WHEN Russell Slade drives past the rubble that was once the McCain Stadium on one of his regular journeys home to Scarborough from east London, the Leyton Orient manager cannot help but feel a pang of sadness.
It was at the helm of the Seadogs that the 53-year-old cut his managerial teeth and he will be forever grateful for the grounding that Scarborough gave him.
“I look back on those days and think how they really helped me cut my teeth in management,” Slade told The Yorkshire Post ahead of tomorrow’s League One play-off final.
“I often smile when I hear people say that the job is about being a head coach these days. It just isn’t true. The job is managing a football club and giving the club a direction and philosophy.
“Scarborough was very much like that and I am both pleased and proud that I cut my teeth at that level.
“It is fine doing coaching qualifications and the like. But you have to learn how to manage individuals and the team as a group. Scarborough proved an excellent start, in that respect.”
Slade’s talents were certainly put to the test at a venue affectionately known in the seaside town as the ‘Theatre of Chips’.
The financial problems that eventually killed off the club in 2007 were apparent throughout his reign, which began when Scarborough were four points adrift at the foot of the Conference.
“I came in to Scarborough when things were really struggling,” said Slade, who led Boro to a 12th-place finish in that first season.
“But they weren’t a bad group and just needed direction.
“We achieved that by giving the players a clear strategy and a clear game plan. We also identified what weaknesses there were.
“The main thing, though, was that because we needed points, we went 3-4-3 for the only time in my career. We had no alternative, as draws and grinding out results just wouldn’t have done. We had to score more goals than the opposition, that was the crux of it.”
Now in his fourth full season at Orient, Slade is looking to banish the memory of losing two previous play-off finals with Grimsby Town (League Two 2006) and Yeovil (League One 2007).
He added: “I am hoping it will be third time lucky for me in the play-off final.”