Mark McGhee has mixed emotions on Pitoddrie return

Scotland assistant manager Mark McGhee. Picture: SNS
Scotland assistant manager Mark McGhee. Picture: SNS
Share this article
Have your say

MARK McGhee will walk through the front door at Pittodrie tomorrow with a spring in his step and a sense of unbridled pride at his role in the new Scotland management team.

His demeanour will contrast starkly with the bleak feelings he experienced when he left the stadium more than two years ago at the end of his painfully unfulfilling time in charge of Aberdeen.

After just 17 wins in his 62 games in charge of the club he served with such distinction as a player, McGhee was reported to have departed by a side door following his sacking by the Dons in December 2010.

He insists he has no recall of such an ignominious exit and is understandably keen to accentuate the happier circumstances in which he will return to Pittodrie for the first time since then.

“I seriously can’t remember leaving that way,” he said. “Why would that be? Why would I not leave by the front door? I’m not taking the mickey, I can’t remember how I left. My memory’s not great, right enough. I know I left and that’s the important thing.

“I’d be lying if I didn’t say my feelings are a little bit mixed going back to Pittodrie. But my overwhelming feeling is positive.

“I’m big enough and tough enough to deal with the issues of my time there as manager and put that behind me. I can look forward to something else.

“This is the national team and I’m not going to let that be devalued by the fact I had a difficult time here for a while as manager. It’s not going to spoil it for me.

“This is a big occasion for me, going out there as assistant manager of the national team.

“The idea that Gordon and I, having played together for Aberdeen and Scotland all those years ago, should be leading the national team out is amazing. That’s the important thing for me and I’m looking forward to it.

“You should always go by your first reaction. And my gut reaction when I was told the game was at Pittodrie was positive. It wasn’t a case of ‘Oh my God!’ It wasn’t like that at all. My feeling was that it is a good thing, so I’m looking forward to it.

“We are here for an entirely different purpose, not to sit and talk about me. One of the great things about this role is that I’m surprised I’m even sitting here talking to you. I thought that would be Gordon’s job.

“But today I’m trying to tell you about what’s happened at training, before Gordon comes tomorrow and talks to you about important issues like the game and his philosophy.

“I’m only a footsoldier here and therefore not important enough to spend time talking about me and my experience as manager at Aberdeen.”

The news from Scotland’s first training session under manager Strachan, his assistant McGhee and coach Stuart McCall at the Aberdeen Sports Village was overwhelmingly positive.

There were no withdrawals from the mammoth 28-man squad named by Strachan, although Sunderland striker Steven Fletcher was excused training as part of an ongoing weekly routine he undertakes to protect his ankles.

According to McGhee, those who did take to the training pitch were bursting a collective gut in a bid to catch Strachan’s eye ahead of his first match in charge against Estonia tomorrow night.

“There wasn’t too much science this morning,” added McGhee. “It was just a case of getting to know them a wee bit and getting started.

“It was a little bit hectic. Everyone was trying so hard to be positive and impress the new manager. At times, it was all a bit frantic.

“We were trying to calm it down a bit. They have nothing to prove on the first day to anyone. We are great believers in them all and Gordon will select a team from his knowledge of them, rather than what he sees in a training session this morning.

“But they were all bright and bubbly. They got on with what we asked them to do. We enjoyed it and I think they did too.

“Because of Gordon and his reputation, the way players see him on TV and even talk to their mates who have played for him, I think everyone in the squad has a very positive feeling about him.

“I expected the boys to react well to him and they have. They were quite wide-eyed and willing. I think that’s a great thing and it’s now up to Gordon and the rest of us to give them something back, something that will help them and make them better.”

Although close friends since their time as team-mates in Alex Ferguson’s all-conquering Aberdeen side, this is the first time Strachan and McGhee have worked together in management.

“Even when there was talk of Gordon getting the Scotland job, he never said to me at any point he was taking it,” revealed McGhee.

“He is someone who plays his cards close to his chest, a very responsible guy. Until a deal is done, he doesn’t talk to many people about it.

“At one point, he told me he had spoken to the SFA but that was as far as it went. He didn’t say that he would be taking me on if he got the job.

“During all of that period, I was hoping he would take me. So when he made the call and said he wanted me to come, I was absolutely delighted.

“I feel I’m quite suited to the role at this point. I know Gordon well and what he needs, the type of person he is. I can help him with that and I can guide other people in how best to approach Gordon and work with him.

“I will take my cue from Gordon. I will learn as I go how much licence I have to say what I think. Gordon is very much of his own mind and it will be up to me to support him.

“If there are issues I feel need addressed, I will talk to him about them. What he wants from me is for me to have the confidence to do that. I won’t have any problems. Gordon will do a good job and I’ll be here to support him in it.”