Bobby Williamson; Moving to Hibs, Managing Brown and Thomson and Why He Left Scotland

Last time with Bobby Williamson we spoke about his early managerial career, his time at Kilmarnock and what it’s like to win the Scottish Cup in your first year of management. But there is much more to come in Bobby’s story. In the next part of this interview, Bobby talks about his fondness of bringing through youth, including one Scott Brown, and managing Hibernian.


One of the things that we found out about last time was how Bobby brought through a plethora of players at Kilmarnock in his year of Scottish Cup triumph and he went on to promote youth throughout his career, so what are his thoughts on mixing that youth with experienced players, does it benefit the side and can you be to over-reliant on those youth players?


“When I was at a club like Kilmarnock, right from the very start they were bringing in Trialists who to be honest weren’t much better than the players that we already had. So, I made the decision that they would have to be a special player if I was going to bring them in from abroad, we had a lot of players who would come in from across the continent and they’d be disappointing.


So, from my experience in youth, what I did was start to turn more of an emphasis on promoting youth players. I was able to convince young players and parents that they would get an opportunity in the first teams and luckily enough for me, some of those players took that message on board and managed to break through, but, the truth is, a lot of lads didn’t. Whether that be through injury or personal choices but that said some of the players did manage to grasp the opportunity and when they come into the squad it can only ever be a good thing.”


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After leaving Killie for Hibernian the setting for Bobby would have been very different. What he did at Kilmarnock essentially set them up to put them into the position that they are in today but as he arrived at Hibs he was coming to a team that hadn’t won a game in 18 matches! The feeling around the club must have been the polar opposite to what he had experienced at Killie?


“When I first arrived at Hibs the first thing that I remember thinking was that there were far too many players. And it was obvious that this was leading to personality clashes all around the club. I remember I walked in one day and counted the different countries and there must have been over 10. You had the French guys in one corner, Spanish in the other, South American, Scotland, Irish, Canadian, and dealing with that is very difficult.


Almost all of them could understand the Scottish language to a certain extent, but it’s a huge challenge. You’ve got to get to know all of them, you’ve got be understanding of all their different cultures and I found out about that even more when I came over to Africa but it was very difficult because you had a lot of experienced players in the dressing room who couldn’t understand the reason as to why they were the way they were.”


One of the things that Bobby is most well-known for was his the faith that he put into youth players, especially at Hibs. He brought through players like Scott Brown, Rayden, O’Conner, Thomson, Whittaker and others. But was it obvious to Bobby that they were going to make it, or did they need nurturing first? 


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“Well for a lot of the players, especially the ones that you’ve named, you could look at them and very quickly realise that they were ready for first-team standard football. You knew that most of them weren’t ever going to have to wait too long that’s for sure. So, there’s that, but also when you are at a club and you are bringing through Youth players, the fans really appreciate it and get behind it.


There isn’t a player that a fan can get behind more than one who has come through the ranks at their club. And then beyond that, bringing through those players and just bringing them into first-team training can act as such a large motivating factor for other players, because suddenly you have competition, and a lot of players need that. But no, to answer your question, you can see the p[layers with the talent it’s just whether or not they have the right attitude to use it.


Yes, I had enjoyed my time as a player and always felt that a move into England would be comfortable for me. But, things happened at Hibs which left me in a situation where I felt that when the opportunity arises that I would make a move, so then to get offered a job that far South, in a lower league, I thought maybe this would be a bit of a risk but I’ve always thought that I would rather regret something that I tried rather than regret something I never did.”


Having already learned of his willingness to move and looking at his quote where he wants no regrets for not doing something, then it is easy to understand how the next chapter of Bobby Williamson’s story came about. Now that we’ve heard about his escapades in the UK next time, we investigate Bobby’s famous move to one of the most passionate footballing continents in the world, where Bobby went on to manage at club and international level. Next time, we explore Bobby’s African adventure!


By: Callum McFadden / @Callum7McFadden

Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Barrington Coombs – EMPICS / PA Images