The Big Manager Interview – Michael Leith (Anchor Sociedad)

Today, Chief Writer Tom Scott has penned a quite remarkable Interview with Michael Leith, the current Manager of Sunday Amateur side Anchor Sociedad.

“As a football lover, I started off my playing days playing for a few local sides before I committed to Rosshall Thistle when I was 24. Playing as a striker. I enjoyed 2 seasons playing, getting myself a few goals before disaster struck and my knee buckled snapping my ACL and essentially ending my Amateur Football career, which to this day haunts me as I loved playing , but I refound my love for the game as Rosshall had folded a few years after my playing days.”

“I got added into a group with a few of the ex -players by my old Manager Scott MacAlear and I decided to go down and help out the running of the team, and we reformed the old Rosshall Thistle into the GDSFC.”

“We started off ok, but team manager Scott MacAlear decided to take a break away to have a child and I said that I would take the reigns of the team and decided that it was a learning game that I wanted to take on. That season, I remember we finished 7th in the league and I wanted the team to improve on that for the following season. I set about rebuilding the team and in doing so we managed to get in a great leader and Captain, Derek Fox, who came on board and managed to get the lads out first Sponsor, which was huge for the team getting SERCO on board. They found out about what the team was about and purchased the lads strips, bags, and tracksuits. The rebuild continued getting a lot more players in, and finally getting recognised as the old Rosshall team that had won the league a few years prior to this team.”

“My first real challenge was a Tournament that we entered on an invite by Newmains Juniors alongside Albion Rovers U21s, and Cambusnethen Talbot. By the reactions of the Newmains Manager, we were expected to be the whipping boys of the tournament, but to their surprise in the opening game we beat them 3-2, followed by 2-1 against Albion Rovers’ Development team.”

“That guaranteed us a place in the Final. Before playing Cambusnethen Talbot twice, in the first game we were beaten 2-0, but played them again in the Final. Once again we lost 2-0, but the boys did me proud and shocked a lot of people.”

“It was at this point the boys kicked on in what was to be a title-winning season. We were starting in the Second Division and managed to get to our second Cup Final. In the first we lost to Todholm 2-1 the previous season before losing to Maryhill Milan – stopping us from doing a double. However, this would not stop us winning the League. We lost only 1 League game all season, and with a staggering 43 goals from Stephen Mullen. We finally won the League against Keppochill, which was my first- ever trophy in Management.”

“That season was phenomenal as Maryhill Milan, our old rivals, had challenged us the whole way. Rosshall Thistle were no longer to be after our title- winning season. A lot of the boys left to go to Pollok, a few others had left, and a decision was made to fold the team.”

“I then was offered a position at BSC which was short term. I rebuilt the Sunday squad for them, again winning 5 of my 6 games in charge before I had a disagreement with one of the other Coaches. I decided to step down and move forward in a different direction.”

“In my second crack at a title, I was asked to come down and look at Colts Athletic by now a good friend, Alan Fern, and David Smudger Smith. I remember watching their first game to see what I was working with against Whitemoss. Colts had bags of potential, but didn’t really have a lot of shape to them, and were a long ball team.”

“I decided to take on the challenge and took a training session and expressed to the lads my methods and style of play, and the football I wanted them to play. I asked Paul Murray to step-up and take the Captain’s role. He was the model for that team. A great leader and solid player, who stopped at nothing to win a ball in the back line. We played a 3-5-2 formation, which saw the lads romp the League finishing 13 points clear. Joint top goal scorers were Mark Oakes and David Smudger Smith.”

“This was the first trophy won by Colts Athletic, and it was a great year with a great team, but remarkably after winning the League I was relieved of my duties by the Chairman of the team, David Smith, and found myself teamless again even though I had won the Division 2 title and Division 3 title in the past two seasons.”

“At one point I considered walking away from Management, but through my love of the game I decided to look about and was told by Nim Roy that Anchor Sociedad were looking for a new Manager. After I made contact with Sam Berry, I met up with a few of the lads in a bar, and spoke to them with regards to taking over as the Team Manager and what I encountered was a great bunch of lads, who were all mates. Some had played rugby, but loved playing the game and I agreed to start managing Anchor.”

“When I arrived in my first game I was amazed at the strips the lads wore as these were something like you would see straight out of Jamaica, but the lads embraced them with pride and I can’t forget to mention Sam Berry’s famous Umbro Jacket, which to this day is like a famous item of Memorabilia for Anchor.”

“The lads had previously managed to win the Challenge Cup Final the season before, and when I took over I explained to the lads the way I wanted them to play football and I was not let down. The boys, in my first game, beat a very strong Keppochill team in a Cup game, and we managed to go on a 5-game unbeaten run in the 3rd Division leaving us and Saracen Red Star in First and Second with Sarry only 3 points ahead of us – we had 3 games in hand. Unfortunately, Covid-19 struck and destroyed our season leaving the season Null and Void – destroying my chance of a Treble of Trophies in three seasons.”

“This has not stopped the lads coming together. I spoke to the boys about getting some new strips on board and some tracksuit tops and they did not let me down. I spoke to the Team Captain, Grant Berry, about getting a Sponsor on board and he agreed to Sponsor the team with his business, The Boathouse, which is a Seafood Restaurant on the Isle of Gigha. I was delighted to have them on board as well as Security company ,Cobra Security. Our strips would both have sponsors on them. I put it to the lads about getting a new set of strips and promised them that a vote for a new design was down to them, and whatever they agreed on I would get them designed.”

“They came up with some crazy designs before finally coming up with replica of the blue and white Man United away top from the 1990 season. I spoke to Appin Sports and they agreed to design the strip for the lads and Fund Raising begun. I managed to sell a few football cards with the lads ,and we raised enough money to buy the new strips as well as Grant Berry putting in the funds for the lads to get new Nike tracksuit tops, which was very generous of him.”

“This hasn’t stopped there as Appin Sports invited us to participate in a Strip Competition, with our blue and white strip. We managed to get through to the Final to win 15 sets of strips, and in the end we were victorious – winning a new set of away strips, which will have the Boathouse sponsor on them due to the generosity of Grant and his business.”

“I once again put it to the boys and to this day these strips are the craziest things I have ever seen with the outfield strips looking like a Ghana replica strip, and the goalkeeper strip being modelled on the Japan keepers strip from 1998 with flames before the lads decided to make an exact replica except in orange, and that is what makes Anchor lads so unique in their very own way.”

“My only other experience I have with Football Management was having the honour of taking the GDSFC Select Team on and going up against a very good SAFL Select side – coming from 2-0 down to draw 4-4, and unfortunately beat on penalties when everyone was expecting us to get demolished.”

“Covid has essentially ruined this season for us as we never got a chance to get started on the what is known as the GDSFC Championship, and I genuinely hope that football can get back to being played again as it genuinely has affected me in more ways than one as I caught Covid in early March, and it has affected my health in more ways than one ,with me still having no sense of smell or taste 10 months on, and having stomach issues as well due to it. My Mental Health has also been seriously affected, and football alone and doing things with the team and strips has kept me occupied and kept my mind clear as well.”

“I also look forward to getting involved again with the GDSFC Committee, which I have been a part of for about 4 years now, and I also look forward to being more involved with SAFA as part of the National Committee.”

Colts Athletic FC celebrating winning the League. Team Manager Michael Leith is far left.

Rosshall Thistle captain Derek Fox (left) and Michael Leith.

The trophy-winning Rosshall Thistle squad.

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