It’s now been a year since Broughty Athletic JFC appointed Keith Gibson as manager of the club. He took over the reigns when asked temporarily, three weeks previous to his official appointment. He, alongside defender Jamie McCunnie, took temporary charge when the out-going management parted company and brought in former Dundee FC assistant manager Ray Farningham as his assistant and former Arbroath and Forfar Athletic player Tony McAuley as coach.
The BAJFC Admin Team sat down with Keith and asked him about his year at the club…
So that’s you a year in the job at BAJFC Keith, how has it been so far then?
I can’t believe that’s been a year already! Obviously, it was a great achievement to get promoted last season after us being in 8th place when we took over. The two playoff games against Armadale were probably the most nervous I’ve been as a player or manager in my whole career. The second leg was one of the most unbelievable games to be involved in and it had so many highs and lows but to equalise deep into injury time and then win it on penalties was a great feeling. The players have responded really well to what myself, Ray and Tony are putting across to them and their attitudes have been spot on. I remember last season questioning the players after we got beat at home against Arniston and saying that we had blown any chances of promotion but the seven game-winning run to get us in the playoffs just goes to show how much the players wanted it. It was through sheer hard work, determination and having a never say die attitude.
This season is the first time the club has been in the Super League and I feel we have adapted well, we have strengthened the team in all areas of the park and there is real competition for places in the squad. I do feel that we could have picked up more points up to this stage but we just need to cut out the individual errors and collectively as a team see out games when we are in a winning position. Lastly, I’d like to thank Gordon, Ronnie and the rest of the committee in given me the opportunity to manage the team and their continued support throughout my first year in charge.
How did you hear about the manager’s job at the club and why did you want to go into management?
At the start of last season I signed as a player for the club and, to be honest, I’ve always been involved in coaching through my work but it once never crossed my mind that I wanted to get into management as I was still wanting to concentrate on playing and getting back to full fitness after the problems I had with my knee after the operation I had. The job only came about after Ian McKenna and Bobby Mann left the club, I think we were sitting 8th or 9th in the league but I feel personally myself and the squad let them down with our inconsistent level of performances in the first half of the season as Ian had built up a decent squad. I received a phone call from Gordon asking if myself and Jamie McCunnie would look after the team until they appointed a new manager, which we agreed to do. After taking the team for two weeks, we then had another meeting with the committee and they asked if I wanted the job. At first, I wasn’t too sure but after speaking with my family, ex-teammates and managers it was too good an opportunity to turn down. I was also struggling with my knee and felt I was getting nowhere near the fitness or level of performance that I was capable so it was the right time to hang up my boots.
As I was coming into it with no managerial experience I wanted to bring in an assistant and coach with good experience and the first person I called was Ray and I was obviously delighted when he agreed to com on-board. I was also delighted to get Tony on the coaching staff and I feel we work really well together and all bring different qualities to the table. Mark Murray has come in more of a permanent basis which was something I was wanting this season and the goalkeepers have benefited from this and it’s also another person that I can bounce off ideas. Our physio Sandy is also a big part of the coaching staff and he has a great rapport with the players.
What do you feel you have brought to the club since becoming the manager?
I feel that I’m young and enthusiastic whilst still learning all the time. I make demands on the players during training and games and I feel they respond well to this. As a player, I always gave 100% in training and liked to train at a tempo and with intensity. I want high standards in training as I believe the players will take this into their performance on a Saturday. I’ve played under some very good managers and coaches like Ian Stewart, John McGlashan, Jim Weir, Dick Campbell, Paul Sheerin and Stewart Petrie and I’ve tried to take the positive things from playing under them in terms of training, shape of the team, team talks etc but also trying to stamp my own authority on things.
I feel I’m also open and honest with the players and for me, this is the best way to be and of course while the I make demands in training it has to be enjoyable. Since we’ve come in I feel we’ve tried to make it as professional as we can in terms of the training facilities we have two nights a week, the players having decent tracksuits/training and match kit, energy drinks on match days, ball boys and, in general, the players getting looked after. These small things make big differences in my opinion and I think that we are starting to get the performances on the park.
The club has also signed four 17-year-olds this season on dual contracts with their boys clubs, with 3 coming from one of our community clubs Broughty United, Conor Samson, Kieron Ross and Derryn Kesson and our backup goalkeeper John Sinclair. The boys have all adapted very well and they have come on loads since being involved with us and the pathway should be there for the boys to progress. It’s great to see the experienced players having chats with them to pass on advice and looking after them when they are with us. I also like to be involved in what’s happening off the park and help the club to progress in terms of bringing in sponsors. Fingers crossed the new Astroturf will hopefully go down soon and the new stand. This will only benefit us and the wider community.
How is it, working with the legend Ray Jinky Farningham, your assistant at the club knowing his previous footballing background?
I worked under Jinky for four years when I was full time at Dundee and without doubt, he is the best coach I have worked under and he gave me a good grounding. Without Jinky’s coaching I would never have played at a decent level and he has always been there for support and advice and out of football he is a great guy and I have so much respect for him. When I called him to discuss him coming to Broughty I never really thought he would come in but of course, I was delighted when agreed. To be fair to Jinky, he lets me get on with things in terms of training and on match days but will support me in any decision I make as does Tony and as I said before we all work great together.
How has the club progressed off the pitch since your time as the manager?
The club has an excellent committee who have supported me and the coaching staff. They really do go the extra mile for the players and the players appreciate this but again we could do with more people getting involved. We have looked at getting in more sponsors this season and trying to get more people through the gate, the players have all now got one if not two sponsors which will hopefully raise the profile of the club. We had an excellent hospitality for our sponsors and guests at the Musselburgh game and it would be great to have this at every home game. The only stumbling block is that the fixtures are only released every month so it can be difficult to organise.
Sean Donaldson has come in to run our clubs website and social media pages, as well as being a photographer and again I spoke about being more professional and Sean has certainly done this and we all appreciate that at the club. Another person I want to mention is Craig Feret who is the SFA community officer for the club and he has organised ball boys at the home games, ran holiday camps, open days and done various things to raise the profile of the club.
You’ve been both a footballer and now a manager, what’s been the hardest part of the job so far?
For me, the hardest part of the job is telling players that they are not playing or in the squad for a game, it’s never a nice thing to do but having the responsibility of being the manager now it’s part of the job. I’ve been in that position as a player and it always felt like a kick in the teeth but I always trained hard and showed a positive attitude to get back in the team and I expect my players to do the same. Another thing I found hard, at first, was when the players cross that line there is very little you can do to influence games other than make a substitution or change the shape of the team. When I played you never really gave the game much thought but now as a manager I find it very hard to switch off on a Saturday night and over analyse everything, from my team selection, formation, how we performed individually and as a team and what I could have done better etc.
As a player and a manager, I hate getting beat and I can be like a bear with a sore head after games and my wife Kerry keeps a close eye on the score every week to see what type of mood I’m going to be in when I get home.