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Exit 2002 Ricky Sbragia - Jocky Scott

Ricky Sbragia
3 Times runner up

If there was an unsung hero amongst SAFC’s backroom staff over the past few years, Ricky Sbragia is that man. The merits – and otherwise – of Messrs Saxton, Heath and, of course, Reid have been discussed at length in the pages of this magazine and across the drinking establishments of Wearside, but the name Sbragia is one that has remained relatively unuttered… and not just because nobody has a clue how to pronounce it.

Whenever the former York defender-turned-youth team coach, later to become the reserves boss, did crop up in the conversation, it was ‘that Scottish bloke… you know, the one with the funny name.’

Sbragia was, until his departure, the longest-serving member of the coaching staff, joining Mick Buxton’s backroom boys as Under-17s coach in 1994. During the past eight years he has guided the likes of Thomas Butler, Michael Proctor, Kevin Kyle and George McCartney and then seen them make the step up to Premiership football.

An almost complete unknown outside Sunderland and York, his star is now very much in the ascendancy having replaced former Manchester United defender Mike Phelan as Reserve Team Coach at Old Trafford. As he settled into his new job, the Glaswegian said: “I’ve had eight good years at Sunderland, the club has been tremendous to me and have worked hard to keep me, but this offer has been a dream come true.”

Sbragia’s background isn’t particularly illustrious but he has enjoyed success in some quarters. After turning pro at Birmingham City in May 74, Sbragia went on to play for Morton, Walsall and Blackpool, before arriving at York City in August 82. It was at Bootham Crescent where the Scot found a niche. An ever present in his first season, his partnership with John McPhail during the next campaign helped a Denis Smith inspired York to lift the 83/84 Fourth Division Championship with a ludicrous 101 points.

Regarded as one of City’s best post-war centre halves, one of Sbragia’s finest moments in a York shirt came when he scored a rare goal in a tie against Liverpool in the fifth round of the FA Cup to earn the Minstermen a replay at Anfield. Unfortunately, he required an operation after slipping a disc in the replay and the injury effectively finished his playing career. After finally hanging up his boots in May 87, he became Youth Team Coach at Bootham Crescent and remained there until Sunderland offered him a similar position in September 94.

On my visits to the Charley Hurley Centre as I kid, I remember Ricky as the most vociferous of coaches on the training ground and the first to sign autographs as the players bolted for the showers come the end of the session. Ironic really, as most kids didn’t have a clue who the bloke was, and I certainly didn’t prize his signature as highly as that of Mickey Gray or Craig Russell. I’ve still got it though.

The hole Sbragia’s departure has left in the coaching staff is belied by Wilkinson’s blasé attitude to finding a replacement. The gaffer reckons there is ‘too much going on’ to appoint a permanent replacement. Wilkinson took time out from making cups of tea for supporters to pay tribute to Sbragia. “I’m very disappointed to lose Ricky,” he said. “In the time that I’ve been here I have come to see him as an extremely valuable member of staff. This has been proven by my efforts to keep Ricky, but I understand his desire to pursue a dream.”

Sbragia’s move to Old Trafford comes at a time when Alex Ferguson is talking of having to build a United team for the future. With their league form patchy, don’t be surprised to see the influence of Sbragia’s coaching in future generations of United wonder kids.

Andy Walker

Jocky Scott
4 foot tache

Have you ever heard the story about the cup final in 1973 where the underdogs overwhelmed everybody’s expectations and against the odds, lifted the trophy? Do you also remember the lad who played on the wing with his shirt hanging out while sporting a massive tache and a pair of white football boots? Well, that was Jocky Scott.

OK, the reason you can’t remember was because it was the Scottish League Cup Final where crowd favourite Scott was helping Dundee to victory against Celtic whilst pioneering rubbish white boots and giving Tom Selleck ideas about facial grooming. Following the departure of Ricky Sbragia to Manchester United, Scott was appointed as new Killer Bs boss, albeit on a temporary basis, so we decided to find out how he’s fared in the past.

After becoming a firm crowd favourite during his playing career at Dundee, the moustachioed maestro took the managerial reins at the club in August 1986 where he created a side that played attractive passing football before he moved to Aberdeen in the summer of 1988. Many fans believed that the board were hindering his progress at Dens Park but his move to the Dons was the first of many that would see him develop a reputation as “a bit of a mercenary.”

It was at Aberdeen where Scott enjoyed most managerial success. Having been appointed co-manager with Alex Smith, the Dons won both the Scottish Cup and Scottish League Cup in the 89/90 season. By now the tached tactician had already developed a reputation as a strict disciplinarian and his change of preference to less blasé methods on the pitch coincided with the arrival of silverware. However, the ship soon began to sink and Scott left Aberdeen in 1991, shortly before Alex Smith became the first manager in the club’s history to be formally dismissed.

After doomed spells at Dunfermline – who were in a complete mess when Scott arrived – and Hibernian. Scott eventually returned to Dundee, now in the First Division, in controversial fashion in the summer of 1997. When current club owners, the Marr brothers took control of Dees during the same year, they had plans afoot and ousted popular John ‘Cowboy’ McCormick in favour of appointing Scott.

Our reserve boss led Dundee back to the SPL at the first attempt but, after a couple of indifferent seasons, the Marr brothers decided not to renew his contract, largely because maverick Italian Ivano Bonetti had expressed a desire to take the reins.

In summer 2000, our meandering manager crossed the border to try his hand in England after Notts County offered him the role as boss following the departure of Sam Allardyce. Though he won more games than he lost at Meadow Lane, he failed to produce the kind of results expected of him in the wake of his predecessor’s excellent record and left after fourteen months.

It is widely considered that two factors led to his downfall at the Magpies (boo, hiss, etc). First, his reputation as a guru of free flowing football still remained though, realistically, this thinking had been confined to history. Secondly, his decision to stick two fingers up at the fans and tell them to f*** off didn’t help his cause. In all fairness, it hadn’t helped when he did the same at Dunfermline and Dundee either.

After failing in his attempt to keep a desperate Raith Rovers safe from relegation in a six month stint last season, Scott had been taking it easy until the recent call came from Howard Wilkinson. He may have his critics but the bottom line is that he’s another member of staff on board with silverware to his name and, if he can produce results and keep his hand gestures to a minimum, we wish him all the best at Sunderland, however long he stays.

Sue Dennim



19th October 2002. A group of Estonian Mackems together with two fellow European Mackems, Sakari and Ismo from Finland, start off for a small town called Põlva in Southern Estonia. The reason? An event they had been waiting a long time for – the first ever match between Estonian Mackems and Estonian Magpies.

The match had been planned for a long time but, for different reasons, postponed over and over again until it was decided that no matter what, it was going to take place on that date. The weather was not exactly your perfect matchday weather. With the temperature several degrees below zero and a considerable amount of snow covering the pitch, the football of Põlva’s FC Lootos did not look inviting.

Due to the harsh conditions, it was decided that the match was to be played on half the field and with each half lasting twenty-five minutes. To make it less difficult for the Magpies – because it had become apparent that many of the Estonian Skunks had not shown up for really sad excuses (the mere fact that one is studying in the United States does not count as a legitimate excuse for such an important game) – it was decided that it would be five men against five.

The game took the right turn for the Mackems during the first seconds as a lad called Kosk managed to finish the first attack with a superb goal, leaving the Magpie goalkeeper a mess down in the snow. Only twenty-six seconds had passed from the whistle to the ball in the back of the net (well, there was actually no whistle but you know what I mean).

The following minutes passed under the domination of the Mackems. There were several very good opportunities, however, the luck was not completely on their side and Magpie Raix managed to even the score on the 18th minute. This, however, did not discourage the Mackems and supported by the warm and ecstatic cheers of Käts, Kaida and Triinu, Mackem Tafka managed to set the score to what was deserved.

Moments before the clock ticked half time, the foreign legionary Sakari scored his first goal, a real beauty long shot into the top corner. This meant that the Magpies went into the break devastated by the superiority of the Mackems – 3-1 down. Meanwhile, it had appeared that there were not enough numbers on the scoreboard and more had to be ordered because it was obvious that there were more goals to come.

After a short break, a shower of goals by the Mackems started. First Brunts, who had just arrived, put one past the helpless Magpie goalkeeper and Sakari claimed his second. The faces on the Skunks were really something to look at. Unfortunately, they managed to hit their second goal on thirty-eight minutes reducing the Mackems lead to 5-2.

This was not left unanswered, for the glorious goals of Brunts and Aifo on forty-three and forty-five minutes set the score straight. The Skunks tried a comeback with an accidental goal in the forty-sixth minute by Ince, but this was not to change anything. The Skunks were even more shocked when the highly dominant Mackems put Käts, one of the Estonian 'she-Mackems' to the field. Although she did not manage to score a goal, she did a good job.

Before the pretend whistle blew for full time, our true hero Sakari got his long awaited hat trick with a goal in the first minute of stoppage time. His joy was immense. Warm handshakes with the losers, extremely happy Estonian Mackem faces and then off to the sauna. Before leaving the stadium the Mackems’ temptation was uncontrollable and they couldn’t help but to take some photos with the scoreboard.

Unfortunately, due to the above-mentioned lack of numbers and poor delivery service, it was impossible to show the actual final result 8-3, until the bright minds of Mackems used number six and turned it around to nine, which is really not that far from the truth, is it?

Before arriving at the sauna, both the glorious winners and the sore losers visited a local popular shop for some beer and snacks. Well, some is an understatement – enough to make themselves happy anyway. Meanwhile, the Magpies had received information that their beloved Newcastle United had lost 5-2 to Blackburn, which made them even more miserable (although the news from Stadium of Light wasn’t really thrilling either).

Nevertheless, the happy shouts of Estonian and two Finnish Mackems could be heard for miles and miles around the peaceful countryside. The beer and champagne never ended and the habitual attempts of certain Magpies to ruin the mood with their never-ending stories about the beautiful and talented players of Skunk United (yeah right) were jeered.

During the constructive discussions at the steam room, and with the beer bottles, it was agreed that this was not to be the only match. The next match will hopefully take place in Finland in July of 2003. And the Magpies have the task of arranging a cup, which they will award to the mighty Mackems during the next meeting of Sunderland AFC and Newcastle United, which we will watch together in a pub in April.

No matter what the current league table shows about the relation of forces between Sunderland and Skunks, Sunderland will always have more skilful, fun, clever and pretty fans and the prognosis for the next match between the fans shows that Mackems will win at least 10-2, hopefully.


On the behalf of Estonian and Finnish Mackems.

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