The Rangers legend and North Queensland Fury boss talks Robbie Fowler, Oz and being nicer Hey Ian.You’ve been Down Under since 2002, so who do you support when Scotland play Australia in say the rugby? Oh mate, haha. You’re trying to put me in the corner here aren’t you? Oh look, I’m no rugby fan, haha.
Haha. Very clever… On you go. Next question. Haha.
Have you travelled much in Australia outside of football? Before I came to Townsville to work for the Fury I came for a holiday with my family on Magnetic Island, which was beautiful, a lovely spot. Then you’ve got Brisbane as well. There are a lot of beautiful spots in Australia.
As a Rangers player you won 10 league titles. Which was your favourite? Your first one is special. But the one that sticks in my mind was the ninth, which equalled the Celtic record of nine championships in a row. That’s a special one.
How did your move to Oz come about? I had an option to go to Australia or America. I was with Dunfermline, but they gave me time off because I was suspended. I came down here and they put me up in this beautiful place, Manly (Sydney) and I fell in love with the country. The family talked it over, but it wasn’t a very difficult choice.
When did you decide you wanted to be a manager? [Central Coast Mariners boss and fellow Scot] Lawrie McKinna asked for some help and took me on as his assistant. I was there for five years until the Fury came along.
Lawrie said your partnership was “good cop bad cop”… Yeah, I was always the bad cop mate! We had a good relationship. Lawrie would get his bit over and if he was hard on the boys I would go softly softly and vice-versa. But mostly I was the one doing the ranting and raving, letting the players know standards have to be met. We got a good response out of them – we got to two Grand Finals.
As you go from coach to manager do you find yourself being nicer? Definitely. That’s something I’m very conscious off. It’s a very different approach. There are times when I’ve got to put an arm round someone and times when I’ve got to kick someone up the backside. I’ve just got to be honest and players will respect that.
You always played with the right side of your shirt hanging outside your shorts. Any similar superstitions as a manager? I do like to be clean shaven for a game. It’s not brought me much luck with [pre-season] results, haha. But I keep on doing it.
With Fury being a new team built from scratch it must have been a bit like playing Fantasy Football… Look, it’s probably been my toughest time [in football]. There have been players you think you’ve got and they change their mind at the last moment. And players who’ve have contracts signed and haven’t turned up. So that’s frustrating. It’s been really tough and there’s lots of work still to be done. It’s been quite testing. But it’s been enjoyable as well, it’s been an experience. It’s a unique way to get your first gig: go and get 23 players and get them to blend within three months. There have been a few ups and downs and I’m sure there will be more. I’ve relished it.
So what’s the aim for the season? I want to make the team competitive, to get credibility and to be hard to beat. Hopefully we’ll collect some winning performances along the way.
How good is the A-League really? I think the quality is superior now to what it’s ever been. There are good quality players coming, Socceroos are coming back and we’ve got people like Robbie Fowler here.
Is Robbie Fowler fully fit now? We don’t want to give him too much of a workload because he’s just coming back into training. We’re really pleased with his progress and the work he’s putting in. We’ve got to be sure that we don’t break him again by throwing him in at the deep end.
North Queensland Fury kick off their A-League season in Townsville against Sydney FC on Saturday 8th at 5.30pm. For more info visit www.northqueenslandfc.com.au