Alan Archibald started January as a defender and a coach at Partick Thistle and he is now the IRN-BRU SFL Phenomenal First Division Manager of the Month for February after a pretty dramatic change in role.
The 35-year-old was asked to hold the Firhill reins when Jackie McNamara and Simon Donnelly headed for Dundee United and one draw and four wins later Archibald is staking a strong claim for getting the job on a permanent basis.
Archibald said: “It is pretty good going just a month into the job and getting an Award. Ian Murray had a great start at Dumbarton as well and won an Award early, so it is nice to do the same after only 5 matches.”
Advised that Ian Little had won an award as an interim manager with Berwick Rangers a couple of seasons ago Archibald advised: “That is a good sign, as he is still there.”
A succession of postponements mean that Archibald had to wait 17 days from getting his opportunity to taking Thistle in a game and he said: “We had a slow start as games were called off and the first one against Cowdenbeath was really disappointing as the boys were buzzing for that game. It was due to be my first game in charge and there was a real togetherness with the club and the fans to build on what Jackie McNamara had started. It was a blow when that game went off.”
“However the next couple of postponements were probably a blessing as it was good to get time with the boys and get my ideas over. I have changed a few things but not a lot as there were good things going on.”
The former Scotland uunder-21 player said: “I was a player and a coach and I enjoyed the training we were doing. It was just a couple of alterations and nothing major.”
When Thistle got back to playing it was a tough baptism with Archibald saying: “We were away to Morton and that was a massive game as they had the chance to go 11 points clear. I talked about getting the gap down to 5 as opposed to letting it get to 11.”
“I kept myself on the bench and that was despite playing well in our last 4 games. I had played in a practice match in the week I got the job but was still bedding myself in and thought it was too soon to combine both roles.”
He has still to get his place back as he explained: “It was a big decision to go with two young centre backs that day as Morton were flying at that time but I trusted the boys and they were fantastic.
The first week was difficult and all new to me. I was trying to do everything and play as well so I decided to give myself a week to give myself a chance in the job.”
It is not a permanent switch as Archibald said: “The boys know I will come back in if they are not delivering. Mind you that has been the case for all the positions all season. Playing and managing works for some people and doesn’t for others. It could be difficult if you have had a bad half as player to go in at half-time but to be fair to the players we have a good bunch at Thistle.”
“We let ourselves down a bit in the fog at Cowdenbeath when we were 2-1 down and the game was abandoned but we have made up for it since. The players are still young and for some of them it was the first time they had seen a manager leave but I trusted them to come through it and they did.”
Playing can be tiring and Archibald has found the same to be true of management as he explained: “I used to wonder why managers got tired during games but now I know how draining it can be.”
Archibald does not have far to go looking for assistance in how to cope, although he is very much his own man as he said: “A few former managers of mine got in touch to wish me luck on the opportunity and they all told me to keep playing but I went against that. Four clean sheets in a row make that look like a good decision.”
“I have taken a bit and a piece from every manager I have worked with even the ones that I thought were bad at the time. I thought that is something I don’t want to repeat. I got an injury when I was 30 at that got me thinking about being a manager as before that I thought managers were just old grumps, but that changes when you get older.”
As for getting the job on a permanent basis Archibald said: “It would be good if the club make a quick decision especially if they go for me. We are in a good position just now as we are still in the promotion race and have the Ramsdens Cup Final to play.”
“The Board are keeping their options open and that is their prerogative. The players have been supportive and when we scored at Morton they all ran to me which was great.”
It is no old pals act either as Archibald said: “In the last year and a half I have been in the coaches room and not the dressing room. I have taken the reserves so there was a bit of a gap already although they still call me Archie. That will continue as I could be back to being a player tomorrow.”
“Being in the coaches room with Simon was a great learning opportunity as I learnt that management is not just about picking a team. You have to be a bit of a social worker as well as sometimes it is not just about football.”
Management has certainly changed since Archibald started off in 1996 as he explained: “The game and society has moved on since I was a player under John Lambie as players have all the power now. They are a different breed, mind you that could be said for all young people.”
“Teams are younger now but I would love John to come back even just for a couple of days to let the younger boys see what life is really like. Some of them would not respond to John’s brilliant one off style and players would simply walk away.”
As for the future Archibald said: “I have no idea what promotion or no promotion means in terms of getting the job and I will just keep looking to win games. When I was offered the job I never hesitated. I kind of knew it was coming and I was ready.”
“I had already thought about bringing in Scott Paterson as like me he is all about trusting the players.
He is a very good coach and likes to play football the same way as I do and he dropped his coaching job within Aberdeen’s youth set-up to come here.”
If Archibald is successful Paterson will stay as Archibald said: “If I get the job he will stay with me. He was successful at Livingston with back to back promotions and a good guy to have on board. We will just wait and see.”