It is almost four years since Jackie McNamara’s most recent experience of football management. It was, in all probability, also his last.
As he looks to his future in the sport following his recovery from a life-threatening condition, McNamara admits he has no appetite for a return to the dugout.
The fluctuating fortunes and instability of life as a manager became all too apparent to McNamara throughout his time in charge of Partick Thistle and Dundee United, then an ill-fated spell at York City which came to an end in 2016.
From winning Manager of the Month awards and reaching two major cup finals with United and initially being regarded as one of the brightest young coaches in Scottish football, McNamara went on to be confronted by the other extremes of an often brutally unforgiving profession.
So, while the 46-year-old former Celtic captain lost none of his faith in his own ability and knowledge of the game, he intends to apply them in a different direction as the head of his Consilium Sports Group management company.
“In my head just now, I’ve ruled out ever going back into management,” McNamara told The Scotsman in the second part of his first interview since he suffered a brain haemorrhage in February.
“Like anything, you need to miss it to want to do it again. I don’t think I miss it enough. So I want to put as much of my energy as I can into Consilium Sports.
“I don’t like the word ‘agent’. I prefer to think I am mentoring the players I work with. There are a lot of agents out there, but I think the experience I’ve had as both a player and manager can help.
“It’s not all been good in my career – I’ve had some difficult spells as well as the success I enjoyed. I’ve made decisions, good and bad, which I’ve learned from. Those are the things you pass on to, hopefully, help the younger ones.”
McNamara regarded the development of players, especially those who had been released or rejected by other clubs earlier in their careers, as the most rewarding part of his time as a manager.
Andy Robertson’s rise to being one of the best left-backs in the world with Liverpool is the prime example. The Scotland captain, let go by Celtic as a youth, was signed from Queen’s Park for Dundee United by McNamara.
“I worked with a lot of good young players and helped them get their careers started or re-started with a second chance,” he said.
“I enjoyed that more than anything else, because it is what happened to me in my own playing career. I was released as a kid by Hibs because they said I was too small and that’s something that helped me to fight for everything I got out of the game afterwards.
“Andy Robertson is the most high profile of the players I’ve helped on their way but there were others that gave me just as much satisfaction.
“I took Christie Elliot from college, Mark McGuigan and James Craigen from university, gave them that second chance in football at Thistle.
“Stephen O’Donnell was another I took to Thistle, after Celtic released him, and he has ended up winning Scotland caps. It’s not just the ones who make it right to the top, it’s the ones you give a second chance to play at a good level of the game.
“Players will go through things in their career which are tough and it’s about how they handle it mentally. I think I can help them deal with it.”
McNamara’s clients include Hearts defender John Souttar, who played under him at Dundee United, and Celtic left-back Greg Taylor, pictured, who this week earned his first major honour when the Scottish champions retained their title for the ninth consecutive year.
Taylor’s journey at Celtic, where he initially struggled for first team action after his £2 million move from Kilmarnock last summer, resonates with McNamara.
“Greg had to be patient for his opportunity in his first season at Celtic,” he added.
“He reminds me a bit of myself as a player. People talked about his height and that he’s maybe not that good in the air – the same things were said about me early in my career. He’s not the biggest full-back but he doesn’t lose much in the air. He’s getting better all the time. It was a big step up for him from Kilmarnock to the pressure of that season with Celtic to win nine-in-a-row.
“He took his opportunity when it came. He’s a good defender and I think he has learned a lot from his time with Steve Clarke. He’s only going to get better.”
One emerging talent McNamara keeps an especially close eye on is his son Sidney who will celebrate his 16th birthday on 1 June.
He has been in the Hibs academy set-up since he was eight and has ambitions to turn professional. Could he perhaps follow in the footsteps of his grandad and Hibs Hall of Fame inductee, Jackie McNamara senior, and grace the Easter Road pitch one day?
“Hibs want to keep him,” says McNamara. “He has struggled a wee bit, like I did at his age, with the jump from under-16s to under-18s because of his size. “They have been talking about keeping him back until he has a growth spurt, which he wasn’t too keen on.
“I don’t want to push him. If he wants it enough, he will do it. He says he wants to be a footballer. He just needs to be a bit more headstrong, the way I was at that stage.”
A message from the Editor:
Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.
With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our advertisers - and consequently the revenue we receive - we are more reliant than ever on you taking out a digital subscription.
Subscribe to scotsman.com and enjoy unlimited access to Scottish news and information online and on our app. With a digital subscription, you can read more than 5 articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Visit https://www.scotsman.com/subscriptions now to sign up.
Our journalism costs money and we rely on advertising, print and digital revenues to help to support them. By supporting us, we are able to support you in providing trusted, fact-checked content for this website.