There isn’t ordinarily any broad significance to the lowest placed senior league club in Scotland recruiting a new manager. Albion Rovers appointment of Kevin Harper yesterday, though, is entitled to be viewed in a context wider than League Two’s basement club providing an aspiring coach with his first senior job in management.
The 42-year-old is a black man who has been vocal about the racist abuse he suffered throughout a career that brought stints with Hibernian, Derby County, Walsall, Portsmouth, Norwich City, Leicester City, Stoke City, Carlisle United and Dunfermline Athletic.
Indeed, Harper has intimated he believes his coaching aspirations have been stymied because of the colour of his skin. He is sure then to appreciate what yesterday represented.
The 42-year-old has become the most high-profile black Scot to be given a role in frontline management for a senior club in the country.
The complete list for such a category only extends to two, it must be said. Dave Smith became the first, courtesy of a spell in charge of Montrose between 1996 and 1997. That came two years before John Barnes’ arrival at Celtic. In living memory, these are the only three black men to manage Scottish clubs, which hardly offers up a ringing endorsement of this nation as genuinely multicultural.
In terms of strictly sporting challenges, Harper will hardly be oblivious to the world into which he has thrown himself. His upbringing in Possilpark in Glasgow showed he can stand up to tough challenges, but for any manager in Scotland the challenges appear to be becoming invidious.
Harper, who decanted to Australia in January to become head coach with fifth-tier Mounties Wanderers having previously had a three-month sojourn as Airdrieonians under-20 coach in 2015, became the 16th managerial change in the Scottish senior set-up in the course of this season. A total of 14 of these have been the results of sackings. Harper has landed a position John Brogan was removed from a fortnight ago in the wake of the Coatbridge club’s elimination from the Scottish Cup by Highland League side Formartine United.
A simple spot of arithmetic tells that with 42 senior league clubs across the four senior divisions in Scotland, 14 job losses means a third of the managers at this level have been dismissed with little under seven months of the season still to run.
Harper may delight in have been given a chance to direct footballing operations at a Scottish club. Not for nothing, though, is his new domain termed frontline coaching.
l Stenhousemuir have parted company with manager Brown Ferguson. The club are second bottom of League One after 12 matches.