Martin Rennie was the man who helped Aberdeen duo Stephen Glass and Allan Russell on their way down the coaching path.
Rennie, who comes from Bettyhill in the far north of Scotland, was head coach of Carolina Railhawks between 2009 and 2011, signing both Glass and Russell towards the end of their playing careers.
The current Indy Eleven boss helped Glass – now Dons manager – take his first steps into coaching, while seeing Russell enjoy success setting up his Superior Striker business, providing striker-specific coaching to individual players.
Glass was named as Derek McInnes’ successor earlier this year, bringing ex-England coach Russell with him as part of his backroom staff.
Rennie was pleased to see them reunited again at Aberdeen, a club he has an affinity for with his father Cliff hailing from the Bucksburn area of the city.
He told the Northern Goal podcast: “We’d signed Greg Shields, who’d played for Rangers, Charlton and Dunfermline. He came out and told me about Stephen; he was saying he was a talented player and was interested in coming.
“It was the normal process of ‘if you want to come, this is what it’s going to be like’. It was the same for Allan Russell; he’d been at Airdrie and scored a lot of goals, then went to Kilmarnock and got injured.
“He was really determined to come out here. They were with us at roughly the same time and the first time Stephen coached, as far as I know, was when he came on a trip with me when my assistant as not able to.
“We had a game away at Edmonton and he was on the bench with me. It was on a 13-game winning run. I was probably there at the start of that coaching journey and over the years I’ve got to know him a little bit since.
“There’s a lot of individual training the players do over here. They can coach kids and make quite good money, in addition to what they get paid to play. Allan saw the opportunity to do that and build specifically for strikers.
“He’s done a good job building that since he’s gone back. He’s got credit for his work with England and some of the individual players he’s worked with. It’s a natural step to get into full-time coaching.
“I know them both well and I’m happy to see them both in at Aberdeen.”
Rennie points out that had Russell tried to set up his business in Scotland, he might have had a more difficult time getting it off the ground due to the different approaches to training.
However, his work with players like Andre Gray and Saido Berahino got him noticed by Gareth Southgate, with Russell playing a key role in England’s success at the 2018 World Cup.
Rennie added: “Allan’s the kind of guy who would land on his feet and make a good go of it no matter what. To have that opportunity with high-level players in England, it gives you a lot more credibility.
“To get that chance with England, nobody can argue with what he did there and how well England did at set-plays at the last World Cup.
“From my experience, he’s the kind of guy who would find that right pathway and go for it.
“It would be hard to start that programme in Scotland, because, generally, I think young players aren’t used to spending money on individual or group coaching. It would be harder to get it off the ground and make a living off it I think.”
Rennie has spent most of the last 15 years coaching in America and has developed an understanding of the comparisons and contrasts between football in the States and back home.
He has doubts whether the strategic partnership between Aberdeen and MLS franchise Atlanta United will have too many benefits, owing mainly to the types of players that would be moving between the two clubs.
The Dons took Jon Gallagher on loan from Atlanta during the 2019-20 season, while full-back Ronald Hernandez went the other way in January 2021. Aberdeen have also been linked with Jack Gurr, who was recently waived by Atlanta.
Rennie said: “There’s only certain players that can come from State-side to Aberdeen, because they need to have certain passports. If they’re not good enough to start for Atlanta, I don’t think they’re good enough to start for Aberdeen.
“I think that’s what you’ve seen so far. If you’re able to get a main player like Miguel Almiron or Josef Martinez then of course, they’d light it up, but the top players at Atlanta are making $3-5 million a year. They’re not coming to Aberdeen.
“Let’s say you take Lewis Ferguson – he would do well in MLS, but he’d probably want to go to England or the Old Firm if he leaves Aberdeen.
“I don’t think it’s going to be hugely beneficial, for those reasons I’ve outlined.
“In America the standard is a lot higher than people think. There’s first-team starting players for MLS teams that I’m sure could do well in Scotland and players further down, who could do well in the right situation.
“But the style of play is so different. You send a Scottish team over to America to play in 35-degree heat, the American team would win.
“You send an American team over to Pittodrie on a Wednesday night in January or February, Aberdeen would win. There’s lots of factors.”
— P&J Sport (@PandJSport) June 4, 2021