Former Scotland captain Gary McAllister has sounded a warning to Scottish football that the new crop of talented young managers that has emerged in the last couple of seasons will soon be targets for English clubs, and may even be so now.
McAllister, 49, who has managed Coventry City, Leeds United and Aston Villa since retiring from his stellar playing career, is BT Sport’s Scottish football expert for the season ahead, and he is well aware of the success of Jackie McNamara at Dundee United, Paul Hartley at Dundee, Derek McInnes at Aberdeen and Alan Archibald at Partick Thistle.
McAllister said they could be targets even now, given the vacancy at Championship club Huddersfield Town, where manager Mark Robbins was sacked after just one game in charge.
McAllister said: “Down in Yorkshire, Jackie McNamara and Derek McInnes were instantly mentioned for the job, and now Steven Pressley as well. That’s three Scots already named in the papers in Yorkshire that Huddersfield are aware of.
“It’s great to see it, but we have to be aware that clubs south of the border very much have knowledge of how well these young managers are doing, and the clubs have got to protect their managers.”
It is the presence of young managers in the Scottish Premiership that is making McAllister feel positive about the season ahead, and even though he concedes that Celtic are red-hot favourites, the arrival of Ronnie Deila at Parkhead could be a spur for their opponents. “I was not surprised when Neil Lennon left,” said McAllister. “I’ve just got the feeling that you have a shelf life at the Old Firm.
“It’s the demands and the pressures of being manager at these big clubs, these iconic clubs, and I think that Neil knew he had done his bit. He had been very successful, a proper Celtic fellow who did the club proud, but I think he walked at the right time.
“Now the new guy has come in, he has got to learn all this, he doesn’t have the background of having played for Celtic, so that could help the other clubs a wee bit.
“It does take time to adjust and it may just give Aberdeen, Dundee United and Motherwell a bit of hope that they could maybe push Celtic farther towards the end of the season.
“I just hope that Jackie McNamara and the other young managers that have come in will improve in what will be an exciting season for them.”
The absence of their captain Scott Brown with a major hamstring injury is also a minus for Celtic, and for Scotland: “With the challenge of Aberdeen, Dundee United and Motherwell, having Scott missing is a big factor, he’s that influential. It could really impact on Celtic.
“His Scotland form has been fantastic and he has a connection with manager Gordon Strachan – there’s a lot of respect there, and I think Scott has played his best football under Gordon, and he will be a big miss against Germany.”
Nevertheless, Scotland can do well against the world champions: “Why not? We’re on a good run of results, and we have gone away from home and got results, and after all, everyone in Scottish football knows that in 1967, when we we went to Wembley and beat England, we became the world champions.”
Removing his tongue from his cheek, McAllister was adamant his former Leeds and Scotland team-mate Strachan is doing the job as Scotland manager.
“There’s something developing,” said McAllister, “there’s no doubt about that. We’re seeing a lot of togetherness in the squad and a willingness to succeed.”
McAllister’s previous connections with Sky proved vital when BT Sport decided to move seriously into football coverage, as they employed many of McAllister’s colleagues from Sky.
Now he is looking forward to a season in which he will still prefer the Premiership to the Championship even though many pundits feel the latter is where the excitement will be.
“I can see where people are coming from when they say that,” said McAllister, “but the Premiership is always where it’s at for me.
“As much as there’s the Edinburgh derby, and Rangers versus those two, and I would put Falkirk in amongst that as well, I am encouraged that in the Premiership there is going to be a Dundee derby, and Aberdeen will go again and will improve.
“Stuart McCall just keeps producing results at Motherwell, and I like watching Partick Thistle. I think they will change and adapt a little bit, perhaps not attacking so much and getting a better balance. It’s all very positive from them, and they have left themselves exposed defensively on occasion, but I’m sure Alan Archibald will sort that.”
The Championship will be worth watching, especially after Rangers lost their opening fixture at Ibrox against Hearts. The Glasgow giants dwarf even the Edinburgh clubs in terms of resources, but speaking ahead of their away fixture against Falkirk tonight, McAllister said that wins will be harder to come by this season for Rangers.
He said: “Last season they could not play well and still get results, but the message this season, and especially after losing their first match, is that they are going to have to be at the top of their game in every match.
“But as I always say, let’s wait until we are ten games into the season to see how things are going and then we can maybe gauge where everybody is going to be in that division.
“Tonight’s game gives Falkirk a chance to show what they are going to be about this season, to really push on in front of the cameras. They are a good passing side, and if Rangers are to beat them, they will need to improve from Saturday at Ibrox.”
• Falkirk v Rangers is exclusively live on BT Sport 1 from 7:30pm tonight. BT Sport will show seven live SPFL matches before the end of September including Inverness v Celtic (23 August) and Rangers v Hibs (29 September). Visit btsport.com