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The path of an ambitious Scot

Started on 23 February 2020 by Imagine
Latest Reply on 21 April 2020 by Big_Wully_Boly
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For the love of the game

As a kid growing up in Glasgow nothing made me happier than running around playing football with friends; be that during school, with football teams or having a good ol' kick about with friends. Now, just because I loved the game didn't mean I was ever any good at it. I'm not one of those guys that gives it the 'big un' saying they could've made it professionally if it wasn't for this, that and the other. No, I was never anything better than an average player in my age group. My best attribute was my lightening quick speed and incessant thirst for a slide tackle, combine both those attributes though and the end result is a hospital visit for someone! As I've said though, I loved the game so it was never about ability more about taking part. Once I had reached the age of around fifteen and in the midst of high school the taking part started to fade away much to my disappointment. I had reached the age where other lads my age wanted to start going out drinking at the weekend and couldn't be bothered with football whereas I had no interest in those activities at the time. So as a result I only ever got a kick about with my younger cousins up until it started to be frowned upon joining in on their games at twenty years old! So I then found myself in a bit of a dilemma... Am I happy not being in and around football games, only being a spectator from that moment on? Well the answer to that question was a definite no. With that question answered the only thing I could think of was to start coaching football instead. I knew I was never going to get a professional job coaching but I wanted to be involved in the game somehow.

Luckily for me my friends dad helps to run my local community centre and through that connection I was able to get myself a voluntary job coaching under 12's which was initially just a kick around for the lads when I joined. After a couple of months in the job and after constant badgering from the boys convincing me to get them a proper team started up I finally relented. However, before I could do this I had to get myself some badges to really get myself on the coaching ladder. With some funding from the community centre I was able to make the initial steps required to coach the age group I was intending to work with. In the time that it had taken me to get those first coaching badges the start of a new season was around the corner and we were able to get our new team registered for our debut campaign. With a bunch of lads not very well accustomed to discipline and structure much less tactical familiarity I knew I had a major battle on my hands that's for sure. However, as it was for me growing up, football was an escape from lives pressures and worries for them and that began to show on the pitch as my initial worries started to fade.

Getting to grips with coaching

As the weeks and months passed in my first ever experience as a football manager it has to be said that I am shattered almost every night as I try to plan and perfect every minuscule detail involved within the job. From getting a regular pitch sorted three times a week for training and games to arranging pick ups for lads whose parents don't drive. Then there is the planning ahead for the opponent's which involves a little scouting which of course I have to do myself. Add to that the pushy parents on the sidelines giving any and everyone abuse whilst dishing out their world class knowledge of the game. As well as working full time and fitting football in with that and arranging cover on shifts at times it is fair to say that management is full on! Even at this level. However, I am absolutely buzzing off of life because I've never been happier doing something in my short lifetime to date. I love being involved in football and more importantly I am loving the coaching aspect too.

With the feel good factor spreading throughout our small team we had begun to create a great bond and our training sessions were attended in full every week with each of the lads turning up with a smile on their faces. That positivity spread through to our games at the weekends and soon we were flying. We weren't playing like a newly formed team we were playing like a team that had went through the wars together; flying into tackles, backing each other up and most importantly scoring a whole lot of goals while playing some pretty nifty football in the process. Game after game we progressed as a team and achieved a whole lot too. We were sitting pretty at the top with a comfortable gap between us and our rivals and had won two cups halfway through the season. I thought things couldn't get much better from that point on... It did.. We only went and won every single one of our remaining seventeen games of the season. We added a further two trophies to our emm.. Well not cabinet since we have to return them but let's just say our growing collection. What a debut season we had and with the season now at an end I have no idea what I am going to do for six weeks!

It became a lifestyle

Fast forward several years and the progress of our club was outstanding as we gained promotion up a couple of divisions and we also had a couple of back to back title winning seasons too. An integral part of our success was the backbone of our squad; Robby McRorie in goal, his twin brother Ross in the centre of defence, Calvin Miller on the right wing and Jai Quitongo upfront. All of whom were with us from the start and showed the potential to do whatever they wanted to in the game professionally. With the lads tearing it up in our team for five years the big boys started to sniff around and all four of those lads moved on. Alongside them another couple of the boys dropped out due to a lack of interest in the game whilst another couple left for teams round about us in the league.

The McCrorie lads were scouted by Rangers, Miller went to Celtic and Quitongo headed for Greenock Morton. All of those moves were a tremendous step up and the lads thoroughly deserved their moves too. They left with my parting words of encouragement and well wishes. What started as a casual hobby to get me involved in the game once again led to a hell of an enjoyable five years of coaching football. With the squad breaking up so suddenly though we didn't have the resources to go and find more players nor did we have the finances from the local council to keep the team going. That culminated in the end of a pretty successful era in which we aided in the development of players playing professionally now.

At the time it seemed like that would also spell the end of my football coaching as I feared that I'd struggle to attain a position in which I would be paid for. At the age of twenty-six I needed to focus on my own future and therefor couldn't commit to another voluntary role due to an increased workload over the past couple of months. I guess the timing of it all was pretty good for all parties. A football less future seemed likely at the time but it had become such a lifestyle for me that I had to ensure that wouldn't be the case.

The coaching pathway

With a constant nagging in my brain that I wasn't done with football I decided that I had to keep at it and suffer the consequences that would come as a result. I decided to chance my arm applying for some positions around the lower leagues of Scotland and England but was given the same answer each time; too inexperienced, too young and unqualified. So yeah, there was nothing I could do about age or inexperience without someone giving me it however it was a bit of an oversight from me that I hadn't yet completed the necessary badges. I guess I thought coaching the youngsters and getting badges on that end meant that I was qualified, not quite. So I set to work on getting all three of my national licenses before soon running out of money and realising I had to get saving once again. I asked my manager in the factory I worked in to give me any and all overtime available and I took on another job doing fast food deliveries... I was determined to get money and try my best to follow my dream, I enjoyed it too much not to.

All the time, effort and money put into that part of my life meant that another part started to suffer from it badly; my love life. As it turned out, girlfriends don't really like being a constant after thought to football and being turned down on every date suggestion because you were studying football 24/7. She felt that strongly against it all that she was compelled to issue an ultimatum; football or me. So we decided parting ways was the best outcome for all. With no girlfriend, no kids or pets or any other such inconvenience/responsibility I was able to focus on my 'career' and sail through my coaching courses. By the time I had passed all three national badges I had saved up enough to start going through my continental ones.

Learning with the best

Whilst on a coaching course to gain my continental B licence I felt like I was in the middle of a meet and greet with professional football players as I was pretty much surrounded by ex pros. People like Barry Ferguson, Kevin Thomson, Gordon Strachan, Paul Hartley, Robbie Neilson Ian Murray and Malky Mackay. Some of them learning like me and some of them leading the coaching sessions. There were more than I could mention but I guess that was to be expected on a coaching course at that level. It was only after finishing my first day of lessons that it sunk in to me... I was learning to coach alongside ex players, not only that, players of a real high calibre and profile too. What the hell was I doing there? How could I compete with these guys for jobs?? Instead of dwelling on that too much though I decided I would use it as an opportunity to enhance my ability by learning from the best whilst being surrounded by them. As it turned out, not all of the former players were totally clued up on the coaching aspect of the game despite their previous experience as a player. That got me thinking... If I could show myself in a positive light as a nobody, yet be more knowledgeable than my more illustrious peers surely I could put myself in a shop window. As the weeks went on I found myself in a group with Ferguson and Thomson and had to pinch myself considering that both of those players were real favourites of mine not more than a couple of years ago. Despite being a little star struck I was able to engage in conversation with them without them being too weirded out by the nobody latching onto them. In actual fact, I feel like we managed to build up something of a friendship although I felt like that could just be one of those things you go along with in the moment because the person is in your company for long periods.

I am tempted to say that the "most important thing of all was successfully gaining my badges" and although that was true; I felt it was crucial that I was able to gain a couple of contacts in and around the professional game that could come in handy one day. Like myself, Kevin Thomson and Barry Ferguson sailed through the course and we were soon parting ways. To my surprise though, the lads invited me out for a drink after our last session and so we decided to head back to the hotel for a right good knees up. It turns out that both of them had also been applying for jobs without much success. Ferguson of course got the Clyde job but, as he said himself, it wasn't the right job for him to progress his career. Kevin has only just finished playing but seemed keen to get right back in about the game straight away. We sort of made a vow that if either of us got a job we'd sound the other out about linking up if possible. To be honest I got the impression that it was just the drink talking in a lot of conversations we had but I was appreciative of the experience and the knowledge gained from the group.

Over the next year I got through my continental A licence meeting some other ex pros along the way but none I knew too much about or got along too well with. I then followed that up by going through my continental pro licence which I believe is the highest you can get. I started on this journey expecting to just plod along and do some voluntary work but my appetite for the game went from strength to strength and I started to believe I could do anything I set my mind to as a result of my progress. It turned out that I was pretty good at coaching too which obviously helped. All I needed next was someone willing to take a punt on me and give me a paying job in the game whilst I set about getting my pro licence.

Some phone calls are worth answering

Going about my everyday life as usual I was in work and had just sat down to eat breakfast when I noticed that I had a voicemail message that had been sent while I was working. Expecting it to be the usual nonsense, someone pocket dialing you or some spam message I decided to ignore it. I was about to enjoy breakfast after a hard first part of my shift and couldn't be bothered looking at my phone. The long hours and two jobs were starting to take their toll on me. I had just completed my pro licence and had already paid it all off so I was hoping that sometime soon I would be able to take a step back from at least one of my jobs. So that I could then spend a bit of time researching how to blag your way into the game!! Or 'job search' to give it it's correct term. It was back to work before I could ponder on any more thoughts. Upon finishing my shift and driving home curiosity got the better of me and I decided to check the voicemail.

"Hi I'm trying to get in contact with Christopher Burns', this is Claire Reid I am calling from the Scottish Football Association on behalf of Malky Mackay. If you could give me a call back on this number 07896*****3 that would be great."

A strange voicemail, I couldn't quite make sense of that one. I wondered if it had something to do with my recent course, had I done something wrong? A million questions went through my head and I'd left it too late in the day to actually call back so I had to wait until the next day! An alarm was immediately set for 9am as I needed to find out what this was about ASAP.

'Hi could I speak to Claire please, it's Christopher Burns' 'Hi Mr Burns it is Claire speaking, it's nice to hear from you, I was calling yesterday on behalf of Malky Mackay as you know from my voicemail, I believe he would like a word with you and I will put you through to him now if that's ok?' Before I could answer I was put on hold and through to Malky Mackay. 'Christopher, thank you for calling back. I won't make this a longer conversation than it has to be, quite frankly I have been impressed with your work the past couple of years and have been following your progress on our training courses. I understand you would like to get into the professional game as soon as possible is that correct?' "Uh yeah." I stumbled. 'Well I'd really like to help in any way I can as I can see that you definitely have a future in the game but I know that you are at a bit of a disadvantage due to your lack experience in the game. I just wanted to give you a call and say that I'd be more than happy to give you a glowing reference for any jobs that you apply for. I'm also just a phone call away if you need any further advice.' 'That would be fantastic Malky, I really appreciate that. I will definitely take you up on that if you're sure that's ok?' 'Of course Chris, as I said, I can tell you have a real passion for the game and I'd really like to see someone like you succeed and if I can help in any way then I will. I will get Claire to send you a message with my email and personal phone number too.' 'That's brilliant Malky thank you very much'

I wasn't expecting that, but to be honest I didn't know what to expect. It was a bit surreal Malky Mackay just calling you up and offering to help you out like that. I guessed that I must've made an impression on him and when I got the message through from Claire I immediately updated my references to add his details. That gave me fresh motivation to apply for jobs that day and I'm glad it did.

A move is on the cards

Getting my coaching badges and actively pursuing a position within professional football has been one hard slog for me since day one. It's obviously worth my time and effort but there's only so many interviews you can attend and get turned down for the role before you get really fed up. I've since quit my job in the factory as I obviously need to try distance myself from that to have any chance of being taken seriously. With no job comes no money though and I've had to dip into the savings that I'd put aside for a house. I'm not too worried about that though because I will get myself a job in football and when I do I can start saving once again. I've made the move down south now too as I want to get a job in England that will help me build my reputation considerably. Being a manager in Scotland just isn't going to do that as you really need to be in charge of Rangers or Celtic to actually achieve anything, that isn't going to happen of course. Other than that you need to pull of a miracle and wrestle the league title from Celtic and maybe pick up the two cups as well! That's entirely unrealistic though so England it is. A friend of mine from school runs his mum and dads b&b down in Newcastle so I've decided to head down there and stay at the b&b for now. I am looking for a house to rent but I don't know how long I'm going to be here so it's hard to find somewhere semi temporary so we'll see what happens with that.

Taking the decision to study football coaching and pay the money I did for my coaching badges didn't go down too well with my family who felt that I was wasting my time and money. They wanted me to study something more "realistic", more "practical" and they weren't slow in telling me so. "You've never played at a decent standard of football in your life, how do you expect a professional team to take you on? You're twenty-six for *bleep*s sake, get a grip son. We only want what's best for you but you're just wasting time and money with this fantasy. Giving up a good job and salary for what? Unemployment? This isn't going to work out, give up now and save yourself the embarrassment." Great motivational speaker my dad is... That was pretty much everyone's reaction when I told them. Is it too hard to ask for a little bit of support? I guess so. After those conversations, or lectures rather, I decided I was moving to England both for my career and to get away from everything bad about Glasgow. If anything all my family done was spur me on even more, I can and will achieve this goal. Now someone give me that chance...

This call was definitely answered

As I'd been applying for any and all football jobs in recent months I'd grown tired of those dreaded 'unsuccessful' emails that followed my applications. I finally got a call back about a job I'd applied for that changed everything. Darlington had received my application and wanted to see me for an interview for the vacant managerial position! I actually didn't know a great deal about Darlington although I did know that it wasn't too far away from Newcastle which was handy. It will take me less than an hour to drive to their stadium which I was informed on the phone was called Blackwell Meadows. I will be meeting up with the managing director, David Johnson, for my interview tomorrow morning. The suit was put in to the dry cleaners for a same day pick up and I set about expanding my knowledge of Darlington.


Darlington Football Club are based in Darlington, County Durham. They are members of the Vanarama National League North, the sixth tier of English football, and play at Blackwell Meadows.The club was founded in 1883, and played its matches at Feethams. The club originally played in regionally organised leagues, and were one of the founding members of the Northern League in 1889. They were first admitted to the Football League when the Third Division North was formed in 1921. They won the Third Division North title in 1925, and their 15th place in the Second Division in 1926 remains their highest ever league finish. After their admission to the League, they spent most of their history in the bottom tier. They won the Third Division North Cup in 1934, their first victory in nationally organised cup competition. They reached the last 16 of the FA Cup twice, and the quarter-final of the Football League Cup once, in 1968. In the early 1990s they won successive titles, in the Conference National in 1990 and the Fourth Division in 1991. In 2011 they won the FA Trophy, defeating Mansfield Town 1–0 at Wembley Stadium.

Darlington moved to the all-seater, 25,000-capacity Darlington Arena in 2003. The cost of the stadium was a major factor in driving the club into administration in 2012. Because the club was unable to agree a Creditors Voluntary Agreement (CVA) it was expelled from the Football Association (FA). A new club was immediately formed but the FA ruled that, as a new club, it must have a different playing name from the expelled club. The name chosen was Darlington 1883, and that club was placed in the Northern League Division One, the ninth tier of English football, for the 2012–13 season. They won three promotions in four seasons before the FA approved their request to change to the traditional Darlington FC name.

The club's traditional colours are black and white shirts, black shorts and black and white socks. The club's crest depicts Locomotion No. 1, referring to the town's railway history; as well as a stylised Quaker hat, referring to the religious movement that had a historic influence on the town, and which was the source of the team's nickname, the Quakers. The club's main rival historically has been Hartlepool United.

Thanks to Wikipedia I was now well versed in all things Darlington as a read through their page gave me plenty of info ahead of my interview with David Johnson. I loaded up my favourite game Football Manager next to check out the squad Darlington have on the game to see if they have anyone of note. The first name I seen is that of Adam Campbell who used to be a great striker in the game for a while but his career has nose dived it would seem. They have Louis Laing at centre back who I remember from his time with Motherwell and Inverness. Campbell seems to be one of the best players at the club and Gary Martin is another important player by the looks of things. Luke Trotman and Will Hatfield also look good on Football Manager but that's not to say it's a true reflection of real life although the game does tend to be pretty accurate. They also appear to have a few injuries and long term ones too. Trotman has a damaged achilles tendon and will be out for a year and a quarter, Joe Weatley is out for four months with a sports hernia, David Atkinson has a damaged knee cap and will be out for between two and four months, Michael Liddle has pulled knee ligaments and will be out for three to four months, finally, Jamie Holmes has damaged knee cruciate ligaments and will miss up to a year. Not minor injuries that's for sure. The youth players are as you would expect them to be at this level and I wouldn't imagine any of them will make it very far in the game. Despite that there are still some good signs.

Haha, and this is a real football manager :) Hold on man, you're great
A really enjoyable read and an excellent start to this story. Best of luck!
Imagine, this is an awesome thread. I enjoyed Flower of Scotland and was disappointed when it ended due to the file corruption and am looking forward to how this will go. Very well put together and organized, one of the best I've read. Looking forward to what you are doing going forward.
Great start to this mate. Looking forward to seeing what comes from this interview! Good luck.

An interview with Darlington FC

David Johnston: Hi Christopher, I'm David Johnson the managing director here at Darlington. Thank you very much for coming along for an interview.

Christopher Burns: Hi David, pleased to meet you. No problem at all, I am grateful for the opportunity.

DJ: Excellent, let's get down to it then. As you are aware, Alun Armstrong left his position as manager after only a couple of weeks due to his personal circumstances changing. So we are interviewing for a new manager and we need to make sure that we get the right man in this time as we are at a crucial stage of the summer as they players are returning from their holidays soon. Tell me about your experiences and qualifications for this job.

CB: Ok, so I was at a cross roads in my life at a young age and decided that I wasn't ready to give up football as the playing side had indicated that would be the case for me so I thought, what next? And I began volunteering at my local community centre helping run some kids clubs and I enjoyed that so much that I decided to create my own youth side and venture into coaching them myself. I picked up some of the earlier badges through the youth centre's funding and that put me in the position to go it alone. Well, I had some help of course I just mean that I wanted to be the one with the biggest say in everything. So once we got started with that we recruited some local players and it really kicked on from there. We gained promotion up a couple of divisions and we also had a couple of back to back title winning seasons too. An integral part of our success was the backbone of our squad; Robby McRorie in goal, his twin brother Ross in the centre of defence, Calvin Miller on the right wing and Jai Quitongo upfront. These lads are all now playing professionally so I helped to aid these lads development.

DJ: Excellent, well done. What about your qualifications?

CB: Sorry, I have spent the past couple of years since the club folded going through each and every one of the courses to gain all the coaching badges necessary in the game and passed every one.

DJ: Oh really? That is surprising, we haven't even had former professionals with all of their badges up to date. You mean up to Continental Pro Licence?

CB: That's right.

DJ: Impressive, very well done. So what happened with the club and what have you done since then in terms of coaching?

CB: We reached a point where all of our best players got picked up by much bigger teams or by professional teams and a lot of the other lads commitment waned as they reached an age where they knew they weren't going to get a career out of the game and the usual pressures of socialising more with friends led to them dropping out. So I made the decision to fold the club as we would've had to start from scratch again or I'd have had to develop another set of youths and to be quite honest I wanted more out of the game once more. That's when I decided that I was going to pursue my coaching badges and as I said, I've spent the past couple of years gaining them.

DJ: So you're looking to get in to the professional game then obviously?

CB: That's the end goal yes, I'm just looking for someone to give me an opportunity to develop as a manager as I believe that I have all the qualities and desire needed to succeed.

DJ: Well, I have to say I have been impressed by you Christopher, I think you could be a breath of fresh air for us at Darlington however, can we go over some other details so we have full disclosure?

CB: Really? Wow. Of course.

DJ: So in our current squad we have thirty-two players across all of our squads, we have two of them loaned out and two of them are also loaned in. We also have five players with long term injuries. In our backroom staff we have four members at the moment. We have a wage budget just shy of £10k and it's crucial that we stay within that budget. If we decided to give you the job then you are free to make the changes that you need to but I ask that you are always wary of the wage budget.

CB: I researched the playing and backroom staff before joining David, I am aware of the long term injuries, especially to Luke Trotman who would have been great to work with. In terms of the current squad I have analysed it and see some scope for improvement across the board however, it's whether we can move any of the current squad on to make way for them as you said. I'll be honest, I will probably be looking to bring in my own backroom staff if I were to get the job, would that be agreeable?

DJ: Nice to see you've done your research Christopher, yeah Trotman is a big loss for us. You can make whichever changes are necessary in order for us to succeed our goals this season whilst staying within our budgets. Speaking of our goals; we want to reach the play-offs this season, we want to reach the first round of the FA Cup and the second round of the FA Trophy. Are you comfortable with that?

CB: I see no reason why this team, with a few addition, can't achieve that. The FA Cup is dependent on who we get I must admit that but we will certainly do our damnedest.

DJ: I'm happy to go along with that. Christopher, it's been a pleasure, we have some other interviews to conduct but I'll tell you this; at the moment, you are the leading candidate after this interview.

CB: Really? That's encouraging to know, in that case I look forward to your call. ;)
@Zeraton: Thank you for that!

@ScottT: Happy to hear that, thank you.

@jahendricksi: Thank you very much! Yeah I was disappointed too as I wanted to win something with them and I'm unlikely to attempt it again. That strikeforce I had with them was going places. Really appreciate that. Also, I'm pretty sure I remember reading something of yours on another forum, did you used to post on Neo?

@TheLFCFan: Thank you mate.

You are reading "The path of an ambitious Scot".

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