Jamie McKenzie: Lanark United's new boss targets new signings and title glory

Jamie McKenzie accepts a Coach of the Year prize from Councillor Hamish Stewart at the 2016 Clydesdale Sports Council Sports Personality of the Year AwardsJamie McKenzie accepts a Coach of the Year prize from Councillor Hamish Stewart at the 2016 Clydesdale Sports Council Sports Personality of the Year Awards
Jamie McKenzie accepts a Coach of the Year prize from Councillor Hamish Stewart at the 2016 Clydesdale Sports Council Sports Personality of the Year Awards
Lanark United's new manager Jamie McKenzie is targeting fresh signings and a tilt at West of Scotland Football League Conference C glory this season.

McKenzie - who will be assisted by Gary Johnstone - takes the Lanark role 11 months after leaving Gartcairn, where Johnstone also worked as his right hand man.

The appointment ends a period of uncertainty at United, with committee members having eventually decided not to quit the league by the November 14 deadline, despite ex-manager Colin Slater, his assistant Cameron McNeish and Covid compliance officer Craig Martin all having resigned due to fears about continuing to play matches during the coronavirus pandemic.

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"That was one thing that held us up a wee bit," McKenzie said.

"We had been speaking for a wee bit before that. And I thought it was important that the club sorted out what direction they were going in before appointing me.

"As soon as they had sorted that out it was fine. The players, to their credit, are obviously not getting paid or getting expenses or anything, so it is difficult for them.

"I think it is massively important that clubs stay and give themselves a chance to almost get a head start for next year on some of the teams that have pulled out.

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"You appreciate why teams have pulled out but this gives me an opportunity now to maybe sign some players and get them into the club that I might not have had the chance to do before.

"That's the challenge for me, to see what calibre of player I can bring in, and we've already started work on that.

"I think we've got to finish as high up the league as we can.

"Ultimately I want to finish at the top. We're a couple of weeks behind in terms of only having played three games. But for me there are still plenty of points to play for and the quicker we can get on the training pitch and get the players into our way of thinking, the better.

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"I need to get my ideas across to the players, get them playing in a certain style and get them playing good football. Hopefully when the supporters are allowed to come back in, they can cheer on an attacking team that plays good football because I know that the Lanark locals love their football.

"I will also try and promote some of the younger players into the squad and try and see if they're ready to come and play."

Lanark, who have three points from three Conference C games this season, currently sit sixth in the table. With the launch of the new West of Scotland League at tier seven of the Scottish pyramid only happening this season, United are no longer in the same division as teams like Jamie's old club Forth Wanderers, who are in Conference B.

Wanderers still have a place in Jamie's heart, with his stint there between 2014 and 2018 including winning the Central Division 2 title in season 2015-2016, Forth's first league triumph in 36 years.

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"Since accepting the Lanark job I've taken a wee bit of stick from people at Forth," McKenzie said.

"Obviously there's a rivalry there but it's all in good nature and I have a lot of good friends at Forth from my time there. We were very successful and I have friends for life there.

"They appreciated this is an opportunity for me to get back in at a club that's progressive and wanting to be successful.

"And it's another opportunity for me to showcase what I am about as a manager. So it kind of ties in.

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"I spoke to George Reid (United president) and he was very upbeat and very forward thinking.

"I think after our first conversation I was convinced to go there. I had almost resigned myself to taking a bit of time out the game but as soon as that phone rang you get that buzz from George and that excitement that he wants you there and he thinks that you can do good for his club.

"It became a very easy decision. I have had a good response at training so we're looking now to go and build.

"It's a difficult game on Saturday but after that we'll be looking to push the whole thing on."

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Jamie's managerial history post Forth also includes taking charge of Gartcairn between summer 2018 and last December.

He added: "Obviously when I left Forth I went to Gartcairn and we were really successful there, we won the league in our first season and then there were fall-outs between the committee and the management.

"So I moved on from there and I had been at Cambuslang Rangers just helping Paul McColl who was a friend of mine.

"I took the call from Lanark a couple of weeks ago asking if I would be interested in going there and immediately I wanted to speak to them. They are a good club and a progressive club.

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"And as soon as I spoke to them they were keen, they wanted to go forward and that was the most important thing for me.

"I know it is difficult for everyone just now with non competitive football. But knowing me, I'm a competitive guy and I want to go and do well for Lanark.

"Hopefully we can do that and bring success to Lanark as well."

Jamie revealed that United players Hugh Kerr and Mark Haddow - interim co-managers since Slater and co quit - will pick the Lanark team for a final time for this Saturday's away league game against Glasgow Perthshire, kick-off 1.45pm.

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"I'll take the warm-up and make the decisions for subs," Jamie said.

"But I think it's important that there is a wee bit of continuity and the boys have worked with the players for two weeks.

"We will let them pick the team and I'll try and put my mark on it as the game goes on.

"Basically from Monday I'll take full control."

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