me at the time. Not long ago we were a League Two side, they a well established top tier team. No shame in the defeat away from home. But how was I going to convince my boys that now they had to compete? How was I going to motivate them.
These were the thoughts in my head as I walked into the home dressing room on that balmy May evening.
“Don’t worry gaffer. We’ll show that wee prick!”
It was my captain, Adam Hodge, booming to my right. The whole dressing room was buzzing in agreement.
“What?” I began.
My stalwart Easton hobbled over on his crutches, a scrumpled up piece of paper in his hand.
“It’s this week’s Wishy Press, boss. He’s no gettin away wi it, mate.” he said.
I looked down at the back page. Alex Rae, Motherwell’s manager, was pictured beaming alongside the headline, “Davidson Dud. Rae:I’m the better manager”
“Right boys, you know what to do out there today. Don’t forget who was pushing up for promotion and who was sliding down to relegation. Who was going down?”
“Motherwell!” they chorused
“And who was going up?”
“WHO IS GOING DOWN?”
Damn right, I thought to myself.
We were magnificent to a man. The recalled Stevenson repaid my faith in him by opening the scoring before smacking the ball off Iacovitti’s arse for the second. Lafferty scored an important third to give us that bit more of a cushion. We defended stoutly but their quality showed as Cadden belted in an away goal. Still I was very proud of the team.
The second leg away at Fir Park was a week later because of Motherwell having reached the Scottish Cup Final – they duly lost to Hearts. The rest meant a return for Muir in goals and Easton was fit enough for a place on the bench. We knew they had to come at us in search of goals and the team line-ups had Rae’s side take an attacking 3-4-3 formation. There was no way I was going to try and contain Motherwell for 90 minutes – they’d already shown us they can score goals. Nope. We’re in for a penny, in for a pound.
Sometimes you find life so sweet you have to smile. You cannot help it. You know that things could turn sour, that life can know you right down but there’s no stopping it. 21 minutes into the biggest match in my Clyde FC career and I was smiling like a cheshire cat. 3 goals up away from home to take a 6-1 aggregate lead. Life is sweet. We conceded a consolation goal but that was not enough to take the gloss over what we had achieved.
“What are you doing here, Gallacher?” It was the day after and I was in my office.
“You’re welcome” he sneered.
“What have you ever done for us?”
“That quote from Rae in the press? I got my mate to run the story. I’m already looking forward to my trips to Celtic Park.”
“Well enjoy yourself because I’ll not be there. My Mrs has job offers from Japan, Croatia and a few in South America so we’re out of here. I’ve handed in m y resignation – there’s your exclusive.”
We shook hands and I left Broadwood for the final time.
In four seasons, we had spent no money but still had reached the top tier of the Scottish football pyramid – the Premiership. We’d done it the hardest way possible via a gruelling play off. We had beaten teams much, much bigger than us in terms of finances and attendance. And we had done it playing entertaining football the right way.
But all good things come to an end.
A player already at Clyde FC when I took over, he has been my star man every year. His ability to step up to the standard following promotions has been astounding. He’s a legend.
Hope for the future
Here’s a few unsung hero’s of this season. All these guys were brought in as free transfers.
Ross Ferguson – Deep Lying Playmaker was the metronome of the team.
Adam Hodge – Captain and defensive stalwart was one of my first signings.
Barry Cuddihy – Defensive midfielder who made the role his own as we surged up the league.
Some Season Stats
My Career Snapshots
I hope you have enjoyed this series – I only wish I had started this career save earlier but now FM18 is coming and I need to move on. Keep reading my (more serious) tactical and analysis stuff on Higher Tempo Press and my silly saves will continue on here too. Thanks for reading and supporting. Cheers, Stuart
Get in touch via comments below, twitter – @tommysboy007, or on FM Slack
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