From ex-Scotland managers Walter Smith and Craig Brown to current Manchester United boss David Moyes, Gary Naysmith’s contacts book is bulging with coaching royalty who could pass on their considerable wisdom.
It is some surprise, then, to find the new East Fife manager believes the coach who axed him after just six weeks could prove to be his most valuable mentor.
On the face of it, Naysmith’s spell under Derek McInnes at Aberdeen appeared an unhappy one, as he was banished to the bench for the last six games of the season before being released in the summer. But McInnes’s manner and honesty made a lasting impression, and the duo have been in regular contact as Naysmith prepares to take his first steps in management.
“Over the last couple of weeks, but what I would say is that over that time, Derek McInnes has been magnificent,” said the 35-year-old, who will be assisted on a voluntary basis by Paul Hegarty. “I played under him at Aberdeen for six weeks and he released me, but we struck up a great bond.
“We stayed close in the summer – phone calls and things – and since I got the job he has been fantastic. He has offered words of encouragement and told me about players I maybe didn’t know about.
“He’s the one I’ve spoken to most over the last few weeks. That will maybe surprise people because he released me. But he knew what he wanted, he was organised and he built a team spirit straight away. If a person is like that then – even if he doesn’t fancy you – you give him instant respect.
“There was no nonsense. He knew what he wanted to do at Aberdeen and wanted to build his own team, a bit like me here. I am a miniature version of that.”
His former managers reads like a who’s who of Scottish football. The man who gave him a Hearts debut at 17, Jim Jefferies, gets a mention, as do Everton managers Moyes and Smith, while he extolled the virtues of national team bosses Alex McLeish and Craig Brown.
After penning an 18-month deal at New Bayview, he has vowed to draw on all of that invaluable experience.
“I am in contact with most of my former managers, to be honest,” he continued.
“I’ve never seen anybody better with their staff at the club than Walter Smith and he was also very good in terms of looking at opposition and looking at a game plan, which I think he showed when Rangers made the Uefa Cup final.
“With Davie Moyes, his preparation on the Monday would be based around how the team was going to play on the Saturday – they were very enjoyable training sessions which got messages embedded.
“Alex McLeish seemed to know every single player and Craig Brown, a bit like Walter Smith, was very organised and knew how to speak to people. You take things from everybody.”
Naysmith joins a burgeoning crop of Scottish managers swapping the pitch for the dugout relatively early in life.
Allan Johnston has already ascended to the top flight, while others – Grant Murray at Raith Rovers, Paul Hartley at Alloa, Ian Murray at Dumbarton and Alex Neil at Hamilton – continue to carve a fine reputation for themselves down below.
And Naysmith looks at the achievements of Hartley as a prime example of the new generation of ex-internationals willing to get their hands dirty in the lower leagues.
“Paul Hartley has done an unbelievable job,” he continued. “Who else could have taken them from the Third Division to the Championship? He has a tremendous knowledge of players and puts in the hard work. When we played their reserves earlier this season, he drove the team van and brought the kit out for the boys. He is not scared of hard work.
“I am happy to do the same thing as a coach. People might see it as starting at the bottom, but I am privileged to be the manager of an ambitious club like East Fife.”