NAIROBI, December 15- Although Scotland has enjoyed little success despite playing in the first recognised international against England in 1872, UK’s northernmost country has given the world some of the Goliaths of football management.
Closer home, one Scot, Frank Nuttall, etched his name into local history books by winning the 2015 SportPesa Premier League (SPL) title unbeaten with a record tally of 78 points since the advent of the Kenyan Premier League era to boot with Gor Mahia.
Apart from being lethal going forward, his parsimonious defence kept 19 shut-outs, ending the season with a +48 goal difference in another milestone for the club that defied crippling financial woes to run roughshod over all comers in the 16-team SPL.
Having docked at K’Ogalo mid-season in 2014 when compatriot Bobby Williamson who broke the league champions 18-year title drought in 2013, Nutall tasted instant success when he led the team to hold on to their crown.
This year, there was no doubt who was in charge, with Nutall losing only one competitive match on home soil in 2015 as he was fittingly named Coach of the Year at the 2015 SJAK/KPL Footballer of the Year Awards last Wednesday.
The late Jock Stein, Sir Matt Busby and Bill Shankly as well as modern day legend; Sir Alex Ferguson are without doubt, the most famous Scottish football bosses with other notables being Kenny Dalglish, Gordon Strachan, George Burley, David Moyes, Alex McLeish, George Graham and Walter Smith.
When accepting the biggest coaching prize in the land at the Foya gala, Nuttall reflected on the lessons he has learned from the late Stein who led Glasgow Celtic to their finest hour, the 1967 European Cup as well as Sir Alex who retired in 2013 a two-time UEFA Champions League and 13-time English Premier League winner.
“I grew up within five miles from where Stein was born. Everyone who was raised in that area admired and knew the impact Stein had on the game. Ferguson was born further away in the middle of Scotland but his work is known all over the world.
“Of course, I’m nowhere near the level of the two. They are greats and have inspired many Scottish football managers and despite standing here with this award, I cannot even start comparing myself to the two, they are legend,” the K’Ogalo boss offered, slightly bemused to hear his name mentioned in the same sentence with the two giants of football management.
Their almost fanatical desire to win football matches was legendary. Stein, who was struggling with his health, suffering a massive heart attack at Ninian Park, Cardiff, on September 10, 1985 at the end of the game where his Scotland side drew 1-1 with Wales and passed on shortly afterwards at the stadium’s medical room aged 62.
The result in a 1986 FIFA World Cup qualifier was enough to earn Scotland a place in the play-offs against Australia and his successor and then assistant, Ferguson who was utterly shocked by Stein’s death leading the team to Mexico in their eighth and last appearance at the Mundial to date.
For Nutall, growing up and learning his game and management skills from the land of great coaches has nonetheless, served Gor in good stead as they embark on preparations for an unprecedented fourth straight league title next year.
“What I have brought to Gor learnt from Stein and Ferguson is the only route to success is hard work, discipline, commitment and the desire to win. Their teams used to be anchored on those principles and we can’t forget playing good football as well,” Nutall added.
But the glow of the night quickly dissipated to the gravity of the task ahead as Gor chase a peak never before achieved in the country’s club football history- that of winning a quadruple of successive league crowns- a feat that eluded the most feared Gor, fading arch-rivals AFC Leopards and Tusker FC of yore.
“It was hard enough this year since every team wanted to beat Gor. We were everyone’s target and going through the campaign unbeaten has given our rivals more reason to step up efforts to beat us next year.
“It requires better preparations than those we had at the beginning of the season and to keep the focus and motivation among the players going. Winning a fourth straight title is the aim but it will be even harder next year since the rest will not sit and let us put distance like this year,” Nutall emphasised.
“For now, it’s time to celebrate what has been a great season and without the players, my fellow colleagues in management, our officials and fans it would not have been possible,” he went on in tribute for his all-conquering ‘Invisibles’ and the backroom staff.
Nutall was a young pro at Celtic, the club Stein made his name before he was released in 1987 before taking coaching lessons and gaining a reputation as a good fitness coach.
It explains why Gor played like Energizer bunnies in a season they featured in more games than any other team in the top flight but none could find a way to vanquish them.
-Recast to state correct position that Scotland have been at the FIFA World Cup eight times