Livingston want Kenny Miller to be their next manager, but should the former Rangers man want the job? Craig Fowler writes
These days more and more players are dropping down to the lower leagues to begin their managerial careers. Standing adjacent to the likes of Dick Campbell, as the bunnet-wearing, Scottish football folk hero calls everyone a c***, is generally an accepted route to take for an ex-pro looking to earn his stripes.
There are exceptions, of course, Steven Gerrard being the notable, and in the top flight next season both Martin Canning and Neil McCann will continue to perform their first role in football management. Though, in general, a team in the top flight will want a steady pair of hands to run the footballing side of their club.
All of this makes Livingston’s reported pursuit of Kenny Miller a little surprising. The ex-Rangers striker has studied for his coaching badges but he’s yet to serve as an assistant, let alone take over the reigns at a Premiership club.
There’s also the notion that, should he decide to take the role, he’ll serve the club as a player-manager. Even in the lower reaches of Scottish football — see Barry Ferguson at Clyde — managers have been known to give up playing rather quickly because they realise the demands are too tough. There aren’t enough hours in the day to keep yourself at peak physical condition, pore over scouting reports, identify signing targets, watch opponents and still get enough free time for those trivial things like sleep, food and marriage.
And yet, from what’s been reported, Miller wants the playing side to be half of his role. He doesn’t want to end his playing career, which is fair enough. As Miller says himself, you only get one of those, and at 38 he knows the opportunities are not going to be there for much longer. He can’t decide in five years time that he’d like to rectify a mistake by calling Derek McInnes (who’ll likely still be waiting for the perfect offer to leave Aberdeen) and tell him that, in actual fact, he’d like to take him up on that 2018 contract proposal.
At the same time, the chance to lead a Premiership club in your first managerial role is also an opportunity that doesn’t present itself often. It’s no wonder Miller is taking his time to make his decision. It’s a pretty big one. If he fails in horrendous fashion then he could have the stink from one bad gig following him around for several years. Some have recovered — Paul Lambert being an obvious example related to Livingston — but others find their reputations are too severely damaged to earn another job worth taking.
And this is a particularly difficult first job to take on. Livingston overachieved massively last term to reach the Premiership and there’s an expectation they’ll come back to earth with a particularly unpleasant bump.
While we’ve learned in recent campaigns that it’s foolish to write off the side with the smallest budget — see Hamilton (any season you like) — there isn’t a whole lot of Premiership pedigree in the Livingston first-team. This is going to be an extremely long, and potentially brutal, season.
To exceed as a manager is similar to that as a player. You have to be highly competitive and have unwavering belief in yourself. But sometimes that can lead footballers into making rash decisions and strangling their own career momentum.
Miller will have the utmost confidence that he can “do a Hamilton” and keep the Lions in the top flight, which would be a tremendous achievement for a rookie head coach. But this role has ‘poisoned chalice’ written all over it.