IT SAYS much about the precarious business of football management that a third anniversary of being in a job is worthy of note.
Stuart McCall, who reached that landmark with Motherwell yesterday, is the sixth-longest serving manager in Scottish senior football, while in the Premiership itself only St Mirren boss Danny Lennon and Celtic manager Neil Lennon have been in their current posts longer.
There is no doubt McCall’s three years at Fir Park since succeeding Craig Brown have been a success, encompassing one Scottish Cup Final appearance and a top flight win percentage ratio which is currently the best of any manager in the club’s history.
However, the former Rangers and Scotland midfielder admits he harboured initial fears his time in charge of Motherwell would be extremely short-lived.
“If I’m honest, I didn’t think I’d last three weeks after the start I had,” reflected McCall. “We drew my first game 0-0 at Hamilton, then managed to get a good win in the Scottish Cup against Dundee at Dens Park when everyone was tipping a shock. But then we went to Tannadice and lost 2-0.
“Even then, I was getting shouts of ‘Sort it out, McCall’ from some of the punters. I can remember coming home that day and saying to the missus ‘Listen, forget about putting the house in Harrogate up for sale, I might only be here for three months’.
“I don’t think I was the most popular appointment among a few of our fans which was probably down to the seven successful years I had as a Rangers player. That always happens when you’ve played for one of the Old Firm teams and then go to another club. It’s only a minority, but that minority are usually the loudest and they certainly were that day at Tannadice.
“Looking back, I knew I was following a good management team in Craig Brown and Archie Knox and I knew how popular they were. But it was an opportunity I was desperate to take.
“I can now look back on some great moments. There was beating Dundee United 3-0 at home in the Scottish Cup in my first season to get into the semi-finals, then obviously the semi-final victory against St Johnstone and then leading the team out for their first Scottish Cup Final in 20 years. That was brilliant.
“Managing to beat Celtic at Fir Park three times has been fantastic, leading the team into Champions League qualifiers and other European ties has also been great.
“Last season, we scored more goals than any Motherwell team in a season for 50 years. As a manager, you are quite proud of things like that.
“There have been so many good moments here, I’ve been very fortunate. The club have backed us as well as they can.”
McCall could have called time on his Motherwell tenure in the summer when he was offered the chance to return to former club Sheffield United as manager. His rejection of that opportunity raised eyebrows, although David Weir’s subsequent experience at Bramall Lane suggests it was a shrewd decision.
“When we were travelling to our game at Partick on Sunday, I opened a paper and saw Davie Provan’s column where he said I was ‘potty’ to knock back Sheffield United last summer,” added McCall. “A lot of people told me that at the time.
“But people who know me know I’m quite a loyal person. The club have given me an opportunity here. We knew it was going to be tough in the summer, with the players who were out of contract.
“There had to be a big overhaul. But I felt I wanted to show some kind of loyalty to the club who have been good to me, also to my staff and the players.
“If you want to get linked with other jobs, you can. I could have spoken to lots of clubs last January and also in the summer. But, hand on heart, I wasn’t interested. Grass isn’t always greener on the other side. If you’re happy coming into work, that’s a big thing. It’s not lack of ambition, as a few people have maybe suggested.
“When we had a bad run recently, losing to Albion Rovers in the Scottish Cup and suffering a couple of heavy home defeats in the league against Dundee United and Celtic, even my missus said to me that I must have a few regrets about not taking the Sheffield United job now.
“But you always get challenges in this game and it’s been nice to see how the players have reacted, winning our last four league games and getting back to second place in the table. I’m happy with the decision I made because I love coming into work every morning at this club.
“It’s an achievement to last three years anywhere as a manager these days. You see managers losing their jobs all over. I think the average timescale in England is around ten months. Anything can happen. Look at Dundee United, they won six games on the bounce and were flying, then they lose two in a row and people talk about it differently. Things change so quickly in football.
“You shouldn’t get too high with the highs or too low with the lows in football. I certainly don’t get too high at the high points, but I do get too low with the low points. That’s just the nature of the job unfortunately.
“But I’m fortunate with the staff and players I have here, from my assistant Kenny Black to the kit man. We don’t have dieticians, sports analysts or Pro-Zone here but we do have a fantastic staff.
“The dressing room has a strong mentality, they knuckle down after disappointments as they’ve shown in the past month. To have 37 points at the halfway stage of the season is a credit to them all, after all the players we lost last summer.”
LONGEST SERVING MANAGERS - TOP 10
1, Dick Campbell, Forfar Athletic, 8 May 2008
2, Ross Jack, Elgin City, 23 January 2009
3, Neil Lennon, Celtic, 25 March 2010
4, Paul Sheerin, Arbroath, 27 May 2010
5, Danny Lennon, St Mirren, 7 June 2010
6, Stuart McCall, Motherwell, 30 December 2010
7, Jim Duffy, Clyde, 6 February 2011
8, Paul Hartley, Alloa Athletic, 17 May 2011
9, John Coughlin, East Stirling, 30 May 2011
10, Ally McCoist, Rangers, 1 June 2011