THERE was a time when it looked more likely that Jackie McNamara would make his post-playing career name from writing scripts. Now he is plotting a story that will be among the greatest in Dundee United’s history if he can lead the club to League Cup victory.
McNamara is adamant that, even had his projected sitcom The Therapy Room, written with Still Game collaborator Fran Gilhooley and focusing on life inside a football club, been a success, he would still have forged a path in management. Or at least tried to.
Management has, even he would concede, gone even better than hoped. He cut his teeth at Partick Thistle, who he took to second position in the First Division and then grabbed at the opportunity to take over at Dundee United, when in his late 30s.
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Still only 41, he now stands a game away from another cup final at the Tannadice club, having already led United to the Scottish Cup final last season.
While that didn’t go as planned against St Johnstone, another opportunity to win what would only be a sixth major honour for United has quickly come around. First of all, a path past Aberdeen must be negotiated in Saturday’s semi-final at Hampden, and McNamara knows that will be a task in itself. United have won only once against Aberdeen in their past six meetings.
But he is glad he has opted to pursue a path in football management, even if some doubted whether he had the right temperament to succeed in the position.
His admission yesterday that he didn’t want to write an autobiography because it meant having to offend people suggests that he indeed is too nice.
However, players who have played with and under him can attest to someone who is hard-wired to succeed, even if it means having to put in a particularly full-blooded tackle or telling someone something they don’t want to hear.
It is such experience he was able to bring to the table when completing a pilot episode in 2011 for The Therapy Room. Although the intended series wasn’t picked up by television companies, the first programme commanded plenty of publicity and earned good reviews.
“It was a side-track,” smiled McNamara yesterday. “It’s something I might go back to. I have gathered a lot more material since then, certainly dealt with a lot more characters! It was escapism for me from dealing with a lot of stuff you don’t like dealing with in management.
“I had actually written it before I had started doing my coaching badges. A lot of people do autobiographies or biographies and it was my way of doing certain things in a certain way – I don’t believe you can do an autobiography without hurting people! Not if you want to be honest…
“I still put little notes down, as I did as a player,” he added. “But I don’t sit down and do scripts, no.”
He can, though, help develop a storyline that will keep United fans captivated. They are relishing the possibility of another cup final under McNamara, even if the last one ended with such bitter disappointment against St Johnstone in May.
This week’s addition of former Hearts defender Ryan McGowan to the squad has given McNamara something else to consider ahead of the clash with Aberdeen.
With international clearance having now been obtained, there is nothing to stop McGowan playing this weekend.
Having already experienced Hampden assignments with Hearts, most memorably in the 2012 Scottish Cup final victory over Hibs, he could be a good player to have around.
McNamara confirmed that he is in his thoughts, despite not having played since November, when he made his last appearance for Chinese club Shandong Luneng Taishan. “He’s an option, he’s in the squad,” said the manager. “We’ve got clearance through for him and we’re happy with that and he’ll come into contention.
“He has won the cup before and scored here,” added McNamara. “He did the same in China and he played in the World Cup last summer. He’s a great character and he’ll be a fantastic signing for us.”