LARGS Thistle assistant manager Martin Crawford says the club is ready for the challenge ahead as they returned to training.


Crawford, who has worked with the likes of Brendan Rodgers, Mick McCarthy and Steve Coppell, is looking forward to the new challenge of Largs competing in the West of Scotland Football League.
The assistant, who recently turned 65, was a striker in his playing days at county level with Epsom and Ewell in Surrey, and became a football scout with Premiership clubs including Liverpool, as well as Reading and Millwall.
Training resumed during the past week at Barrfields and Crawford says he can’t wait for football action to resume in October.
He said: “It was great to be back and we are currently allowed to train in small groups.
“We are starting off from a very different place from last season with a lot more experience peppered throughout the squad.
“We have Keir Milliken, who offers vast experience after winning trophies with both Auchinleck and Beith, and we have welcomed back Graham Muir who will be a great asset with his fitness and knowledge of the game. With a mobile and athletic defender in Corey Hughes and a strong backbone already with the likes of Ben Black, Scott Adam, and Stuart Faulds, there is a lot to look forward to.
“It was nice to be back at training, and pretty soon it was like normal.”
Clydebank FC put out information last week that seven teams would be relegated from the new West of Scotland Premiership of 20 teams.
Crawford said: “It means that every single point in this league is going to count and you will be looking over your shoulder a lot but it is a new challenge and we are really looking forward to it.
“It is only light training sessions just now, but hopefully we will be in a position to get some friendly matches in place soon.
“Footballers may be born with talent but there is no excuse not to be fit. We always want to make sure our players are fully prepared and as fit as possible. You could see last season that we never gave up the ghost right until the last minute. It is the least we can do for the paying customers when they start to come back to games.”
Crawford offers an interesting insight into the game having been a scout for 16 years for various clubs.
He said: “I was lucky enough to work with Brendan Rodgers when he was at Reading, Frank Lampard senior at West Ham and Steve Coppell at Reading.
“I used to watch first team training and talked to lots of people and picked up various tactics and training ideas which are very effective.
“I am always asked if I discovered any big names as a scout but the reality is that players like Wayne Rooney and other wonderkids are relatively rare - they come along once in a lifetime.
“Brendan Rodgers is a great communicator and it was very interesting watching Mick McCarthy’s training exercises at Millwall, particularly patterns of play and the transition of getting the ball forward and creating space, some of which we’ve implemented here.

Largs and Millport Weekly News: Learning from the greats ... Martin Crawford got coaching insight from some top managers including Brendan RodgersLearning from the greats ... Martin Crawford got coaching insight from some top managers including Brendan Rodgers
“I also got the opportunity to do some scouting at Liverpool too when Rafa Benitez was in charge but I never got to meet him.
“At clubs like Reading there was a lot more interaction between the management and first team and rest of the club so I quite often got to chat with Brendan and he was a lovely man. Some clubs are very sectioned and you don’t get the opportunity to mix with the inner circle but others do. It was a footballing education for me and an enjoyable time spanning around 16 years.”
Crawford recalls some of the current greats featuring in some of the matches he was involved in - including an 11-year-old Harry Kane and a young Raheem Sterling.
He said: “You could see the amazing talent that they possessed even at that age. Harry instinctively knew where the net was and Sterling was a ‘wow’ player. You could see the had all the talent in the world.”
Having seen the training process and spoken to great football managers and coaches over the years, Crawford has a shrewd footballing brain and is always eager to give helpful guidance and advice to players at Thistle.
He said: “One of the things I was particularly keen to do when I came to Thistle was for players to go tight in on the opposition - if you are in a specific area of the field make sure you are there with a purpose and chasing and harrying your man with every intent of getting the ball from them.
“Even in management and coaching you are always learning your trade. It is great working with manager Stuart Davidson and fellow coaches Liam McVey and Andy Scott. We are fully focussed on getting the team fully prepared and ready for the season starting.”