With East Fife back to winning ways and just a point behind Ladbrokes League 2 leaders Annan Athletic, Gary Naysmith is clearly doing something right this season.
The Fifers boss was crowned Ladbrokes Manager of the Month for the fourth tier for August and recently confirmed that he hopes to guide his Bayview side to the league title this season.
As a former player at the likes of Hearts, Everton, Sheffield United and Aberdeen Naysmith could have used his considerable connections to secure an easier route into management but the 36-year-old is adamant he is in the right place to hone his craft.
In an exclusive interview with Ladbrokes News, Naysmith revealed that he found himself back at East Fife somewhat by chance when a transfer embargo scuppered a move back to the Jam Tarts back in 2013.
“I was training with Hearts and looking to sign on a year contract with them but they were under a transfer embargo at the time so I needed find a club to make sure I was match fit,” he explained.
“I phoned round a few clubs and East Fife were happy for me to train on a Thursday and play on a Saturday which was ideal.”
What turned into a match fitness exercise soon took a turn, however, when former Hearts team-mate Robbie Neilson left Bayview to take up a coaching role at Tynecastle.
“Robbie left and I was offered the assistant manager’s job at East Fife and then within a few weeks Willie Aitchison had been sacked and I took over as caretaker manager,” Naysmith added.
A solid run of results saw the 46-cap Scotland man offered the job on a permanent basis and while he wasn’t actively looking to get into management at the time, Naysmith says ultimately it was too good an offer to turn down.
“I spoke to Hearts and it looked like the embargo wouldn’t be lifted. I was really looking to expand my playing career and not looking to get into management but I thought about it and I realised I couldn’t play forever and this is a good opportunity,” he said.
The Fifers boss has now got everything running to his exacting specifications but he revealed it has been a long hard slog to bring the club up to his expectations.
“It’s now a well run club but there were lots of things wrong when I got here. I couldn’t believe how the playing side was being run and it took me 18 months to get things to how I think a football club should be running,” he added.
However, while there was work to be done when he arrived, Naysmith explained that the charm of East Fife was clear to anyone near to the club.
“I could write you a list of all the changes that had to be made but despite that it struck me as a good club, we have a the best pitch in the lower leagues and everyone works here because it means something to them and a lot aren’t even being paid,” he claimed.
And on the subject of spurning an easier route into management the Fifers gaffer is convinced he made the right decision, adding: “You need to start at the bottom, I want to learn the ropes and make mistakes … I’m happy to start at the bottom and work my way up.”
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