It is hardly the Bernabau but for some Cliftonhill has replaced the home of Partick Thistle for thrills under their player/manager Darren Young.
The hard-working manager of Albion Rovers who has experienced promotions both as a player and a manager, has appeared in a couple of cup finals and is as hard working as any full-time manager.
Scotzine’s Donald Stewart caught up with The Wee Rovers manager earlier this month as he talked to our man before he took in two under 20s games as he continued to search for new talent to bolster his squad.
Darren, how would you sum up your season so far?
Pretty good. I know that a lot of people probably didn’t give us much of a chance and to be fair, you can kind of understand that but the first half of the season is over and we are sitting in a playoff spot.
We have probably over achieved at this stage and whilst we had a target of just surviving in the league at Board level, that was not the ambition in the dressing room. You obviously want to do as well as you can do and after a great first quarter where we picked up 13 points we have managed a further 15 in the second quarter so things are good but we are under no illusions.
Whilst we don’t see ourselves necessarily winning the league and 8th spot was our realistic target, anything else above that would be fantastic. Now that we are in a playoff spot with over half the season gone, we are not getting ahead of ourselves. Of course, we have changed our outlook and want to do as well as we can but for the club being where we are is down to some serious hard work. If we keep working hard we shall get our just rewards.
So promotion to the Championship might not be the target for this year?
Promotion last year strangely brought me a smaller squad and a smaller playing budget. People think that because of the games against Rangers we ended up with a pot of money into which we can dip whenever we need it. That’s not the case.
The money we got from those games had to go into paying off debt that left us back to facing reality. We are a small club that needs to live within its means and that means we have to be careful. So realistically this year we want to be as high as we can be at the end of the season and being in 4th with two games in hand feels good.
Albion Rovers have tried to be highly innovative in bringing fans through the door – was this one of the reasons you were attracted to come to Albion Rovers to manage?
Absolutely. They sold me on the ideas behind the club and it was what I was looking for. I was looking for an opportunity to manage and continue playing which I can keep doing at Rovers but I also wanted to earn my right to manage.
With all respect to Albion Rovers, I wanted to come in at the ground level and learn the trade. I didn’t want to get the opportunity to manage a club in a higher league without getting to know at grassroots level what managing was all about.
I have noticed how hard working the people are at the club in getting new advertising in and trying to get more fans through the door. Their ambition kind of matched mine so it was good to come here.
So are the boots still likely to go on?
If I can get a chance to get into the team, yes. I can’t use the fact that I am the manager to pick myself. Right now there are people who have earned the right to play in the team so I have to sit on the bench like every other player and bide my time.
I also have players who want to get a game and are just back from injury whilst the guys who have come into the first eleven are doing a good job.
I can’t pick myself ahead of others who are doing the job and then tell players in the same boat they are not getting a game because the guys in front of them are producing the goods. The good thing for me as a manager is that the players are playing well, as a player it’s a pain.
Is the squad something you will be able to add to during the transfer window?
We shall be keeping within our means but I hope to add a couple of players. This year we have a reduced squad which makes life difficult so I would really like to add a couple of players in.
We did have targets which we are ahead of. We were walking around, as coaches, with a few names on paper and in our heads that could come to us or be approached but then things happen which scuppered them.
We had 2 or 3 players in mind for January but these were fringe players at clubs in leagues above us who have now got closer to their own first team so coming to us looks less attractive. I know that when you don’t see or hear about names that could be coming to the club that supporters might think we are doing nothing to attract people but we are looking all the time but circumstances and things out of our control can get in the way.
It’s the same when some players are not getting games and sitting on the bench. Supporters might think it’s because I don’t want to play them or am just daft because I am not playing them but there are reasons and explanations are never easy.
So, how difficult is it for someone who has had the majority of his career as a full-time footballer to work in part-time football?
The dedication that some of our players have is exceptional. They can be doing a 9 to 5 job, coming to training on Tuesdays and Thursdays, playing on a Saturday and fitting in a couple of gym sessions often on the Monday and Wednesday nights.
To do all that, turn out for your club and get pelters for not playing well but yet keep coming back is unbelievable.
These guys are really putting a shift in. Don’t get me wrong after a couple of great games there can be players who think they are 90 minutes away from a big move and they start to walk tall and strut themselves but you need to be producing that kind of form week in and week out before you can progress.
The amount of effort the boys put in to play each week is phenomenal and it’s great for them and for the fans to see us sitting where we are in the league because of that. There are things which are hard but it is what it is. There is no point moaning about it.
As a manager who played under some big names and big personalities – Ebbe Skovdahl, Allan Moore, Jimmy Calderwood and Paul Hartley – is there one who taught you more than any other?
I think you take different things from different people. There is not one that stands out but I think I can say that I learnt something from every one of them.
I was always the guy taking notes and wondering whether a drill needed to be quicker or we needed to work on something else like a set play. To get the chance to put some of my ideas into practice has been good. What it doesn’t prepare you for is how all-consuming the job is.
I am sitting in places thinking about football, sleeping and thinking, getting up and thinking and it’s all about the next game. That can be hard on people around you but supporters sometimes, I think, don’t always realise how hard people are working on the inside of a club just to get a good product on the park.
he time spent on getting to training early to organise things, get the equipment ready, sort the facilities, organise contracts and understand why players are not playing as well this week as they did next. It could be a massive number of things that have got nothing to do with football but as a manager, your job could hinge upon it.
It has also been a learning curve because as a player I turned up trained and never gave it a second thought how things all got there. Now I have to think about everything. I also never knew or realised about the finances.
Now that I am working with a playing budget and trying to get the best squad whilst seeing how the money comes into the club you can understand why there is not as much money for players’ wages as you would want there to be. Getting to know the business side of football has been a real eye opener.
Finally, Darren, how important to Darren Young’s career was Derek Young?
Probably very important. Would I have gone out and done as much as I did on my own? Possibly not and having your brother with you for quite a bit of the time was important.
Obviously, he always knew I was the better player and I got him quite a few good moves but I did look out for him a bit during games and in the dressing rooms as I was the big brother. I was reading something by Barry Ferguson the other day and he was writing about how football was as kids for us. We came in from school and went straight out for a game, got shouted in for your tea and as quick as you could eat it you were back out.
I see kids now and at times I think they are coached where we just learnt. It was with your mates and uncoordinated but it was passing, learning how to use both feet, shape and so on, all with mates. Having my brother there and in teams I was playing with obviously helped a lot because it meant I was learning and there was someone there to learn with.
Sometimes I see kids who have the gear and the attitude but have missed that basic element of training hard for no reward. They get the kit, the latest boots whilst we were playing for fun on greens, against walls and with no kit. Nowadays you can’t play for your school or play in other games when we just played and played and played. Though as Derek always knew who was the best between us it worked well!
I come across a lot of footballing people and I am struck by the enthusiasm and hard work that goes into their professional approach; Darren Young was no different as he slipped away for yet another scouting duty that was surely top of the supporter’s agenda for January.
Thanks to Darren for taking the time out of his busy schedule to talk to us.