Scotland’s friendly against Netherlands on Thursday has been presented as interim manager Malky Mackay’s first foray into international coaching. The more uncharitable might dare to suggest that the SFA performance director has already had notable experience of that variety.
Eyebrows were raised when Mackay was witnessed shouting instructions to players from an area in the stand as the Scotland Under-20s competed in the Toulon tournament in May.
Not those of Scott Gemmill, though, the man then in charge of the side, who went on to reach the semi-finals of that competition. The man focused on leading the Scotland Under-21s to two home wins in the coming week or so – against Latvia on Friday and Ukraine the following Tuesday – to build on their promising start to the European Championship qualifying campaign.
Gemmill, part of the Scotland coaching set-up since 2014, has no issues over how involved Mackay has been with him since taking on the technical director post in January. Mackay has the managerial nous to be considered for the Scotland job he is temporarily taking on as the post-Gordon Strachan era begins, but seems certain to be retained in the SFA’s all-encompassing overseeing role.
In that, Gemmill says he has looked for, and been given, the support of Mackay. The technical director also accompanied him to the European Championship Under-17 finals in May, but never does Gemmill feel Mackay has overstepped the mark with his in-game input, however animated and managerial-like it might appear to the outsider.
“He’s never going to be anything else,” Gemmill said. “Wild horses wouldn’t stop him. I think you just have to accept the guy has a passion about football, a passion about Scotland.
“It may be that a different coach wouldn’t enjoy it. But I haven’t got a problem with it, I am not the kind of person who would feel intimidated by it. I don’t care if someone is looking down saying ‘he’s really the head coach’… or ‘is Malky doing this?’ Maybe I should. But I am not. In my opinion he’s got the balance right in terms of allowing me to coach the team and be the head coach but, at the same time, be helpful to me.
“He’s obviously worked at the highest level. When I first met Malky, I asked him to help me. I want to continually improve, I feel I would be stupid not to tap into his experience. He’s been great.
“I understand a lot of people might look on from afar and think, well, maybe it’s not enjoyable for a coach to have his boss so close. I can assure you it’s not like that. It is done in the correct way and everything is about the team, really, helping the team.”
Yet it is easy for the perception to form that Gemmill is being undermined if the voice seen barking instructions to his players belongs to his superior.
“That’s for other people to judge,” said Gemmill. “They don’t know the working relationship between me and my boss. Of course if they perceive it that way then I cannot stop them but I certainly don’t find it a concern to me. If it was, I would speak to Malky and ask him not to do it. I speak to him a lot, of course I do. He’s the kind of boss who likes to know what’s going on. Of course that’s how he chooses to manage his staff.”