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Black magic for Smyth

4th June 2016

Marc Smyth will use the lessons learned under Kenny Black at Airdrie as a touchstone for his managerial career to come.

The 33-year-old former Diamonds favourite, now Head of Youth at Cliftonville in Northern Ireland, reflected on his time with the Club during his UEFA A Licence coaching assessment at St Andrew’s this week.

Smyth was a core player in the Black side that won the Alba Challenge Cup against Ross County in November 2008.

Marc knows Kenny’s reign has always split opinion amongst the Diamonds faithful but in the second part of a fascinating interview for he stressed: “I was really happy for Kenny Black when we won the Alba Cup because he is a man that I really respect.

“I thought he was unfortunate at Airdrie, expectations at the club are sometimes tough when you consider what the reality is there.

“People have to remember what the budgets are at Airdrieonians and what can be achieved at times. We punched above our weight.” 

Black - currently out of the spotlight after a spell as Stuart McCall’s assistant at Rangers ended in the summer of 2015 - was in charge of Airdrie for 188 games, winning 65, drawing 55 and losing 68.

Marc had been brought into the Diamonds by Sandy Stewart but worked with fitness fanatic Kenny, now 52, for the lion’s share of his time here.

And he stressed: “Kenny had professionalism, attitude and loyalty. Everything you would want in a manager or a person.

“I was on holiday when I decided to go to Morton and I rang him to tell him and he told me he was leaving the club too.

“I really felt for him and that’s not always the case in football, I still speak to him and I respect everything he is about.

“I will take a lot from him as a coach, he was an education to me.” 

After his retirement as a player this summer, Marc’s career now takes him into a new chapter guiding the next generation of stars at Cliftonville.

He will always retain a huge affection for the Diamonds, though, and insisted that leaving the club for Morton six years ago was a gut-wrenching decision.

Marc sighed: “The only reason I left Airdrie was that the club got relegated and that meant part-time football and I wanted to stay full-time.

“It was the same story at Ayr United when I left there because the club was in a bad financial situation.

“I have stayed at Cliftonville for four years too, there is much to be said for being happy at good places like those three clubs.” 

This week on the training field at St Andrew’s Marc was joined by the likes of ex-Hibs defender Chris Hogg, Raith Rovers legend Tony Rougier and Morton favourite Peter MacDonald.

He still loves the cut and thrust of training and remembers well the team-mates he shared the peaks and troughs with in the Diamond. His favourite?

“I loved John Baird as a player, he had come in from a lower league side in Montrose and in football there is too much arrogance and blindness.

“You think he can’t be a good player because he didn’t come from a big club and it’s nonsense. He was brilliant for us.

“There wasn’t the big-name players at Airdrie then as there had been but that told the story of the budget.” 

Marc still has a house in Ayr where he also played for four years and he confessed that on the final day of last season he had divided loyalties.

He was delighted to see the Diamonds dominate it and gutted that we were edged out of the play-offs despite that resounding win over the Honest Men.

Yet he confessed: “I sit on the fence when Airdrieonians play Ayr United to be fair. Last time after the 3-0 game I was two-faced to my Ayr friends!

“Seriously, I have watched all the changes over the last year and it’s great. The only downside side is it’s unfortunate with the stadium situation.

“I feel that stops the Club being as big as they could be. Look at Northern Ireland where the Big Two were always Linfield and Glentoran.

“Then the north Belfast sides, Cliftonville and Crusaders put down Astroturf and the income generated has allowed us to get a better standard of players.

“The last four titles have been shared between us, the power has shifted and we have closed the gap due to better finances.

“So I see the difference Dunfermline had last year in League One and that will be the case again with Livingston this year.

“Budget is vital and money talks but there must also always be a part that puts you at the heart of the community. I realise that more than ever now.” 

Interview: IAIN KING

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