Checking in with Scotland...
by Jarrett Smith Major League Soccer is amazing.
It’s not the best league in the world and no one is going to rationally argue that it is but it has its own brand of absurdity and hilarious nonsense that just makes it so wonderful. Every league has something like this; something so weird and possibly dumb and beautiful that you just want to admire it from a third party-approved safe distance. We all just want to have fun.
Scotland is fun. A league dominated by two teams across town from each other who, at this point, are running out of digits to cut off to spite whatever part of their body is still intact after long ago cutting off their noses to spite their faces. Scotland gave everyone the hipster soap opera to entertain the masses during the first part of the world wide shutdown by declaring the league ended, then not, then maybe they did? Then maybe they didn’t? Then a team may have held the league hostage over a WhatsApp message and a vote? Then a literal stray highland cow may have led a mutiny and taken over the league and started an invasion of Whales. That lost one isn’t true (probably?) but if you kept up with the stupidity then you at least googled it or checked r/scottishfootball first. Bottom line, if you missed the Scotland drama please go read about it. Seriously. This article will be here when you get back.
Back yet? Cool.
WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT, RIGHT?!
The latest low-key dumb thing actually has started impacting Atlanta United and no it doesn’t have to do with Aberdeen. Everyone there is safe I think? (Jonny Hayes is back there and will allegedly defer his wages to make the move work. It’s a good veteran pickup for the squad but I digress…
Anyway, Hearts of Midlothian were a mess in 2019 and managed to get relegated out of the SPFL after taking the time to lay down to everyone except Rangers — when they decided it was their god-given mission to torpedo any domestic dreams Rangers had — and into the second division. In the process they managed to lure away Robbie Neilson from Dundee United who just earned promotion to replace the aforementioned Hearts. Yes a manager just jumped from a team that earned a trip to the top flight so he could become the 3rd manager in 8 months for a club that may or may not be trying to sue Scottish football. Like I said: fun.
All of this is to say that a new SPFL club is looking for a manager and they may or may not be looking at Atlanta United 2’s very own Stephen Glass. This is normal and there is no need to panic.
Glass cut his teeth with Aberdeen as a player before adventuring south to places like Newcastle and Watford. He took an assistant job at Shamrock Rovers in the early 2010s and ended up as caretaker manager for a bit while they finished 4th when the dust settled. Eventually he found his way to Atlanta as an academy coach and then was handed the keys to Atlanta United 2 after Scott Donnelly departed.
Here’s the thing about managing a USL club that’s tied to an MLS club: It’s weird and it’s tough as hell. The majority of the player pool will be a revolving door with only some of your players consistently in your core starting XI. Did I say core starting XI? How silly of me, you won't be having one of those. You’ll have players moving up and down to get minutes or fill roster spots, you’ll probably have academy kids chomping at the bit to play against adults and probably some journeymen who signed on knowing they’ll have to be leaders on the field and teachers on and off the field for the younger players.
Winning records are never easy to come by when your training group may be drawn out of a hat some days thanks to the demands of the senior squad. You take from it what you can and slowly work toward building a club that wins but more importantly develops for the entire organization.
All of that is to say, if you judge the man as a manager strictly by his record juggling a second team — a second team that was at the top of the list of ‘teams you don’t want anything to do with’ at the end of the 2019 season — then you’re missing the big picture. A picture that is absolutely appealing to a club like Dundee that will be looking to grow and develop talent which they sell down the road.
I didn’t write all of this to tell that he would or would not be the right fit for Dundee. I’m here to tell you that when (it’s not an ‘if’, he will go somewhere eventually) he does leave...that’s ok. You’re developing on-field talent with the 2s but you’re also developing staff. It’s a disservice to the likes of Tata and FdB to call them just redemption projects but there is a bit of redemption in both of their tenures with the senior team. You will never convince me that all three trophies didn’t bring a smile to those men’s faces after so many people raised questions. The second team isn’t here to create feel-good stories though. It’s about development and you’ll attract more than just some hot-shot players. The staff might not stay here, but they’re sure as hell getting some crash course work in tactics, man management, youth development, etc. And when they sharpen up and go on to better things, you shake their hand and wish them the best of luck on their next challenge. Then you go find another to replace them and keep moving forward.
If you held me up in a back alley and asked me if Glassy leaves right now, I’d say no, as I think Dundee will end up chasing someone more established (though I hope I haven’t just jinxed it.) Glassy will surely be ticketed for big things and a return to his hometown makes sense whether it’s now or down the road.
If this sounds familiar as a strategy, good. It should. It’s never fun to possibly watch someone you cheer for leave, but when you’re in Atlanta’s position it’s just part of the business. And brother, business is a-boomin.