Hearts legend eager to get back into the management game

Jim Jefferies
Jim Jefferies
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HE’S playing “comfortably” to his eight handicap at Dunbar and has “enjoyed” an unexpected trip out to Cyprus to visit daughter Louise and her partner Danny Invincible, who played for him at Kilmarnock.

But, after just over three months away from the coalface where he’d worked continually for 23 years, Jim Jefferies is starting to get the itch to get back in the dugout.

He didn’t throw his hat in the ring for the vacancy at St Johnstone and wasn’t approached by Hibs despite Easter Road legend Pat Stanton saying he could bring stability to the Leith club but, at the age of 60, Jefferies has the same desire and determination as he did when he set out on his managerial career in senior football at struggling Berwick Rangers.

“When you’re in the position I am at the moment, you get a chance to do things that you often take for granted,” said Jefferies in an exclusive interview with the Evening News.

“I’ve enjoyed the break but, at the same time, I’m just starting to get the wee edge again for wanting to get back into it.

“If it doesn’t happen straight away, I will keep enjoying the break and do my best to keep winning the money in my golf games at Dunbar but, hopefully somewhere down the line, someone will still be looking for an experienced manager.”

St Johnstone, with Steve Lomas, and Hibs, with Pat Fenlon, have opted for younger managers at a time when not only Jefferies but Jimmy Calderwood, Alex Miller and other time-served bosses are in the job market – but Jefferies is confident that his age won’t necessarily stop him getting back into the game.

“I think football always goes in cycles and trends,” he said. “It wasn’t that long ago that people were shouting that you couldn’t beat an experienced manager. They’d point to the likes of Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger, Harry Redknapp and other managers at the top end of the game. Now some younger managers have been starting to come in and do well and that’s maybe the trend at the moment.

“But that will probably start to peter out and clubs will go back to experience. Look at Aberdeen, where Craig Brown was maybe under a bit of pressure not so long ago. Would that have been an ideal situation for a young manager to go in if he’d lost his job? I don’t think so. They’ve stuck with Craig and Archie [Knox] and are now seeing the benefit of doing so.

“In the St Johnstone scenario, I didn’t put my hat in the ring but only because I knew that Geoff Brown had gone down a different route in the past.

“It’s a great wee club and Derek [McInnes] did a great job, but I didn’t push it. However, I’m still at the stage where I have the drive and desire to do it [football management] for a few years yet.”

Jefferies was at St James’ Park recently to take in high- flying Newcastle’s match against Everton. But it was more for pleasure than business.

“It was nice to go and see a different game, so to speak, and enjoy it,” he said. “It was a chance to take in a game with some friends and I enjoyed it. Newcastle are going well and it was a nice atmosphere.

“But I do miss the Scottish scene and you want to try and keep in touch with that. You never know when the chance to get back in might come along, so you need to be aware of what’s going on at clubs, be it players who have either been signed or come through a youth system. You need to be on top of it. John Hughes is spending a lot of time in England watching games because he wants to manage in England and that’s a great thing. He’s doing his homework so when he gets his opportunity he’ll be ready.

“I’ve also taken in a couple of games during trips away. For instance, I went out to Cyprus see my daughter and watched a game over there involving Danny Invincible’s club (Ermis Aradippou). I also had the opportunity to take in Billy Brown’s first home game [as assistant manager to Colin Calderwood]. I didn’t want to set any rumours running, so I made sure it was okay with Colin and the Hibs board that I went along to that.”

Jefferies is a close friend of Hughes, his captain at Berwick then Falkirk. The pair were together earlier this month at a ceremony to celebrate the life of Campbell Christie, the former Bairns chairman, following his death. He admits it is strange to find themselves both seeking a new job, but is confident something will come up for each of them eventually, albeit at different stages in their managerial careers.

“It’s sad that Yogi has been out of the game for more than a year, but he’s a survivor, that’s for sure,” observed Jefferies. “He’s still enthusiastic and I’ve told him that he shouldn’t rule getting back into it in whatever capacity. He’s only 47 and it will be a little bit more concerning for him at the moment. I’m not a millionaire or anything like that, but I can take on another job now because I want to, not because I have to.

“I definitely miss it. How couldn’t you after being a manager for 23 consecutive years. So maybe someone round the corner will need an experienced manager or maybe someone to fill a different role.”

After telling him just two weeks into the new SPL season that he no longer wanted him to be manager of Hearts, Vladimir Romanov offered Jefferies the post of director of football at Tynecastle in a bid to keep him at the club.

“There was two reasons I decided against that,” he said. “Firstly, I had just come out of the dugout and I didn’t feel that was a job that I was ready to take up.

“Secondly, a new manager had just been appointed and how was he going to feel? I didn’t want to be going around in the background and him feeling that I had a chip on my shoulder.

“I met him [Paulo Sergio] before I left and, in fairness, he said some nice things when he first came to the club.

“Regarding the director of football post, I think it would have been better if I’d been away and came back to fill a position like that due to the experience I have. Whether that happens in the future, I might think differently but I didn’t want to do it straight from the dugout. The timing also wasn’t right, I needed time away from the club.”