NASCA COACH OF THE WEEK POWERED BY SPORT CAREERS AGENCY: BRIAN WELSH
- Dundee United 1994 Cup winning hero looks back on the influence of McLean and Golac
- Reflects on how that education has made him a coaching success with Braddock Road Youth Club in North Virginia, USA
- Tells how experiences at Livingston and Cowdenbeath shaped him into the mentor he is to young players now
EDUCATED by Jim McLean, energised by Ivan Golac.
Brian Welsh's journey into Dundee United folklore as one of the defensive rocks of the 1994 Scottish Cup winning team was fashioned by two very different football men.
He has taken the lessons learned from them into his life as a coach and now the youngsters developing at Braddock Road Youth Club and his own club Northern Virginia United USA reap the rewards.
At the age of 52 Welsh is revelling in his dual roles as Boys Technical Director at BRYC and Coach/President of Northern Virginia United based 40 minutes away from America's capital Washington DC.
Brian believes his often bittersweet Tannadice experience made him the man and mentor he is today.
He reflected: ”The truth is I had been an in and out player with Jim McLean, I remember scoring against Celtic in a 1-1 draw and he dropped me the next week.
”He was a football genius but as a man I never got on with him, he wouldn't have survived now the way he managed then.
”Yet as a young player I learned how to defend properly and it was an education.
”Ivan Golac came at the right time for me and don't be fooled by the smiles and jokes, he was a winner.
”He cared about me as a person and I thrived under him. He was the best thing that happened to me. I had been waiting years for United to change manager.
”I formed a great partnership with Gordan Petric, who was my next door neighbour, and he was a superb footballer who was also hard as nails.”
Welsh and Croatian Petric were immense in that Final 27 years ago, shutting out Walter Smith's Treble-chasing Rangers as Craig Brewster's Hampden winner sealed an iconic day in United's history.
Brian's ties with the Tangerines remain as binding as ever even though he has now lived in the States for almost a decade after first sampling the lifestyle visiting his son Daniel when he played on a scholarship at University of Maryland Baltimore County.
When his club BRYC launched a non-profit Youth Academy to compete in the new USL Super Y League, Welsh saw a chance to tap into the superb work by done in the Arabs' youth system headed up by the impressive Andy Goldie.
Brian stressed: ”When the Academy here got off the ground I wanted to pull on my relationship with Dundee United and they have been superb with us.
”We deliver their curriculum to the players through our work with Andy Goldie and it is a genuine and authentic partnership. They have already educated our players and parents so much.
”United has a proven record in developing young players, even back to my days.
”I coach three teams in that set-up with my son Daniel, I love him but he can be really annoying. He's 30 now and he has an opinion on everything!”
As a player Welsh was imposing, athletic, left-footed, a combative centre-half who got to the brink of the national team after starring in the youth sides but never quite made that big breakthrough.
With the Under-19s he reached The European Championship semi-finals, with the Under-20s it was the World Cup quarter-finals.
He recalled: ”I remember the Under-20s World Cup so well, we played in the quarter-final against West Germany and lost out on penalties.
”Craig Brown was trying to make me into a left-back back then and it was an adventure. Those days with Scotland were great.”
Welsh saw all of the plusses and pitfalls of Scottish football in his own career and when it came to his own family he began to think of different options.
Brian was Head of Youth Development at Livingston with son Daniel flourishing in the set-up.
Yet when the chance came for him to land a scholarship at UMBC, Dad was fully behind his kid moving Stateside.
Brian stressed: ”Every time I came across to visit Daniel I loved the lifestyle.
”He was also playing in the IMG Academy in Florida in the summer and I was staying there to watch him and living in a gated community for a month.
”To be honest I was looking around and wondering what I was doing in Scotland.
”Eventually I got to know people and I was offered the chance of a job at Braddock Road Youth Club and I jumped at it.
”At the start I was digging into my UK money and the cost of living here is high, so financially you have your struggles at times.
”You can't hide from that part of moving here but we have built on our work here and moved on.
”For the first three weeks I was wondering what I had done because the standards on the pitch were not where I wanted them to be.
”I had come from a professional youth academy background at Livingston and I was trying to judge them at that level.
”I had to flip my mindset and realise that I had a lot offer to bring them UP to the standards rather than criticising them for not being there in the first place.”
Now Brian and his family are settled in Northern Virginia in one of the most affluent areas of the States.
He has constructed a stellar reputation at BRYC developing talents like Collin Verfuth, who is starring for New England Revolution in Major League Soccer, Atlanta United 2 winger Alexander Garuba and in England Salford City keeper Haydn Evans.
Brian stressed: ”There are only 250 boys in the Academy and we punch above our weight. We've won State Cups, National Championships, ECNL League titles. We have done well.
”Once that side of the club was established I felt there was a gap in the programs and we started a semi-pro club Northern Virginia United three years ago.
”This is for the college kids who come home in the summer and need somewhere to play. We placed the team in the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) and I enjoy the challenge there.
”I guess if you are trying to match the NPSL with back home in Scotland they would be Lowland or Highland League standard.
”In the time we have had that team we have had eight players go professional and I'm proud of that.
”We've had interest from investors in that set-up to take them to the next stage of having their own stadium.
”The club doesn't make money right now, we just cover our overheads but there is potential there.”
It's all a far cry from Brian's one foray into management in the Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) with Cowdenbeath.
Welsh is brutally frank when he looks back on those two years in the dug-out at Central Park.
He confessed: ”I hated every minute as a manager if I am honest, I found it very hard to adapt to having part-time players.
”I'd be planning sessions and be itching to go because I only had them two nights a week and there would be a queue outside my door with grumpy players who hadn't played wanting a word.
”Football had been my life 24/7 and if I am truthful I found it hard to deal with players who had come off a shift at work and just wanted to enjoy themselves.
”It's such a tough job and I know how difficult it was on me. That's why I never criticise managers because I know what they go through.
”I NEVER feel the way I did as a manager when I am working with kids.
”I knew deep down after Cowdenbeath that if I was to have a future as a coach it would be with youth players.
”Those two years were rough on me, it wasn't for me.”
When you have the chance to talk football with Brian Welsh you come away with one word imprinted in your mind. Authentic.
The honesty and care he brings to coaching young players is far more important than the Xs and Os of the tactical sessions he knows inside-out.
He reasoned: ”I was educated as a player by Jim McLean, Walter Smith, Gordon Wallace, Kenny Cameron, men like that.
”So I feel I have so much to offer in terms of knowledge and I feel I know how to treat young players.
”If I have my education as a player from McLean, the way I developed under Golac, both of these aspects of my life were spot-on.
”So I hope that this added with the feeling of satisfaction I get from seeing these kids fulfil their dreams explains why I do what I do.
”I know where my strengths lie and what I enjoy doing and as long as I keep doing that then I will stick with it.
”I remember the young kids being in tears when I left Livingston and that told me I could have an impact.
”I still have some of them coming over here and visiting me from Marc McNulty to Coll Donaldson and that means the world me.
”How many players come to visit their old coach in another country? That means a lot to me, they knew I would always look after them.”
THAT Dundee United starting 11 in the 1994 Scottish Cup Final win was:
Van de Kamp; Malpas, Petric, Welsh, Cleland; Bowman, Hannah, McInally; Dailly, Brewster, McLaren.
Nine Scotsmen, a Dutchman and a Croatian. That wouldn't happen too often these days.