New Swin­don boss Kevin Macdon­ald has learned from the best

The Football League Paper - - INSIDE - By Chris Dunlavy

WHEN Kevin Mac Don­ald joined Liver­pool in 1984, it didn’t take long for the likes of Ian Rush and Kenny Dal­glish to find him a nick­name.

“We called him Al­bert,” says Dal­glish. “Af­ter Al­bert Tat­lock, the grumpy old man in Corona­tion Street. Kev would moan about ev­ery­thing – food, pitches, the weather. He’d even moan about other peo­ple moan­ing!”

Al­most 30 years on, his play­ers at Swin­don Town can ex­pect more of the same, at least as far as their per­for­mances are con­cerned.

“Kev has this fierce hon­esty,” re­calls former As­ton Villa boss John Gre­gory, who played with MacDon­ald at Leicester be­fore mak­ing him re­serve team coach at Villa Park.

“If you’ve played crap, Kevin tells you. There was no pan­der­ing to egos and I don’t imag­ine he’s changed. I think Yorkey (Dwight Yorke) and one or two of the oth­ers at the time didn’t much like that!”

If a man is the sum of his in­flu­ences then MacDon­ald – ap­pointed to his first job as a No.1 last month af­ter more than 20 years on the back­room staff at Villa – should make one hell of a man­ager. In his early days at Leicester, he was bul­lied and bat­tered by Jock Wal­lace, the former miner with the short tem­per who won tro­phies ga­lore at Rangers and a Sec­ond Di­vi­sion ti­tle for the Foxes in 1980.

“Jock was a rough, tough man in many ways, but loved his play­ers,” said MacDon­ald, who played in the same side as a young Gary Lineker. “My val­ues and prin­ci­ples were formed at Leicester City.”

Then came a spell un­der Gor­don Milne at Coven­try City be­fore that move to Liver­pool. Signed to re­place Graeme Souness by Joe Fa­gan, MacDon­ald – an en­er­getic, ball-win­ing mid­fielder – never quite lived up to his fel­low Scot but he did win the league and FA Cup dou­ble in 1986 un­der Kenny Dal­glish.


“Joe didn’t say very much at all,” adds MacDon­ald. “Teamtalks were:‘Out you go. If you play to the best of your abil­ity, we’re go­ing to win the game – that’s it’. And af­ter him, Kenny Dal­glish was a great an­a­lyst of foot­ball.” It didn’t end there, ei­ther. Af­ter see­ing out his play­ing days at Coven­try and Wal­sall, MacDon­ald re­tired in 1993 and was im­me­di­ately taken onto Leicester’s coach­ing staff by former Foxes team-mate Brian Lit­tle.

And af­ter Lit­tle took him to Villa, MacDon­ald worked un­der the likes of Gre­gory, Gra­ham Tay­lor (“a won­der­ful man, but not very good at telling lies”) and, in re­cent years, Martin O’Neill.

“I must just take it in,” he said. “You work that closely with peo­ple that you just re­alise what their strengths are and what their weak­nesses may be. Me, I just try to re­act hon­estly to what I see.”


When O’Neill left Villa Park in 2010, the play­ers clam­oured for MacDon­ald’s ap­point­ment, with skip­per Stilyan Petrov say­ing there was:“No bet­ter man for the job”.

Even Gareth Barry, by then at Man City, weighed in.“'Kev is one of the best coaches I’ve ever worked un­der,” he said.“He’s first and fore­most a foot­ball man and it is great to see him get some recog­ni­tion.”

Ac­cord­ing to Lit­tle, this abil­ity to bond with play­ers – many of whom he nur­tured from youth team days – is why MacDon­ald al­ways sur­vived the many man­age­rial clearouts at Villa.

“Play­ers will play for Kev,” said Lit­tle. “He’s a man’s man and peo­ple will re­spect him. His prin­ci­ples don’t change. Any­body who has trained with him knows what I’m on about.”

Gre­gory, mean­while, re­mem­bers a man with a for­mi­da­ble work ethic. “We worked with Kevin from the ear­li­est days at Leicester and you soon re­alised you had a to­tally com­mit­ted, very hon­est, loyal and tal­ented coach,” he said.

“He was the sort of fella you could ask to go down to Torquay with the re­serves on Tues­day night and then go up to watch a player at New­cas­tle 24 hours later. He got on with it, to­tally com­mit­ted to his job.”

So why has it taken 20 years for MacDon­ald to put all that train­ing into prac­tice?

“I know peo­ple say: ‘ You should ap­ply for jobs’,” he said in 2010. “But I’m not one that pushes my name for­ward. If some­one knows about me, thinks I’m good and wants me to be the man­ager then they can come and ask me, but no­body has.”

Un­til Swin­don, that is.

PIC­TURE: Pi­na­cle



SWIN­DON MAN­AGER BIG MAC: MacDon­ald is the new boss at Swin­don. Be­low: Kevin cel­e­brates the South­ern Re­serve League with As­ton Villa in 2010

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