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Friday 21st November 2014
killie v united

Winger Andy McLaren was a favourite at both Dundee United and Kilmarnock in his playing days and would have enjoyed watching the sides at Tannadice.

However, a new role as a centre-half, as well as his work coaching kids and being shouted at as a referee, is keeping him away from watching football.

The 41-year-old said: “Both Dundee United and Kilmarnock have had good seasons. While it is not really a surprise in United’s case I think Kilmarnock have surprised a few people, including me. I thought they would struggle this season without the goals from Kris Boyd.

“However, their manager Allan Johnston has reacted well to Kris leaving and, rather than fighting it out at the bottom of the table, they are fighting it out for a top-six place.”

As for his first club at Tannadice, McLaren said: “United are restoring their great reputation for developing players. They have gone back to that after a period of trying to buy their way to success which I don’t think really worked.

“They are back doing what they are good at and giving youngsters their chance. They put young players in and stick with them. There is no point in giving a young player one game and then not using him again and Jackie McNamara, Simon Donnelly and Darren Jackson know that.

“I was 17 when Jim McLean took a chance with me and he always said that if you are good enough you are old enough. You need to gain experience in a first team as a teenager if you are going to make it.”

McLaren has to content himself with TV coverage of games at the moment, as he explained: “I watched Kilmarnock play against Celtic last season but I don’t get to a lot of games as I am still playing. I am more of a centre-half these days than a dashing winger but I enjoy it and after I play I go home and watch the results come in.

“I still follow football closely and speak to guys I know around the game and I keep an eye on how old pals like Derek McInnes are doing.

“As well as playing, I am also heavily involved in A+M Training where I am the Operations Manager. We run leagues in Glasgow in areas that do not have a lot of other facilities and it keeps kids off the street. Other organised football operations are very expensive and if the costs had been there when I was growing up I would not have been able to play.

“I grew up in Castlemilk and there is no way I could have paid £40-£50 a month to play football that is expected now. We help plug that gap and primarily we deliver football and dancing programmes. We have done for the past five years but we like to give the kids a taster of other sports as well.

“We have seven games on with 14 teams playing and that is 200 players enjoying football and keeping themselves busy as opposed to being in places they shouldn’t be. The coaches put in the hard work and I just referee nowadays and get all sorts of abuse. I am sure a few referees will enjoy reading that!”

Other players past and present help out, with McLaren adding: “Scott McLaughlin, Gray McSwegan, Alan Sneddon, Peter MacDonald, Nicky Phinn and Garry Brady are involved - as we have been going for five years, some of the former players have now trained to be coaches as well.”

Craig Stewart

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