A Royal Rumble-style contest between the backroom staff would be a glorious way to judge who has the biggest pair of balls!
Justice, this is for you:
He treated them like the big boys and they seemed to like that a lot.
It was a regular Championship away day as far as Roy was concerned, and he made sure the youngsters got the full treatment. They needed to know what it was like with the first team, anyway, and those who already knew expected no less.
Roy couldn’t bring a full team to Rugby Park. Counting noses the night before, Roy and Litmanen could only come up with 17 viable players for the match squad. No matter – they got the full tactical briefing, same as the senior team. So, when they took the pitch they were ready.
GK – Jamie Sneddon
DR – Shea Gordon
DC – Alex Pascanu
DL – James Penrice
MR – Lee Duncanson
MC – Anton Eadie
MC – Callum Wilson
ML – Jack Storer
ST – Jai Quitongo
ST – Evan Galasso
There was a sprinkling of senior team experience in that group – Gordon, Pascanu and Storer had sniffed around the edges of Roy’s XI on most match days – and Max Melbourne, who had done more than sniff, was on the substitute’s bench.
The crowd was under 1,000 but that didn’t matter to the players on either team who were getting debuts in cup competition. The match was still full-blooded.
The cubs did well. It was the young striker Quitongo, one of the club’s brightest prospects, who got things started in 27 minutes by turning in a perfect cross from Storey. Honestly, it was nothing less than their play deserved, and Thistle led.
Having dominated possession, it was a good first half in every way for Thistle, who continued their dominance in the second half.
Goals wouldn’t come, though, not that any more were really needed. For Roy the trick was to keep his players from getting frustrated, so the manager played the role of nursemaid on the touchline, trying to instill confidence and keep the players from the kind of switch-off that might really damage confidence by getting them beaten.
Happily for Thistle, young Aiden Fitzpatrick lifted spirits still further with a very well-taken goal in 71 minutes, with Callum Wilson the provider. The young players were coming good and they were fun to watch in the process.
To put icing on the cake, Galasso was bundled over in the penalty area in added time and the penalty was given. Quitongo completed his brace with the last kick of the match and the final scoreline was more reflective of the Jags’ dominance.
IRN-BRU Cup First Round – Kilmarnock Reserves 0-3 Partick Thistle
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Making the competition look like putty in your hands, keep smashing 'em sideways!
A great performance from the young squad. Thistle are looking to be a very well-managed team under Roy, far from the side of last season in which was relegated from the Scottish Premiership.
This is a good start. Team has the potential to be pretty good!
Roy’s decision to play a youth side when the rules didn’t require it raised a few eyebrows around the team. But he was determined to get the players into at least a few first-team games even if it was in a cup competition where the rules were a bit odd.
Two Welsh Premier League teams – TNS and Connah’s Quay – joined two Northern Irish Premier Division teams, two Irish Premier Division teams and two English Conference National sides starting in the second round.
As a result, Bohemians, Sligo Rovers, Crusaders, Coleraine, Sutton and Boreham Wood would all join the draw in the next round with the Scottish clubs, with Scottish Premier teams required to field youth sides.
But the board had made its feelings pretty clear – they didn’t rate the IRN-BRU and as such Roy was free to do as he pleased in terms of fielding a side.
The senior squad didn’t seem to mind – time off was time off, after all – and he hoped it would help keep the team fresher overall.
That was important since just three days after the cup tie, it was off to Dundee for the first meeting of the season with the Terrors. It was important to get off on the right foot so playing youngsters to save the legs of the first team was justifiable for more than one reason.
While it was only the third match of the season, Dundee was one of the punters’ favorites for promotion along with Ross County. And the Jags would have to find a way to win without Tam Scobbie, who was on loan from United and thus ineligible to play.
In short, it was standard stuff, but a match that would be used to establish bragging rights early in the season.
It was also a good time to be playing away – the team had real momentum from the Betfred Cup and spirits were high. It was a good test against a promotion favorite away from home.
Roy tried his best to instill a big-match atmosphere in senior training leading up to the trip, but it was hard to hide the fact that it was still the dog days of summer and as such he had only limited success.
What he could demand from them, however, was hard work and application in training no matter what time of year it was. Some of his old West Ham friends would have been proud to see Roy chewing on his best players for taking drills off or letting their focus wander.
“That’s what got you relegated,” he would snap, but only at players who had been there the season before. For the new arrivals, he would simply say “You want a promotion pay rise? You won’t get it like that.”
The next step in the process was Roy getting across to the players that he was hard on them for their benefit.
Anyone can scream and shout and demand. Generally, those types of people are known as “dictators”.
When he was a player, Roy liked being complimented because he knew his manager meant it. False compliments were to be avoided at all costs. But for Roy’s master plan to work, early results were important to obtain.
Then when he took a player aside, or dressed down a player for not training hard, they would know why. He was fair, he didn’t play favorites, and he made his feelings known.
“We don’t hold training for your enjoyment,” he would sometimes say when things were going particularly poorly on a given day, or some variation of it. “We hold training for your benefit. And before you leave here today, that’s what you will do. You will benefit. That’s my job and it’s my promise. Now, do that drill again.”
So when the team boarded the coach for Dundee, they were, more or less, on the same sheet of music.
# # #
I love Roy. His management style is blunt and honest and I feel that's sometimes the best way to be. Especially as he does so in such a fashion that won't upset the squad so much that they refuse to play under him *cough* Roy Keane *cough*
Same hymn sheet for real or just to please the manager?
There's only one way to find out!
The word was that the fans weren’t happy Roy had paid a transfer fee for another central defender.
Tom O’Brien was Roy’s selection to replace Scobbie in the XI due to the central defender’s loan restriction and there he was, next to Thomas O’Ware in the middle of the Jags’ back line.
He looked nervous and Roy didn’t appreciate the heat the young man was already having to take so soon into his Thistle career.
Purchased for £5,000 from Arbroath, some of the fans felt that was £5,000 too much. Well, the lad was big, strong as an ox, and could jump, head and man-mark, and do so while staying in good position. What else could you expect from a squad-depth purchase?
Yet it was almost as though the fans didn’t want him there. That was annoying to Roy, but everyone in Partick Thistle colors was smiling only nine minutes into the game.
Adrianinho had curled a simply stunning free kick around the Terrors wall and past Matej Rakovan from every bit of thirty yards to put Thistle in front.
It was a genuine goal-of-the-season caliber strike and to say it lifted spirits would be an understatement.
He hadn’t cost anything, and the wags were sure to note that. But he was on close to £1000 per week, three times O’Brien’s wage. Fans never seemed to notice those kinds of things in the midst of all their gripes.
So they led, and settled in to the long slog of trying to stay a step ahead of a half-decent United side, one with a little pace albeit no flair whatsoever.
But then it was the former Rangers and Dunfermline man Nicky Clark squeezing his way past O’Ware – whom everybody loved – and beating Bell to his far post in 23 minutes to get the match level again.
It was a man’s goal, to be sure – power against power, and the attacker had won this time. O’Ware gave himself a moment after the goal, but the hulking center-half had been second best and he knew it.
It was O’Brien, of all people, who mussed O’Ware’s hair and escorted him back to his line. Roy could read his lips – “just don’t let the bugger do that again” and saw another reason why O’Brien was a good purchase. He was a teammate.
Thistle was always dangerous going forward in the first half, finding time to squeeze off 15 attempts at goal in the opening 45 minutes alone. So it was that Roy gave an upbeat team talk – as far as he was concerned, his had been much the better side even if it didn’t show on the scoreboard.
The second half saw the home team come out like gangbusters, getting more of the possession and finding ways through to Bell. But the keeper stood firm, the defense got the lines cleared and now on the counter, the Jags looked dangerous in a completely different way.
With Coulibaly “couled off”, if you will, his place in the XI went to Kris Doolan, the veteran striker and sometime u-18 coach, but the big man wasn’t effective and Roy replaced him with the Ivorian just after the hour.
The one constant in the team was the oldest player on the pitch. The Brazilian seemed to have found the fountain of youth – dangerous going forward, quick to backtrack and God forgive you if you gave the man a set piece.
Yet, there was no way through for either side in the second half. The match ended in a stalemate, and the Jags went home disappointed for more reasons than one.
Ross County had won to keep its 100 percent record, dropping Partick Thistle to second in the table.
Ladbrokes Championship Match #3 – Dundee United 1-1 Partick Thistle
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"We try not to dwell on those things. There’s a lot of season left and we showed that we match up pretty well with a promotion favorite away from home. I think this is a point gained.”
Roy was answering the inevitable question from the pack of journos who seemed to thrive on making life difficult for managers. “Since they scored after you, do you think you lost two points today,” “why couldn’t you hold this lead,” “why does a bear s**t in the woods,” those sorts of questions.
When someone finally asked about Adrianinho’s goal, Roy cracked a sideways smile.
“Sometimes when you tell players to play for set pieces they just groan a bit but on this team, they look at who’s taking them and they grin from ear to ear,” Roy said. “That was a brilliant goal by a brilliant dead ball specialist. We have confidence in every set piece we take when Adrianinho is on the pitch.”
“Does that add pressure?”
“I guess I should have seen that question coming,” Roy said, in an unhappier mood. “No, it’s not a negative and it’s not intended to be a negative. Sometimes I wonder if you lot sit up in the press room during the match and look for ways to turn good things into bad things.”
That put a damper on the rest of the questioning, which was just what Roy wanted.
Sometimes, if you play your cards right, you can control the direction of the media’s questions.
Of course, in the snowflake world of the modern player, saying something nice can lead to pressure. When Roy was growing up, players lived and died on the words of their gaffer – now most of them seemed to rely more on their agents.
So the question had been valid. Roy just didn’t want to give the answer the reporter was looking for. And by burying the question, he changed the direction of the interview.
He was surprised at how easily he had gotten away with it. Roy put it down to being new, with smart journalists wanting to build relationship with him.
With that, the Jags got back on the coach for Glasgow and Roy got a chance to text his family on the trip.
“If it makes you feel any better, I miss you,” Kate texted.
Roy smiled and leaned back in his seat. That was always the best part of even a great day at the office – coming home to know that his home front was secure.
Now the fixture list pointed homeward again. After a brief rest period, the Jags would host Morton – but that team had an away trip to Ibrox in the Betfred Cup on the Thursday, so he hoped Rangers would suitably soften up his next opposition beforehand.
As the coach rolled toward Glasgow, Roy had a long think and then asked O’Brien to come to the front of the coach.
Nervously, the new man approached and sat across from Roy.
“You want to see me, boss?” he asked.
Roy took a deep breath. “Yes, I do,” he said. “I just want you to know that I’m none too pleased with how the away support treated you today. I think it may have affected you and I think it’s down to me to tell you that you have my full confidence.”
O’Brien took a deep breath.
“I appreciate that,” he finally said. “If I’m honest, yeah, I heard them. Who couldn’t have heard them? It wasn’t great to hear, let me tell you.”
“Well, I heard it too,” Roy responded. “Just remember that at least for the time being I have you as a backup to the first team so you can get your feet wet but that in no way changes how I think of you or your ability to play the game. Are we clear?”
The defender nodded and smiled. “Yeah, gaffer, we’re clear.”
“Good. Enjoy the trip home,” Roy replied. “You’ve got work ahead of you.”
# # #
Rangers dismissed Morton from the Betfred Cup in a rather cavalier fashion, by a 3-1 count that flattered the visitors heavily despite two goals in arrears. Rangers could have scored six or seven and as such Roy had lots of interesting video to look at after the match to see where the Blueshirts had gone wrong.
He thought he found a few vulnerabilities in Morton’s back line and spent the days between matches preparing a few small variations to the standard match plan to exploit them.
Roy was a possession man first, figuring that if you have the ball there’s no way your opponent can score. That meant playing for control out of the back and a slow and careful buildup that emphasized good decisions, crisp passing and sharing of the ball in that buildup until the time arrived to pass into space and run onto the ball like banshees.
It was working, but it wasn’t exactly Total Football in that regard and it hadn’t been tested against high-caliber opposition. There had to be a better way.
In part to avoid the accusations of a lack of tactical acumen that he was already starting to hear, Roy decided to try a few different ideas for Morton – and since he was very much his own man, he reserved the right to change them back if he didn’t like them.
The main change came in the area of distribution. For the first few matches Roy wanted Bell to be very conservative, rolling the ball out to a full back or finding a high-percentage pass which would allow his team time for that patient buildup he craved.
That may have been safe, but it was also dry as dust. Litmanen had quietly been working on Roy for weeks to allow for faster distribution and allowing Bell to take advantage of what he saw on the pitch.
Finally, one day over lunch, Roy gave in.
“Jari, we’ll try it but if we lose that way you’re probably going to come in and find every bit of training kit you own wrapped in cellophane.”
“Could be worse,” the Finn said. “You could sack me.”
“Don’t tempt me,” Roy smiled. But he had tried to get across to everyone at the club that he wanted to hear different ideas and would adopt those which made sense.
He had to prove it. This was one way.
So at the tactical briefing before the Morton match he unveiled his new scheme, which involved greater freedom all over the park, long distribution and starting the match with a positive outlook instead of the neutral approach he liked when he wanted to see how a match was going to shake out.
“I’m turning you loose on this lot,” he said, and the looks he received from around the room ranged from surprised to pleased to incredulous.
He then went through the plan and to a man, there was agreement that this was better. But, Roy had a qualifying statement to make as well.
“That isn’t to say we won’t play in different ways,” he said. “There will be times when we’ll shackle you up to protect a lead or when there’s a particular way I feel we should play. But when we’re at home against a team we should have the beating of, I want to see what you have up your sleeves. Don’t let me down.”
He had come far enough with the team that he could use that specific phrase without fear of it sounding like an ego trip.
Roy smiled. “Or better yet, don’t let him down,” he said, jerking a thumb at Litmanen sitting across the room to the squad’s delight.
# # #
Tactical versatility = check
It's only versatile if it gets you three points :D
To look at Morton, it was as if they had never seen a team trying to stretch them before.
From the beginning, the Jags were much more attractive to watch, especially whenever the long stuff connected. They weren’t a long-ball team, far from it, but in selected instances they soon found they could strike like lightning.
Roy still had his buildup play – but it started farther up the park and the difference was noticeable. The young Chelsea forward Islam Feruz was the first to take advantage, ghosting between the central defenders to latch on to Bell’s goal kick, finishing deftly past keeper Ryan Scully (no relation) thirteen minutes into the match.
There was a good crowd on hand – nearly 6,000 came out on a windswept first day of September – with more than a few light jackets to be seen in the 12-degree temperature.
As fun as that early goal was, Roy’s intention was to be solid from the goal outward and that meant keeping shape. Playing with two out-and-out wingers as Roy was doing along with at least one overlapping fullback in attack meant his team could be stretched out on the counterattack if they weren’t careful. Hence, his continual instructions to players to keep their shape off the ball.
And for the level of competition at which they played, they hadn’t really had significant difficulty. Morton wasn’t providing much of a challenge either.
Part of that was due to a bit of a gulf in class between the sides, but the rest was due to some truly nice defensive positioning by Roy’s men.
They were compact and tight across the back and since Morton was also playing 4-4-2, it wasn’t terribly difficult to match up with them on a player-to-player basis for marking purposes.
The first half saw a few more decent chances for the Jags but nothing else in the goal, which gave Roy the opportunity to give his team his favorite kind of team talk.
They had performed well and earned their lead, which meant he could be positive, but they hadn’t put the opposition away and couldn’t afford complacency.
Roy’s team talk was therefore centered around continued application, hard work and putting in a ninety-minute shift.
The second half saw the Jags continuing to play nearly immaculate team defense, holding Morton away from the goal and even from decent shooting areas with ease, but not finding a way to put the game to bed.
That is, until Craig Slater took over.
Not as scorer, mind you, but as provider. He put two perfect lead balls right on the toes of Chris Erskine in the 74th minute and little-used Andrea Mutombo ten minutes later. Both players took their chances and a 1-0 lead ballooned to 3-0 with six minutes to play.
The fans could sing, the players could breathe more easily and a short time later, the Jags could celebrate a nice bounce-back win after a previously disappointing result.
Ladbrokes Championship Match #4 – Partick Thistle 3-0 Morton
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It's also good to see the team bounce back in rather resounding fashion after a previous set-back. Come on you Jags!
Thank you, sir! Looks like it might be a fun season for us...
Kate smiled. She loved looking to her left in the morning and seeing her husband beside her.
They had come home together the night before, and Roy had introduced his bride to the club’s board after the match.
They all met in the Ambassadors Lounge, located in the Jackie Husband Stand, which was across the pitch from the players’ benches in front of the Colin Weir Stand.
The lounge was the third largest of four hospitality rooms at Firhill – the Alan Rough Lounge, the Aitken Suite and the board room itself were the others in order of size – but it was the most intimate.
Firhill itself was built in 1909 and also serves as the home of Glasgow Warriors Rugby. It’s got stands on three sides with the south end ready to expand when finances permit. That end, which is a grass berm, is known to supporters as The Bing.
It certainly didn’t have the star power of Ibrox, so much of which was designed by the master himself, Archibald Leitch; or the size and stature of Parkhead, or Paradise as Celtic supporters like to call it. It was Glasgow’s fourth stadium, when you throw in Hampden Park for good measure.
But to survive in today’s game, you have to have facilities to match, and so the old place got an internal facelift to host corporate clients on match days.
The crowd had been decent – over five thousand, for the second home match of the league campaign – but one area where the club was going to have to start doing better was in the area of hospitality and corporate money.
Rangers and Celtic would suck the life out of most clubs in Scotland in that department but to have to share the same city with the two monsters meant opportunities weren’t as numerous. And of course, getting relegated out of the Premier League hadn’t helped matters either.
So while everyone met Kate, and the couple got to share its good news, they also got a bit of a primer about life north of the border in footballing terms.
“I’m afraid the board meeting won’t have much good news for you,” Low said, “other than that we love the job you’re doing.”
“Well, it isn’t good,” Low replied. “Not being in the Premier League isn’t helping the bank balances.”
Roy had noticed that going back to the start of the calendar year, there wasn’t a single month save for June – when the season ticket receipts came in – where the club had shown a profit.
That was cause for concern. There are clubs which receive large sums from their board members to help keep the books balanced but the idea of long-term debt was appalling to everyone at the club. This was especially clear to people like Colin Weir, who had given so much to help retire the club’s previous debt.
That meant a number of potential consequences. The board was likely to keep more transfer revenue, or it could even mandate the selling of players. With the start the Jags were off to, nobody wanted that to happen.
Yet the reality of the modern game is that clubs don’t have cash to throw around anymore, if they aren’t owned by Dubai tycoons. Staying in the top flight in your country is vital and since Thistle hadn’t done that the previous season, they were now having to pay the piper.
The next day, Low did what Roy thought she would do. She reduced available transfer revenue to 35 percent as the club posted a six-figure loss for the month.
That was to be expected. For all practical purposes, Roy was being told to win with what he had.
However, there was a nice consolation prize. The Ladbrokes Championship Manager of the Month award bore Roy Scully’s name. It would make a nice bauble for his office.
# # #
The financial situation doesn't sound fantastic, but that is to be expected when you lose out on the finances of the top flight. Hopefully the effects won't provide too many issues and the squad can continue to get the results on the pitch, eventually leading the club back to the Premiership!
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