The Scottish Mail on Sunday

McFad­den just not quite ready to be re­tir­ing type

- By Graeme Croser

JAMES McFAD­DEN spent a year op­er­at­ing as an as­sis­tant man­ager but it took only 20 min­utes of foot­ball to con­vince the 34-year-old that he is not quite ready to hang up his boots. McFad­den ap­peared as a sub­sti­tute in Mother­well’s fi­nal Premier­ship match of the sea­son and man­aged to mark the oc­ca­sion by scor­ing with his first touch.

The 3-2 de­feat at In­ver­ness was to prove his fi­nal act in claret and am­ber but, hav­ing been re­leased by man­ager Steve Robinson, he won’t im­me­di­ately seek a route back into coach­ing.

He is grate­ful to Mark McGhee for hand­ing him ex­tra re­spon­si­bil­ity at Fir Park a year ago but now fit af­ter a sea­son in­ter­rupted by in­jury, he wants to have one last crack at play­ing.

He said: ‘When Mark left I knew my time at Mother­well was prob­a­bly go­ing to come to an end but I still have a de­sire to play and that’s some­thing I will look at.

‘I en­joyed the coach­ing but get­ting those last 20 min­utes at In­ver­ness gave me the buzz back. Get­ting to go and play, run about and en­joy my­self was great.

‘I’m not ready to re­tire. Ev­ery­body I’ve spo­ken to has said play as long as you can. I don’t want to give up now, go down the coach­ing road and then a year or two from now feel that I should have had another go at play­ing.’

For some­one whose ca­reer burned so bright as a young­ster, it seems like McFad­den’s ca­reer has barely had an op­por­tu­nity to fiz­zle out.

Al­ready a full in­ter­na­tion­al­ist when, as a 20-year-old, he first left Mother­well to sign for Ever­ton in 2003, McFad­den scored the first in a se­ries of touch­stone Scot­land goals later that year in a Euro 2004 play-off vic­tory over Hol­land at Ham­p­den.

The defin­ing mo­ment of his ca­reer came via his ma­jes­tic long-range strike to beat France in the Parc des Princes in 2007 and a £5mil­lion trans­fer to Birm­ing­ham City soon fol­lowed.

Once hailed as a ‘cheeky boy’ by Berti Vogts, McFad­den proved a tal­is­man for not only the Ger­man but also Walter Smith and Alex McLeish be­fore an an­te­rior cru­ci­ate lig­a­ment in­jury stopped him in his tracks. Through sub­se­quent moves back to first Ever­ton, then Mother­well, he never truly looked like the same player who notched 15 goals for his coun­try, many of them spec­tac­u­lar.

The last of his 48 caps came in ig­no­min­ious cir­cum­stances when he was sub­sti­tuted at half-time in a slog of a Euro qual­i­fier against Liecht­en­stein by Craig Levein.

Once a ball-hun­gry for­ward, who loved drib­bling off the left wing, prefer­ably past as many de­fend­ers as pos­si­ble, McFad­den trudged through brief spells at Sun­der­land and St John­stone be­fore set­tling in at Mother­well for a third spell.

‘I need some­body to come in and ac­cept that I’m not the same player I used to be,’ he ad­mits. ‘I’m 34 now and I know what I’m good at and what I’m not good at. I’ve learned that through ex­pe­ri­ence.

‘I’m good on the ball, that qual­ity is still there, but I don’t be­lieve that I can go and beat every player with the ball any­more!

‘I used to try that but I think I make bet­ter de­ci­sions now.

‘I can get my­self to a de­cent fit­ness level again — it’s not as if I’m done, I’m knack­ered and can’t do it any­more.

‘I train every day. I just want to go and make an im­pact on games.’

Hav­ing made just 10 ap­pear­ances in two sea­sons for Mother­well, this truly does look like the last throw of the dice for McFad­den.

Never light­ning-quick any­way, McFad­den is no longer fu­elled by the same en­ergy that made him the most ex­cit­ing Scot­tish player of his gen­er­a­tion but, placed in the right team, he be­lieves he can still con­trib­ute.

An aborted move to Philadel­phia in late 2015 gave him a taste for a shot at for­eign fields but, equally, he knows he may not be in a po­si­tion to pick and choose his next des­ti­na­tion.

‘I will con­sider what­ever comes up — play­ing, coach­ing or even man­age­ment. I would con­sider any­thing. I would pre­fer it to be abroad but it doesn’t have to be. I’ve made no se­cret of the fact I would go for it if it was right.

‘It would be some­thing new — I’ve played up here, I’ve been down south. I don’t want to just plod along.

‘I’ve al­ways wanted to chal­lenge my­self. Whether it’s now to play or later as a coach, it’s some­thing I would like to try to broaden my hori­zons.

‘Amer­ica would in­ter­est me. Philadel­phia didn’t work out but they are ex­pand­ing the leagues, so there may be op­por­tu­ni­ties.’

McFad­den won’t go into the de­tails be­hind his de­par­ture from Mother­well but it is clear he found the man­age­rial meth­ods of McGhee and Robinson to be en­tirely dis­tinct from each other.

Al­ways a free spirit as a player, it’s no sur­prise to learn that he en­joyed work­ing un­der the im­pul­sive McGhee. ‘When the gaffer asked me to be his as­sis­tant, I hes­i­tated at first,’ he says. ‘But not for one mo­ment do I re­gret that move.

‘Mark was a great man man­ager who knew how to get peo­ple go­ing and loved the tac­ti­cal side of it. He liked to try stuff.

‘Robbo came in and ev­ery­thing was planned and metic­u­lous. It was good to learn that side too.

‘You take ex­pe­ri­ence from ev­ery­body. I learned the other side of it, the plan­ning that goes into putting a train­ing ses­sion on, pick­ing a team deal­ing with play­ers and re­cruit­ing them. ‘I’ve learned loads.’ While Gor­don Strachan’s Scot­land squad pre­pared for last night’s game against Eng­land, McFad­den was qui­etly work­ing away on the SFA’s coach­ing course in pur­suit of his A Li­cence.

If suc­cess­ful, he in­tends to use the qual­i­fi­ca­tion sooner rather than later, but wants one last flourish.

‘I feel like there are things I can share,’ he con­tin­ues, ‘and while I wouldn’t specif­i­cally be look­ing for a player/coach role, I would take one.

‘Maybe I’ll get to ex­pe­ri­ence some­thing a wee bit dif­fer­ent. I don’t want peo­ple to look and say: “Ach he’s old and we don’t want him for this or that”.

‘I want to go and en­joy it.’

 ??  ?? CARRY ON: McFad­den aims to de­lay a move into coach­ing by con­tin­u­ing with his play­ing ca­reer for as long as pos­si­ble
CARRY ON: McFad­den aims to de­lay a move into coach­ing by con­tin­u­ing with his play­ing ca­reer for as long as pos­si­ble

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