Alan Pattullo: Can Kevin Thomson teach an old dog new tricks?

The sun is going down in more ways than one. In fact it's already gone down on the football career of the willing student Kevin Thomson describes as his 'toughest test yet'.

Kevin Thomson coaches kids at his new football academy at Oxgangs Primary School in Edinburgh. Picture: Neil Hanna
Kevin Thomson coaches kids at his new football academy at Oxgangs Primary School in Edinburgh. Picture: Neil Hanna

It’s mid-afternoon on a frost-bitten pitch on the western fringes of Edinburgh. Thomson, the former Hibs, Rangers and Scotland midfielder, is trying to teach an old dog new tricks.

Except they are not really tricks. In fact, they are the opposite of tricks. They are the basics, which should have been learnt approximately 35 years ago – at least.

Yours truly has signed up for a one-on-one session with the Kevin Thomson Academy. Sadly the crisp weather that has left the pitch bone hard has contrived to cut the session down to just a few passing drills that still leave the ancient apprentice wheezing.

“This is the one Pedro Mendes excelled in,” Thomson announces with reference to the elegant former Rangers midfielder and just before he begins pinging the ball into my feet.

“Chop, left, chop, right, chop, left, chop, right.” He means control it first-time with the inside of the foot, then stroke it back with a different foot each time.

The term good feet for a big man, used so often in conjunction with Duncan Ferguson, isn’t applicable here. The ball is skewing off at different angles. Embarrassing. “It’s a bumpy ground,” notes Thomson, sympathetically.

We move on to the next drill. “A bit more energetic this one,” says Thomson as he marches out the dimensions of an eight-steps-by-eight-steps box, oblivious to the perspiration already forming on his student’s brow.

It hinges on short, sharp passing, with orders given out by Thomson. One touch, two touch, three touch. He throws in requests for volleys and half-volleys.

Every so often he sends you running round a cone, whereupon you return slightly dizzy and disorientated to resume a drill designed to improve reflexes, stamina, touch and also stimulate the brain.

It’s surprising how hard it is to listen to instructions and then carry them out when the ball is being struck towards you with the crispness expected of someone who only stopped playing professional football a few months ago.

But that’s the beauty of it. Being put through your paces by a player renowned for being one of the best passers in the business.

And, bloody hell, it’s fun, something the heroically patient Thomson wants to ensure is the case, for six year-olds as well as 43-year-olds who are pretending the light hasn’t long since died, and all ages in between.

Just wait ’til they see me at Monday night fives.