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Ross McAloone: A Tale of Redemption

Started on 12 February 2021 by ScottT
Latest Reply on 28 February 2021 by Jack
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ScottT's avatar Group ScottT
2 weeksEdited

Thousands upon thousands of young lads are sold the dream every single year. Scouts acting on behalf of their multi-million pound employers who are in search of the next star that supporters present in the stands can boast about as "one of their own."

There are limited opportunities afforded however and that is something not quite expressed to the thousands of lads brought into academies when the contract is brandished in front of their wide-eyes as they realise this is their opportunity to get onto the ladder of going on to play professional football.

It's a sad reality that there is more heartbreak than success and it seems cruel to suggest anything otherwise.

Despite the huge numbers housed in academies, the opportunity to win a professional contract is growing increasingly slim with clubs in England often looking abroad for established talent rather than casting their attention to the youth academies that are built into the foundations of the football club. It seems that idea is almost from a bygone era.

Clubs have high expectations of these young players. Young players of whom are still in full-time education and still maturing as people.

Ross McAloone was accepted into Newcastle United's academy at the age of twelve after impressing for his local side, Dumfries Athletic, back in his hometown of Annan. His parents, Kathryn and Graeme McAloone, helped their son make the ninety minute journey to training at least four times a week which had a significant impact on the finances of the family with little support from the football club.

It was something that Ross was grateful for and only helped boost his motivations to want to succeed. He promised his parents that he would dedicate himself entirely to the game in order to increase his chances of earning a contract and therefore allow him to compensate his parents in the future for the sacrifices they made for their son.

Ross was a gifted central midfielder. He had obvious footballing ability and work-rate but displayed an intelligence on-and-off the ball that was beyond his tentative years.

He heard very little in the way of opinion on his overall game from the coaching staff at the club but remained confident to the idea he was impressing, nevertheless.

At the end of the 1998/1999 season and following three years in the youth development system at Newcastle, Ross was invited to discuss whether he would be receiving a professional deal upon turning sixteen. A brief ten minute conversation was enough to dismiss Ross as he was told that he would be released that summer.

Just one professional contract was offered amongst the eighteen boys invited to hold talks that day.

"It was cruel," Kathryn McAloone recalls. "Ross had put one-hundred percent into everything and to be dismissed so abruptly... it was unsettling. There was no support put in place to assist him with the next steps. That was it. He was just expected to get on with it."

Ross struggled in the months following his release and tried to keep in contact with some of the other boys who were also released, none of whom were able to find another club willing to take them on. More worryingly however, it soon emerged that one of the boys had ultimately took his own life.

The coroner who presided over the inquest into his death spoke candidly about the circumstances that led up to his passing. She was precise in her words and spoke with a great level of passion. "I find it was that pivotal point that crushed that young man's life and, so with it, his dreams." She stated.

"Football clubs have a duty to support its players and on this occasion it has failed to do so. I am acutely aware that this is a problem that is rampant throughout football and this tragic case should issue a warning and reminder to those clubs about the duty of care they have to support their players. This shouldn't stop upon their release.

It seems to me that for whatever reason, those in charge of supporting these young players have forgotten the people attached to the player and they have been viewed as nothing more than a statistic. I order for there to be significant change." The coroner concluded.

A sobering experience, Ross spent a year out of football with his father expressing that his son had lost his focus and motivation entirely.

"It was understandable. He was thrown out of the academy system with little recognition for the wider consequences it could have. He was out in the wilderness. I lost my son that year - he was a shadow of his former self and it was quite difficult to watch. It seemed like there was nothing that neither myself or my wife could do to help."

Graeme remembers the breakthrough conversation he shared with his son that restored his desire to want to get back into the game.

"Something had to change and I remember being honest with him. I knew Ross loved football - even through that sabbatical, he was still watching football religiously. I challenged him to pick himself up and prove those c*nts at Newcastle wrong. There was nothing that I wanted more and I just needed my son to believe in himself and want to do that himself. Ross was previously a confident player and it was a steady process to rebuild that confidence but we eventually got there."

McAloone had numerous trials throughout England and Scotland with mixed results. He trialled at the likes of Gretna, Carlisle and Queen of the South without obtaining a deal.

"I would have liked one of those spells to work out," Ross states, "but I think rejection didn't scare me as much as it did. I received some kind words from Roddy [Collins] at Carlisle which spurred me on again. I was playing well ignoring the run at Gretna... bit of a nightmare that one!" Ross laughs, recalling how he was sent-off after half an hour after a contentious challenge. "50-50 it was!"

"But the experiences were important to helping me mature and I think that served me well in the long run. What happened at Newcastle was perhaps the lowest of the low so knowing that it couldn't have gotten any worse made me determined to want to go out there and give it another go."

Although Ross never went on to sign for a professional side after leaving Newcastle, he signed for Scottish Division Two (now known as Scottish League One) side Berwick Rangers in 2001. He spent seven further years at Shielfield Park winning promotion back to the third tier after relegation in 2005 before going on to sign for his hometown club, Annan Athletic, in 2008 following their election to the Third Division after the demise of Gretna.

"I was fortunate to call Berwick my home for a number of years. They took a chance on a young lad and I had a good relationship with the supporters. I made just shy of 200 appearances for the club, so it was difficult to walk-away when I did but I couldn't ignore the opportunity that came my way when Annan were elected into the Third Division."

Berwick were relegated the previous season and therefore McAloone would clash with his previous employers in Annan's inaugural campaign in the Scottish Football League system.

"I was approaching the prime of my career and extremely grateful for the opportunities Berwick gave me. The supporters were nothing but excellent when the two sides met again, just as I thought they would be. There was some banter from the terraces which I enjoyed as I always did - that was one highlight of playing in the lower-divisions."

McAloone retired in 2013 at the age of thirty citing that he felt it was the right time to focus on the next stages of his development after amassing a career he was "extremely pleased and grateful for" in view of his early set-backs at Newcastle.

"Whilst I never reached the levels I perhaps dreamt of as a child, I was grateful. I have memories that I will never forget and I met some fantastic people along the way."

From then on, McAloone set his sights on coaching and gained his Continental B License in January 2019 whilst coaching alongside Peter Murphy at Annan.

"I'm hopeful that one day I can be granted the opportunity to get into management. It's something I have wanted to do for a while and I think with the experiences I went through as a player I have a lot that I can teach and share with players.

For now though, I am enjoying my time here at Annan working alongside Peter. When I was invited back to the club, I couldn't refuse. His experience and knowledge has only helped me gain more confidence."

Annan finished seventh in Scottish League Two last season - a division they have remained in since election in 2008 - after the season was curtailed early due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Lovely start. The experiences of McAloone and how that translates into the family-like atmosphere between supporters and players of this lower division side is a nice touch. I wonder if it can be obtained as Annan tries to grow and move up the ladder. Will be watching for further updates!
Oooooh, a ScottT story! Looking forward to seeing Ross's next step, after what was a solid playing career. He's shown his resilience and ability to recover from setbacks, so the managerial game should be a walk in the park for him ;)
This is a really good start mate, I like the backstory you're building in regards to academies.
Great start, Scott :)
A common story throughout football. As supporters we only see the top layers of both players, and we are only shown the top levels of the game on the TV such as the Premier League, Scottish Premiership, etc. We are not so accustomed to the route that eventually >95% of footballers do take which is the lower league route.

There is a wealth of clubs competing at the lower levels, we just don't see or hear of them all too often despite them being such a key part to the football pyramid around the world. It's great to get this perspective from the start of your story, great to have you back.
ScottT's avatar Group ScottT
2 weeksEdited

It felt good to be back. The curtailment of the footballing calendar across Scotland following the Covid-19 outbreak was an understandable decision which ultimately helped to save lives across the nation. The pandemic brought devastation and destruction to families and communities across the world with leaders desperately scrambling for solutions in order to deal with circumstances in which nobody could have foreseen with varying levels of success.

Sacrifices were made by all and we saw the very best from humanity as key-workers did their upmost to ensure that important and essential businesses remained open for operation to help assist the communities they serve. Such a time of heartbreak also demonstrated that there can be warmth during the very bleakest of times with many doing whatever they could to support the vulnerable and those in need of support.

Whilst we cannot and will not forget the challenges that those times presented, it was symbolic for many of us at Annan to be together again with a football at our feet ready to welcome the beginning of a new season in little over two months time.

An announcement made by Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish government confirmed the Scottish League Cup could begin on 10th October 2020 and that, reassuringly, supporters could be welcomed back into stadia once again.

Buoyed by the news, everyone presented to training with energy and enthusiasm. The players were put through their paces with various drills used to monitor the fitness of the squad following an extended absence from football.

Whilst things were put in place for players to maintain themselves during lockdown, it was natural that not everyone would be in the shape they were previously. However, nobody reported back with anything too alarming which was pleasing.

The booming voice of Peter Murphy was present around Galabank as it had been the previous three years. I had an excellent relationship with the gaffer and we were friends both on-and-off the pitch. Peter was a Carlisle United stalwart having served them for over a decade making over 400 appearances for United, only departing the club in 2013, initially leaving to join Celtic Nation of the Northern Football League before heading north of the border with Ayr United prior to taking the job here.

Myself and Peter were very similar in how we analysed the game but I learnt a great deal from his management. He was a young coach, being just 40, and he had a lot of fresh ideas that brought a good level of success to the football club.

Annan were narrowly edged out in the play-off final against Clyde at the end of the 2018/19 season. A slender 1-0 victory at Galabank was cruelly overturned in the second-leg as Jim Chapman, who had left the club in the summer to take the vacant managerial post in Cumbernauld, celebrated at the full-time whistle.

"Gather in, boys," he announced after the training session came to a close. The players slowly gathered, clearly exhausted from a demanding return to training. "I'm pleased with what I've seen today. It's good to have you all back. It has been a difficult number of months for us all and football has been the very least of our worries at times," he continued.

"I want to let you know of a decision I have been pondering for a little while now. The pandemic reminded me of the responsibilities I have at home and normality hasn't quite resumed for our family just yet. It's with that in mind that I am led to reconsider whether I am able to continue as manager of Annan Athletic."

The players looked at each other, mouths ajar in surprise at what they had heard from their manager.

"I held discussions with the chairman earlier today and I will be departing the club following today's session," he confirmed.

"Ross..." Peter resumed before turning towards me, "I forwarded your name onto Mr Jones. I want to see you continue upon the work I started..."


Comments

Spurs1882: The atmosphere at clubs like Annan and other lower-league clubs is certainly unique and special. These people have an attachment that is difficult to break and that sort of passion can only be a good thing.

James:Haha, you lot have inspired me to return! I'm sure Ross' experiences will serve him well should he be afforded the opportunity. It's whether Mr Jones is willing to take the risk!

Feliks: Thanks mate. I'm glad my research and effort was worth it. ;)

Harley: Much appreciated my man.

Jack: Indeed it is. The EFL has become crucial to the Premier League with its negligence of young players. The top-flight is now reliant on the EFL to provide young and often homegrown players an opportunity to develop and flourish that they can't provide. I'm glad I could shine some light on this. Cheers, it's good to be back!
Bit of pressure being put on Ross already, it probably would've been more helpful if Peter had let him know about his decision beforehand! I don't know too much about the Scottish lower leagues tbh, bar a save as Clyde on maybe FM14 or FM15, so I'm looking forward to seeing Annan's journey!
Thrown Ross in at the deep end there! I can understand Peter's reason for leaving, the pandemic has switched many mindsets but now he has left a very senior player in his ranks with a lot to deal with, with not very much to say about it.
ScottT's avatar Group ScottT
2 weeksEdited

Club Statement: McAloone Confirmed As First-Team Manager


8th August 2020

Annan Athletic Football Club are delighted to confirm that first-team coach Ross McAloone has been named as the club's new first-team manager.

Ross needs no introduction. Having played for the club between 2008 and 2013 after a lengthy spell with Berwick Rangers, the 37-year-old returned in July 2018 as part of Peter Murphy's coaching staff where he has been crucial to the club's efforts on-and-off the pitch.

"The decision was fairly straight-forward," says club chairman Philip Jones. "Peter [Murphy] was very honest about who he wanted to see continue upon his work. We held discussions prior to him departing the club and he was vocal in his admiration for Ross and sold the idea perfectly to me. It was a no-brainer in the end."

Following on from his appointment, McAloone penned a new deal with the club which is set to run until the end of the 2020/21 season.

The club are also pleased to announce some further additions to the backroom staff.

Willie Owens and Dougie Anderson have both been appointed as part of the club's scouting team. The pair have signed deals until the end of the season, respectively.


Matthew Wallace has also signed a deal until the end of the season. He joins as part of the club's medical staff and will assist Head Physiotherapist Craig Borner and Fitness Coach/Head of Sports Science Karen Robertson.


McAloone will lead the club's next training session and take charge of his first game as first-team manager when we play host to Northern Premier League Division One side Workington A.F.C. on 29th August 2020 with kick-off at 15:00.

Comments

James: Ross might have said no if Peter had told him beforehand! ;) The Scottish divisions have always been a favourite of mine and I thought after the unsuccessful attempt at a story last year with Elgin, it was only right to give it another go with the save I'm currently enjoying so much.

Jack: Quite so. Ross has wanted an opportunity to go into management but I don't think he quite expected such an opportunity to be sprung upon him like it has.
Good to see you back writing Scoot!

Willie seems like a solid incoming for Annan in the backroom. Exciting times ahead!
1
ScottT's avatar Group ScottT
1 weekEdited

McAloone: Expect More Signings


Annan Athletic boss Ross McAloone has told supporters to expect a flurry of signings in the coming weeks as the club look to prepare for the upcoming season.

McAloone has already been active in the transfer market since being named as Peter Murphy's successor a little over a fortnight ago.

The club moved quickly to announce a trio of signings with the arrivals of Matt Yates, Shaun Struthers and Joshua Bradley-Hurst.

Yates arrived following his release from Scottish Premiership side Hibernian despite having only joined the club in February. The 18-year-old signed a short-term deal at Easter Road after departing Rangers which Hibs manager Jack Ross opted against extending.

McAloone bolstered the attacking ranks at the club further with the signing of Shaun Struthers from St Johnstone.

The 20-year-old signed a professional deal with The Saints in 2017 but was released without ever having featured in the first-team squad.

Struthers spent last season out on loan with League One side Montrose prior to the curtailment of the season. He made nine appearances at Links Park, scoring once in a 3-0 win against Forfar Athletic.

The final signing made was that of former Birmingham City and Celtic goalkeeper Joshua Bradley-Hurst with the 18-year-old attracting interest from a number of sides.

Capped at Under 16 level for Scotland, Bradley-Hurst completed his move to Galabank signing a two-year-deal in the process.

Ross McAloone stated he was delighted with the three new arrivals but reassured supporters that work is still continuing behind the scenes to ensure the squad is in "the best position it can be" ahead of the new season.

"Our work is only just beginning but I am very pleased with how we have started our business. We want to make a statement this season but have to operate shrewdly given the club's financial situation. We're not quite able to compete with some of the others clubs in the division financially-speaking, clubs like your Queen Park's who are privileged enough to be operating on a professional basis and have the budget to support that. That is one of the many challenges we face this season but one I'm really looking forward to.

I've been working very closely with the scouting team and we're always looking to identify the right players to bring to the club. Players that fall in line with what we look for and that will give one-hundred percent. That's the number one thing for me, I want to see players that give a sh*t. Simply put."


Asked on whether or not there will be outgoings at the club, McAloone said: "We won't be completely revamping things but I do want to put my own stamp on the squad. Obviously I know the players and their ability. We have a few difficult decisions to make over the coming weeks about whether some of them will be up to the standard I want them to be.

Given the financial climate as a whole in football, many clubs aren't able to operate in the way they previously would so it makes buying and selling that bit harder. We'll have to see what happens."



Comments

Justice: Much appreciated my man. That's one of your better jokes, fair play. ;)
Ross seems to be putting his faith in youth, but I hope he still has a few older heads that can guide the youngsters out on the pitch. It's a smart way to operate in the lower divisions, as it can help you generate some income via transfer fees if they're a success. Just going off the reputation of the clubs he's most recently been at, I think you can be very excited by getting Matt Yates.

Good to see that you've also strengthened the backroom staff, as they'll play a key role in helping you get the best out of your squad, or helping you find some gems to add to it. WIllie Owens looks like a great pick-up to me.
Yates has got it all for a forward in the lower league: Finishing, heading, composure and acceleration all above 10 - love him already.
Like the physicality of Struthers. Should be a reliable one in the lower leagues.

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