A Breath of Belief - James McKenzie

Jan 12, 2012
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A Road to Glory - A Breath of Belief
A James McKenzie Story






"Excellent session, James. Thanks for coming along." the Orkney FA president said as he gripped my hand for a firm shake. I'd been put on a boat up to Orkney for a week over the Easter School holidays to do sessions with the younger players, the senior county side and then an introduction to senior management course for a few who were interested enough.

It wasn't the greatest week of my life, it was too windy for my liking and any of the Easter sun effect was lost due to the wind chill. It was a paycheck at the end of the day as I was shipped back to the mainland to my SFA North office in Aberdeen. I had 2 months left on my developmental contract and I still hadn't heard back from Neil Sutherland about an extension, an extension I was so desperate for. I was excited by the way we were moving the Scottish Game on and I wanted to be part of it.

I had been with the SFA for 3 years after I was picked up by Neil Sutherland himself after he was impressed with me at a coaching course. My experience at a playing level was limited. At 19, I played in the Junior Scottish Cup Final against Buckie Thistle, and was almost picked up by Airdrie but I failed to put my priorities in place and went out on a birthday bus the day before and wasn't nearly myself on the day of my trial and was told there was no point in returning and I ended up losing my way before returning to coach a local school boys team..

Eventually things got serious and I managed to get a community coaching job part time along with my job as a postie and here I am, sat on a neat £22,500 a year, in a 2 bedroom flat paid for by the SFA and doing something I am enjoying. But I have 2 months left. And Neil Sutherland is impossible to contact, but I can drop him another email.

But maybe, just maybe, there's a different path for me to go? The end of the season is near and I am sure there has to be some club needing a manager full-time, and why couldn't that be me?
 
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**Hello, everybody! James McKenzie is back with his FM16 journey. The story was relatively well-received last year and was in about the story of the year discussion, but Jamie Carragher and Enrico Pucci were not gonna be easily budged. I can't promise lots of updates because I lack time for FM16 itself, nevermind a story about it. But I should get a fair few done today and tomorrow.**
 
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"Hi Neil, it's James. I dropped you an email the other day but you haven't gotten back to me. Was just calling to say I spoke to HR and they're seeming to think I am not getting to retain my job. I'd like to understand more about why this is, and why you haven't managed to tell me this yourself. Thanks. You know where to contact me." I left the sobering message on Neil Sutherland's answer machine.

I honestly expected HR to tell me a renewal was on its way but a month away from it coming to a close I am told that I will not be kept on, I will not be paid off and I will not be in a position to stay in the flat. My world was flipped very quickly and I was left, stuck and clutching for straws.

The job hunt started immediately. I didn't know what or where to go. I looked at potential management jobs but at the same time I realised I was maybe going back to being an amateur community coach, on a tiny amount of money. Maybe it wouldn't just be training sessions I'd have to be delivering, maybe I was just destined to be a postie. Who knows?

Firstly, I did see that an Old Firm charity group that looked at reforming the youth of Glasgow were looking for a small team of coaches to come in for their new #TrainGlasgow scheme. It would be seen as full-time, with the income ranging from £11,500 - £18,000 dependent on experience. And I would be on the higher end of that. I had a meeting and interview later in the week.
 
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"Obviously thank you for coming today, I think I speak for all of us when we are impressed with what you can offer. From your application, we insisted you would probably get the role and I feel like you can be the team lead and ultimately, look at coming in tomorrow for the other interviews." Valerie said, as she shuffled anxiously and glanced at her two counterparts; David and maybe Lucinda? She was English and her and Valerie both pulled the strings and didn't know a thing about football. But were heavily involved with the Old Firm charity. David too, I didn't like him and he was this obnoxious Celtic fan who knew nothing about the game and spoke so poorly that I couldn't even hazard a guess at his involvement with the charity.

I was dealing with peasants.

These are the people that feed my ego, and no man who takes up a footballing role with a charity should have their ego fed, or an ego at all but I couldn't help it.

"Yeah, sure. I can come in early tomorrow for the interviews. But can we have a proper chat about the money? I'd assume I'd be settling on the £18,000?" I returned, as I began to pack my documents up. However, this is where David stepped in again, but not with awful remarks but with some 'I am a big boy, I can rule this room' stance and I don't really know what was going on before I was forced to agree on a £14,000 a year deal. Whoops.

Either way, I'd gotten myself another football job and could be put up in a decent hostel with travelers until further notice. Not ideal. But it will do. I had to look at something other, but for now. This has to do.

The following day came and went, I was joined by a 19 year old who the charity pretty much forced onto me because of his background and the way he has reformed his life after 3 years in a young offenders for stabbing his 14 year old mate, he'd get £6000 over the course of 12 months. I'd also have us joined by an ex-Celtic Bhoys coach, Gary McGuinness who had resorted to being a labourer over the last season after a change within the way Celtic linked with Bhoys' clubs. He'd get £11,500, and an ex-Glasgow Girls manager, Roger Jakobs, would join on a matching £14,000 which I thought was ludacris but whatever and the final member of the team was Lisa Davis. Who would be seen as a volunteer, even though she is more qualified and experienced in football and youth development than the ex-Convict boy we had to take on.

Anyway, here we were. The team set to take on the adversity and austerity of Glasgow. Yeah..
 

Lippo255

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Jun 3, 2010
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You have no idea how happy i was this morning when i got up at 3am, after tossing & turning all night, & discovered a new Jela story up & running!

Good luck with it mate, will be waiting patiently for updates. :)
 
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Here we were, day one of this Old Firm, Glasgow-based, charity's #TrainGlasgow scheme. I had had two meetings with my team over the past couple of weeks to confirm the way we were going to handle the players, well, people, we would be taking off the streets to kick a ball. We had a futsal arena, booked for 2 hours every day, 5 days a week (No Wednesday or Sunday session, for whatever reason) for the next month.



The teenage boys and girls slowly made their way onto the pitch, and got their bibs from our 19 year old ex-convict who was actually a good help, and had a keen mind to progress his knowledge of the game. However, he never told me his real name and was adamant he was to be called Face. An old nickname for whatever reason.



"Right everybody. Welcome, I am pretty sure everyone else has introduced themselves. I haven't. I am James McKenzie. I was once working full-time with the SFA and was relatively involved with the new 'Positive Scotland / Coaching / Mind' policy we have throughout Scotland and was looking like I was going to be a big part of further development of youth but I ended up here instead which I am more than excited about. We can do a lot here, guys. It isn't just about getting you off the streets. It is about getting you guys involved in something special and let's make this special. Today is just 5's, but tomorrow is where we get working."



And nobody really listened. But a few weeks went by and July arrived, we had a lot more showing up and it was all pretty incredible. We began to do a 'Squad' competition, where after each week I would pick an 18 man squad and it was something they could work for. It wasn't anything special until I was approached by Celtic Community Coach, approached Gary (the once Bhoys Coach) to say about a weekly tie between the two and then Rangers' Community squad hopped on board and this was what players worked for. A spot in a round-robin tournament every Sunday with Celtic and Rangers' respective Community Squads.



However, things changed quickly and changed they did.
 
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"Hi, James McKenzie. Who's calling?" I said as I sat on the edge of my bottom bunk in a Glasgow Hostel. It was a fine hostel, and the location was alright but I was desperate for a move into a flat or anything.

"It's Valerie, have you not got my number saved?" She awkwardly joked, I responded with some noise to show my acknowledgement and allowed her to continue the conversation.

"We have had contact from a Scottish club who are, how do I say it, interested in your services..?" she spoke slowly and surely, unsure on the wording and deliverance of the statement. Valerie, of course, being the head of the #TrainGlasgow scheme I was the head development officer within.

We continued to speak, they didn't have an official contact to me so went through the SFA for help locating a new manager and were sent my way, and had spoken to both Rangers and Celtics Community Squads about myself.

I had interview on Tuesday.

In England.


 
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Berwick Rangers are a well-respected, Scottish club that just so happen to be based south of the border. They have a nice ground, decent financial state and a decent enough squad for League Two, the Scottish Fourth Tier. Now, that doesn't on paper sound to exciting, but this would be a managerial role. I'd earn more as I am currently earning and it would mean a foot in the door.

The foot in the door would be at the bottom of the bottom, and I would have to succeed for future success but I think I have found my calling. This is what I want, I want to manage, I want to be involved with football at the highest of levels and this is definitely a step in the right direction. It isn't working with a charity, but it is working with a semi-professional club.


"We were more than happy with how you conducted the interview, Mr McKenzie. This is what we were looking at offering.." The voice said over the phone, Jimmy Crease, the clubs director spoke.

"£250 per week, until May 2016. With this, we will give you £15,000 to work with and in return want the play offs and hopefully promotion. A third round tie in the Scottish Cup would be good too."

"I would almost certainly agree, but I want to be pushing over the £18,000 per year mark on my income. Could be work ourselves up to £350 per week? Realistically for me to live while working for you, I'd need that. At least." I returned, nervous. I knew the money I needed prior to the call.

"Yes, we can look at that. We are also still looking at a local Bed and Breakfast for you to stay at until you either find your own place or whatever. Can we have you in at noon tomorrow to sign the deal and announce it to fans. Thanks."

 
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Berwick Rangers is a Scottish League Two club, who play from Shielfield Park, in Berwick-Upon-Tweed, England. Making them the only club playing in the Scottish Professional Football League from England. The history regarding their location and such went over my head and really I just want to focus on my new job. I had one part time scout and had to locate my own staff, all of which would be part time deals. The club isn't full time, which isn't a surprise obviously, and thus no one has full time roles at the club. Meaning we train twice a week and play once.



My first day at the club included a meeting with the chairman, Brian Porteous; Director, Jimmy Crease; Fans' Committee Chair, Derrick Boldman; and captain Jonny Fairbairn.

It was a relatively interesting meeting. We first spoke about the staff situation. I would be allowed to hire 3 members of staff. Of course, that meant getting myself an assistant manager, a fitness coach and either a goalkeeping coach or general coach. I looked at my options over the next couple of weeks and pinpointed a general coach over a goalkeeping coach and myself and the general coach took the keeper responsibilities. Along with this I'd need a physio to join the scout at the club.

From here, we moved on to discuss playing staff. I had the £15,000 budget, a decent wage budget and a list of potential players available presented to me on behalf of the scout who was working. The squad will need some work, I have had a look at a few reports and 20 minutes of training. The player profiles and such presented to me showed we needed more. Most players at this level are happy to trial anyway, and that will always have to be the case.

From here, we had a proper speak about what we wanted from the year ahead. In the league, I was expected to lead us to the play-offs. The idea of promotion was exciting and the club had everything slowly making its way into place for the club to progress to the higher reaches of the game. We had a decent sized stadium that has a lot of potential for expansion if ever necessary and we had a healthy back balance. In the Scottish Cup, the board wanted us to make the third round, which will mean one win but I reckon we can easily make the fourth round as that is when the big boys join up. Imagine a tie at Parkhead or Ibrox.. The other competitions weren't deemed too important.

Anyway, I had to focus, we have our competitive start in a fortnight..

//


I have obviously played on and missed screenshots of players and such, so as the story progresses we will eventually have a proper look at our squad. Very keen to catch up with myself anyway!​
 

Mkmillwall

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Feb 11, 2014
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Your best bets are Lavery and Graham, they do well at this level. Currently doing an Arbroath save a few seasons on, you can get Dylan Easton from Elgin on precontract in a few months, he is a good Scottish Championship player. Also check out Allan Smith from Stenhousemuir, same situation on precontract and good for Championship. Hope this helps :)
 
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Your best bets are Lavery and Graham, they do well at this level. Currently doing an Arbroath save a few seasons on, you can get Dylan Easton from Elgin on precontract in a few months, he is a good Scottish Championship player. Also check out Allan Smith from Stenhousemuir, same situation on precontract and good for Championship. Hope this helps :)
Wee spoiler then for the sake of conversation, Lavery has been solid, had a dry patch but returned recently. As has Graham but doesn't start too much for me now because of a few loanees. Will have a look at pre contracts, thanks!
 
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Assembling Berwick Rangers



"Sounds good to me, I'll be in on Wednesday then. Thanks." Kevin said as we concluded our final phone conversation to confirm the beginning of his journey into the world of football coaching. Kevin Kyle, who made 10 appearances for Scotland, while being a top man at Hearts, he also had a forgettable time at Rangers before he resorted to cleaning and working on barges in the Northern Isles. However, here he is. Joining me at Berwick Rangers on around £8,000 per annum, £2,000 short of his income on the barge per year and £2,000 short of his weekly wage at Rangers.

The 34 year old has himself a UEFA B License, and a lot of Professional experience, I can even learn from this man but it'll be huge to a lot of players. Especially younger ones with the dreams of reaching the top.






Kevin Kyle joins General Coach, Willie Aitchinson, who has done some work within the SFA, a lot of community work and worked professionally with Hearts' youth before he got cut, and then eventually had a 6 month spell in charge of East Fife. Since then he has focused on community work but has returned as a coach with Berwick Rangers. He has himself a UEFA Pro License, and a lot of experience with the youth and SFA. He'll be a huge help. Realistically, he is my right hand man but Kevin is learning too.



Fitness is a huge aspect of the lower league game, so with that we hunted for a qualified, relatively experienced fitness coach. With that came the 33 year old Andrew Leishman. He originates from a Athletics Sport Centre outside of Edinburgh where he was employed part-time, he then made a big move into football to work with Queen of the South for 2 years before Kilmarnock called upon his services. He had a one year deal there before he left due to issues at home. He worked with community clubs voluntarily and did some contract work with the SFA and now has himself a part time job with us.



Donald Ritchie would get the shout about joining as our head Physio. He had done youth work with Forfar as well as working part-time in a chiropractors, it means he isn't just a physio with us but also an extra footballing head as we develop our skills, squad and club. He left Forfar as his use with the youth was no longer required and he spent a few months working physiotherapy full-time but is now also with Berwick Rangers.



We are currently working on bringing in another physio and working on our Scouting set-up, but it depends on a few factors. We do have Steve Ferier as our current head of Scouting, but he has been since I came in. I would like to get rid of him but he has been here since 2007 and the fans' Committee weren't keen on his release. He doesn't exactly get paid with us either, and I dislike his reports but he can remain in place until his current deal runs out in May.

 
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Settling In




"Relatively hectic two days, and I know we have training today but there is more pressing matters."
Crease opened up, I had 3 training sessions and a friendly with the boys and we had our first game on Saturday but apparently there was more important things to be discussed. We had ex-Scottish International, Celtic, and Hibernian player Derek Riordan join us on trial with the full intention of joining up for the day and I was supposed to talk about a realistic contract and such with the man.

I was keen for him to join, he would bring a wealth of knowledge with him and like Kevin Kyle be a huge part of the dressing room atmosphere, plus he would actually be on the park. With this, I had to officially meet the press. Which was a 2 day thing, day one would have the local BBC station, and the local paper and radio join a few fans to drop me a few questions and then tomorrow I had to do a piece for BBC Get Inspired that would feature on a pre-season web-based Sportscene due to the interest in my appointment at the club.

It would mean publicity for myself and of course the club. Realistically in the long run that is only a good thing, and honestly I am excited by this club. Everything is almost in place for us to realistically get a promotion or two under our belts and I would love to take us places. A few additions this year could have us challenge for the play-offs easily and with that it is complete pot luck but if promotion does come our way there is no reason for us not to repeat it next year with a few more additions. Financially we are probably a division or two ahead of our league and our stadium has a load of potential, nevermind the 4500 it can already house.

Things could be okay. If Berwick Rangers wasn't going to be my calling and we didn't hit the big time then there is no reason why I can't show off here, and do alright before making a move on myself. Whether I stayed in 'England' or hopped over the border to a bigger Scottish Club. Who knows?

The World is Mine.


 
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"My background? I played at a really low level once upon a time. I played in the Junior Scottish Cup final and almost played with a second tier side but kind of lost my way and had misplaced priorities."

"From there, I ended up doing local coaching before moving into community football roles and then eventually had my efforts and dedication picked up by the SFA and I got myself into a full time role and I was there for 3 or so years before I found myself being let go."

"I was devastated, I was heavily involved with our Positive Coaching Scotland stuff but I had to move on and worked with a Glasgow charity that works with youngsters from poor backgrounds. They have a lot of work with the Old Firm and with this, they had a #TrainGlasgow Scheme where I was the head of development and that was fun but I got a call one day about this job and things changed."

"And I am so excited for what is ahead of me. This is me now in the door of football management and what a special club to be at. Sure, from the outside it could look like a small, nowhere going, Scottish club. But there is real potential here and I am so excited. The stadium, finances, players. Everything is in place for success here."

"Do I think Berwick Rangers could make it as a top flight club? Of course, I need some ambition to succeed. Realistically that could be a few years down the line, but I'd love to see us through to that point. I'm not here for a year or two and then hop off. They put a trust in an inexperienced, young man and I have to pay that back."

"Hopefully I can do that someday. I can do anything if I want to."


 
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