Stirling Albion Manager, Greig McDonald, made it two in a row and three for the season when he was voted the IRN-BRU SFL Phenomenal Third Division Manager of the Month for March. The Forthbank side have come through a mammoth period of 13 games in less than two months with only one defeat as their recovery from a poor start to the season continues in fine style.
McDonald praised the efforts of his players saying: “We have played three and a half months worth of football in two months and that has been hard on the players so I would like to dedicate this award to them.
“Their professionalism and fitness levels have been great and one defeat in 13 games is great form in any division. To do it in a short period of time on a part-time basis is even better.”
McDonald knows what it is like to keep two careers up and running as he explained: “I am a Project Manager at Lloyds Banking Group which is really enjoyable but it can be demanding especially when you have to combine football with it. Both my jobs are demanding but thankfully, both are enjoyable.
“Being part-time whether you are a player or a manager is pretty tough and combining work, keeping fit and travelling is a real juggling act. We sometimes have players that miss training or games because of work. That is the way it has to be as the day job comes first for our players.”
McDonald started off as a full-timer as he explained: “I was a full-time player at Dunfermline and I was actually at the club from the age of eight until I was 21. Just 18 months into a two year professional deal and there had to be cut backs even then.
“It never worked out for me but it was just one of those things. I went and joined Brechin with Dick Campbell for six months and sat on the bench there waiting for Harry Cairney or Jamie Smith to be injured or lose form.”
No injuries or loss of form was seen with McDonald adding ruefully: “Those two things never happened so I needed to go and play. I found a good home at East Fife and was there for seven seasons which were up and down as we lost a League Play-Off to Queen’s Park but we won the Third Division Championship the following season.”
The Forthbank boss was guided by a number of well known figures in the Scottish game as he developed his playing career as he explained: “Bert Paton was my first boss at Dunfermline and then it was Dick, followed by Jimmy Nicholl and then Jimmy Calderwood. When I went to East Fife, Jim Moffat was my Manager there and then it was Dave Baikie.
“And at Stirling, I have had Allan Moore, John O’Neill and Jocky Scott so I have had a few Managers without having too many clubs. That is just the way of things in football. There are a good few old school bosses in there but you learn something from them all.”
McDonald joined the managerial ranks in December, 2011 and he was taken by surprise at the opportunity as he said: “I had been doing my coaching badges and had not thought too much about management. I had been out injured for a year and got through a few qualifications then but I was still not expecting the call from the Chairman after Jocky left.
“The Chairman asked me to look after the squad and it was a surprise. It was not something I had been looking for at that time as I was only 29 and thought it would come later.”
Eighteen months have passed since and McDonald said: “I can say that it has been a steep learning curve. My assistant, Marc McCulloch, and I are still players as well and it can be tough having the two roles but we both realise that we are fortunate to have such positions at this stage of our footballing careers.”
The Managers in McDonald’s playing career have had an influence as he explained: “You pick up something from every boss you work with but you also have to put your own stamp on things as well. We try to have a good relationship with our players but we have to be on the other side of a line from them.”
“This has been my first full season and it has been a bit bizarre but it is not over yet. I am not summarising it yet as we have games still to play.”
No-one is conceding a Play-Off place yet as McDonald said: “We have four games left and plenty to play for. Our aim is to finish as high as we can and complete a remarkable turnaround in our fortunes. It has been a strange season as we won our first game 5-1 and they had only seven points from the first quarter of games. That was not where we wanted to be.
“Even at the half way point, we were cut adrift by about five points and just could not catch a break. We brought in five players in January to fix what was not working and we have been on a very good run since and long may that continue.
“Whatever happens, we want to keep that form going into the next season.”
The change in fortune has brought scouts to Stirling with McDonald saying: “We want to keep the squad together but we know that some of the guys have been playing that well that there will be interest in them.
“However, they know that they are at a good club just now and have a Board that look after them with good supporters and excellent facilities. The players also know that it is a club that is trying to build by playing good football.”
The 30-year-old added: “That is our pitch to the players and we have managed to get a few bought in already and signed up for next season. If players get offered a full-time gig or a much better financial offer, it will be a case of shaking hands and moving on.
“We will get our four games played and get the players tied down but I am not thinking too far into next season as we still have those 12 points to play for. I want all 12 and see where we end up.”