Cow­den­beath help­ing Ni­choll to be him­self again as a man­ager

The Scotsman - - Sfl In Focus - EWAN MUR­RAY

“I hope, af­ter the week Scot­tish teams have had in Europe, peo­ple re­alise what a fine job Jimmy Calder­wood [pic­tured] did at Aberdeen”

Jimmy Ni­choll

LIFE with­out Jimmy Calder­wood has un­der­stand­ably proved tough for Jimmy Ni­choll to get used to. The pair had be­come al­most in­sep­a­ra­ble, at and away from the train­ing ground, dur­ing spells at Dun­fermline, Aberdeen and Kil­marnock.

“It was just as well started out at Cow­den­beath with some pre-sea­son, not league games,” ex­plained Ni­choll, now the Fife club’s man­ager. “I had to get into the habit of talk­ing again, ba­si­cally be­ing a man­ager be­cause it is night and day from what I had be­come used to as an as­sis­tant.

“I’ll hook up with Jimmy next week for a few days. I hope, af­ter the week Scot­tish teams have had in Europe, peo­ple re­alise what a fine job he did at Aberdeen in get­ting them into the group stage of the Europa League.

“It de­fies be­lief that he is not in­volved in foot­ball just now.”

Ni­choll has no such is­sue, his de­ci­sion to break an as­so­ci­a­tion with Calder­wood which had lasted more than a decade a brave one in part. Ni­choll man­aged Raith Rovers in Scot­land’s sec­ond tier ear­lier in his ca­reer but, by his own ad­mis­sion, it has been a huge cul­ture shock in re­turn­ing to the First Di­vi­sion with Cow­den­beath.

“I’ve re­ally had to rely on other peo­ple giv­ing me in­for­ma­tion about other teams, how they play and who their play­ers are, dur­ing the early weeks of the sea­son,” Ni­choll ad­mit­ted. “The

Iplay­ers have prob­a­bly taught me more than I have taught them. I’m bat­tling my own in­ex­pe­ri­ence, re­ally.

“Even though the team has just been pro­moted, I’ve found all the boys know those around them in the league so that has been a big help.

“We only had three pre-sea­son games and I could only get the boys away briefly, to Bal­ly­mena, be­cause the ma­jor­ity of the squad have full-time jobs. But their fit­ness lev­els have been good, the team spirit is good and ev­ery one of them is will­ing to work hard.

“All I wanted was to get off to a de­cent start, get the first nine games by and find my feet a bit. We are just about the rel­e­ga­tion places just now. Put it this way, I’d rather be there with four games played than with four games to go.”

The loss of key play­ers to St Mir­ren, where for­mer Cow­den­beath man­ager Danny Len­non is now in charge, hasn’t even irked the ami­able North­ern Ir­ish- man. “It’s funny, you know, but I never had these play­ers to start with so it hasn’t re­ally both­ered me at all,” said Ni­choll.

“You can’t miss what you haven’t got so I haven’t even given it too much thought. Gareth Ward­law was the only one I knew, briefly, be­cause he was still train­ing with us when I ar­rived. He’s a good lad so I wish him all the best.”

The man ful­fill­ing Ni­choll’s for­mer role as an as­sis­tant is Colin Cameron. The ex­pe­ri­enced mid­fielder, who left Dundee in join­ing up with his for­mer Raith boss in the close sea­son, has also been an in­valu­able pres­ence thus far.

“He has cer­tainly got an opin­ion,” said Ni­choll of the man uni­ver­sally known as ‘Mickey’. “He is al­ways will­ing to pipe up, which I like, but I’ve ad­mired his train­ing meth­ods as well. He has been ex­actly what I wanted along­side me.

“Added to that, he is an ex­pe­ri­enced pres­ence on the pitch and is well ca­pa­ble of con­tribut­ing there. Play­ers give him ex­tra re­spect, I think, be­cause of that.”

An­other who was never renowned dur­ing his play­ing days for be­ing a shrink­ing vi­o­let was Ian McCall. Ni­choll will come face to face with the Partick This­tle man­ager when their re­spec­tive teams meet to­day; more than two decades ago, the pair were at Rangers to­gether.

“I re­mem­ber Ian scor­ing a ter­rific goal for Rangers against Hibs,” said Ni­choll of what, by McCall’s own ad­mis­sion, was the finest moment of his Rangers ca­reer.

“Af­ter that, I was coach­ing the re­serve team and Ian was more of­ten that not play­ing in that.

“He was a pest, a nui­sance, in the nicest pos­si­ble sense who would tell me ev­ery week that he was play­ing well enough in the re­serves to be in Graeme Souness’ first-team.

“When he wasn’t put into the first­team, I was the one who got the blame for ap­par­ently not telling the man­ager how good he was. I met him the other week at a game, and we had a good laugh about it.”

The se­ri­ous busi­ness re­lates to pulling Cow­den­beath away from the rel­e­ga­tion zone. “We haven’t gone ahead in a league game yet, so that would be a start,” said Ni­choll. “We have been pun­ished for ev­ery bit of slack­ness and ev­ery bit of poor mark­ing so that’s an early les­son to the play­ers.”

Back in the hot-seat, ev­ery day is a school day for Ni­choll as well.

Pic­ture: Jane Bar­low

There has been no sit­ting around for Jimmy Ni­choll since tak­ing charge of Cow­den­beath. The job has re­minded him of be­ing a man­ager in his own right

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