From Cambuslang to Kazakhstan; the star spotter who uncovered Celtic gem and is now gunning for Hibs in Scottish Cup
At 57, Gordon Young has already lived a life and a half. He has managed in Latvia and America and coached in India, Taiwan, China and Kazakhstan.
He has also suffered for his profession. A recently published book, Licence to Skill – From Cambuslang to Kazakhstan, chronicles both his football journey and on-going battle with depression.
He has described writing his autobiography during the recent lockdown as “therapeutic”. The source of so much laughter in dressing rooms and on training pitches around the world encountered a period of lingering sadness.
“Other people are going through the same thing,” he said. “It’s so important to reach out and talk if you can.
“You can be going along this avenue that ultimately has a dead end. The hole can get deeper and deeper. So, it’s vital you reach out. I was always the joker in the dressing room. But you ask the question, who makes the clown laugh?
“It’s all well and good being the ‘funny guy’, but funny guys need a bit of help sometimes too. I found writing the book was a great help to me in that regard.”
He found a spell out of the game after being let go by Dundee United to be one of the most trying spells. He was assistant to Mixu Paatelainen when the Tannadice side were relegated in 2016 and though the Finn had recommended Young to replace him, the club elected for a clear out.
He wended his way to California and then eastern Europe. Now back in tow with Paul Hartley, who he worked with at Falkirk, he is enjoying a period of stability. By the time he is 60, Young would like to be back working in the top flight with Cove Rangers. Few would bet against it.
The League One leaders are currently in terrific current form, as no doubt noted by Hibs manager Shaun Maloney, a former Celtic teammate of Hartley. The pair will reunite at Easter Road next Thursday night in an eagerly anticipated fourth round Scottish Cup tie.
It promises to be an uncomfortable assignment for the home side shortly after they return to action in Monday night’s league clash with Celtic. Nicola Sturgeon’s recent confirmation that an unlimited crowd is permitted to attend was music to Young’s ears. Cove Rangers lost 4-0 to Rangers at the third round stage last season which was nothing to be ashamed about. What was regrettable was the absence of fans.
“The players deserve this opportunity because they went to an empty Ibrox last year in this competition,” said Young. “An empty house didn’t reward the club financially and it didn’t help the players professionally.
“It’s a great game to look forward to. The run we are on at the moment is terrific and this is the next challenge for the players. The run since losing back in October has been exaggerated even more because during that time we haven’t been able to pick the same team twice due to injury or illness.
“Paul knows Shaun Maloney well from his time with Celtic and Scotland and we will watch Hibs play on Monday night. Although we played Rangers at an empty Ibrox I think the players took a lot from it. We were up against international players and we came up against the team that would become the champions.
“After a ropey first half, when it was a heavyweight against a lightweight, I thought we covered ourselves in glory when we readapted our style of play. Drawing the second half 0-0 was a massive boost for them.”
Young’s playing career did not hit the heights although he is a former Scottish junior internationalist. He played for Shotts Bon Accord and Cambuslang Rangers and progressed to head of youth development at Motherwell before being appointed first-team coach under Craig Brown and Archie Knox. He even had a spell as caretaker manager after Brown and Knox left and is withering about the pair’s predecessor, Jim Gannon.
“The one thing I learned from Jim Gannon is never to be like Jim Gannon in football,” he writes in his autobiography. “The way he conducted himself left a sour taste. He was an unmitigated disaster and so impersonal as a manager. The way he treated people just got on everyone’s tits.”
Young is more palatable. He plays down his own influence on the likes of Turnbull and Allan Campbell breaking through at Fir Park. Rangers’ Jake Hastie and James Scott, currently on loan at Hibs from Hull City, also came through on his watch.
“I think you take pride in all of the young players you have worked with,” he said. “The ones who are natural footballers, you are more managing their careers. The other ones you try and better their careers and that’s where your man-management skills come in.
“As with everything, the cream will always rise to the top. We’ve had some very special kids who’ve come through. One of the most satisfying things for me is the amount of kids who have stayed in the game.
“As well as coaching, you are giving these boys’ life skills. You spend so much time with them, they are all chasing the same dream you chased as a young kid.
"You want every one of them to make it to the top, you want to make sure you’ve given these boys every opportunity, not just to be better footballers, but to be better people too.”
Licence to Skill – From Cambuslang to Kazakhstan is available from https://licencetoskill.easyecom.co.uk/ for £12.99 (includes P&P)
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