Welcome to our latest Q & A, where we dive deep into the fascinating career of football legend, Kevin Thomson. Known for his tenacity on the field and for his time with clubs such as Hibernian, Rangers, Middlesbrough, and Dundee, Thomson has experienced the highs and lows that come with a life dedicated to football.
In this conversation, we’ll explore not only the glory of his playing days but also the challenges – most notably, his battles with injuries. Despite these hurdles, Thomson’s spirit remained unbroken, leading him to one of the pinnacles of his career – playing in the UEFA Cup Final.
Join us as we delve into Thomson’s journey, showcasing the resilience and determination it takes to overcome adversity and achieve success on the international stage.
Q. Kevin, you were part of what’s often referred to as Hibs’ golden generation, playing alongside the likes of Scott Brown, Steven Whittaker, Garry O’Conner, Derek Riordan, and Michael Stewart. What was the experience like, being a 20-year-old captain leading such an incredibly gifted young squad? Can you share how Tony Mowbray contributed to your growth as a player?
A. It was an exhilarating period, a true privilege to be named Captain by Tony at such a tender age, especially as a lifelong Hibs fan. It was an enormous honour, one that filled me with immense pride. Being part of that dynamic young team was absolutely thrilling – we were all passionate about football, and coupled with Tony’s managerial style, it created an incredible atmosphere. Truly, it was a fantastic time in my career.
Q. You made your move to Rangers during a phase when the team was undergoing significant changes. Did that present any extra challenges in terms of settling in? Walter Smith, a true legend in football, was at the helm during your time there – could you share your experiences of his coaching style on the training ground? And has any wisdom he imparted on you as a player influenced your approach in your own coaching career?
A. Working under the guidance of Walter was an absolute privilege. He was a true leader and one of the most motivated competitors I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with. Humble, respectful, yet possessing a real grit – if I could adopt any of his qualities, those would top the list! In retrospect, the timing of my move to Rangers was quite beneficial. With the team in a phase of transition, it perhaps offered me a bit more leeway to acclimate myself, if such a thing is even possible at a club of Rangers’ stature!
Q. You played a pivotal role in Rangers’ journey to the UEFA Cup Final in Manchester, 2008. What was it about the spirit of that team that made you all battle relentlessly till the final whistle in every match?
A. The journey to Manchester is an experience that will forever remain etched in my memory. It was an incredible journey from the get-go, despite the fact that we didn’t clinch the title! Looking back, it was simply exhilarating to be a part of the entire process. To participate in a European Cup final at the tender age of 22 was something I could have only imagined in my wildest dreams. So, having been there and seized the opportunity was a testament to all the sacrifices made and hard work put in. The team was imbued with a relentless drive, a burning desire to win, and an unwavering determination to never give up. These qualities opened up several avenues for us to claim trophies during my time there, although we narrowly missed out on the UEFA Cup Final.
Q. Football, like life, is a roller-coaster ride with its fair share of highs and lows. Players frequently encounter hurdles and disappointments on their journey.
Could you share an instance or phase in your career that was particularly challenging, and how you triumphed over it? What insights did this experience grant you?
Regrettably, my career was marked by numerous setbacks, predominantly due to some rather harsh injuries. I suffered from two ACL injuries and four broken legs – a reality that arguably hindered me from truly reaching my potential. However, I firmly believe that football doesn’t owe us anything, and I remain grateful for the career I had. On the bright side, these challenges contributed to my resilience and durability. They have, in many ways, shaped the person I am today.
Q. Do you have memories of your inaugural encounter with a Scout, and could you share some insights from that experience? How significant do you believe Scouts are in the fabric of the game? Should these often ‘unacknowledged’ contributors be given more recognition for their roles?
A. I vividly recall interactions with Scouts from my childhood. As a player for the hutchie vale boy’s club, we had a formidable team, and our matches were routinely attended by numerous scouts. However, I never let the presence of scouts affect me too much, neither overly excited nor too downtrodden when they conversed with my parents, which was the usual protocol back then. But I can’t deny that it paved the way for greater opportunities, so I was always cognizant of it! I firmly believe that scouts play an essential role at every level, as their gathered information on players can be crucial. However, the scope and variety of scouts across different levels present a complex situation for me.
Q. Was coaching always on your radar, or was it an interest that evolved towards the twilight of your career? Among your previous managers, who do you think has influenced you the most in terms of what to emulate and what to avoid?
A. The allure of becoming a manager has always been strong for me, and I’m deeply committed to reaching my full potential in this role. Despite being only 38, I have spent over eight years in coaching, launched my own academy, worked with the Rangers Academy across nearly all age groups – 13s, 15s, 18s, and the B team – and even delved into school programs and the Edinburgh Centre. I took my first step into senior football management at Kelty Hearts and am on the verge of completing my UEFA Pro License. It’s been quite the journey so far, but such is the unpredictable nature of football that one never knows what lies ahead. So, I’m simply biding my time for the next suitable opportunity.
Every manager I’ve worked under, good or bad, has contributed to my growth. It’s natural to borrow what resonates most with you from each, but it’s equally important to stay true to your convictions. The key to excelling in this role, I believe, is convincing the players to share your beliefs. That’s the real challenge, followed by the ultimate goal – winning!