Scott Morrison learned his trade on the playing fields of Balgownie.
As an Aberdeen fan growing up in Kemnay, travelling out in minibuses to training sessions as a young Don was all he could have dreamed of.
Representing his hometown club as a teenager was a thrill he will never forget. Now, thousands of miles across the ocean, he hopes to help other like-minded kids do the same.
After leaving Ross County in 2012 as a First Division title winner, Morrison opted to move to the US for a new challenge. A trial with Chivas USA, an MLS franchise, did not yield a contract, but did put him in touch with ex-Aberdeen defender David Robertson.
“I came out to Chivas USA in the MLS and tried to get a contract there. They had some changes with the ownership group, so I was advised that David Robertson was starting a new professional team in Phoenix.
“We drove through there from LA with the family, met Davie and managed to sort everything out. We spent four or five years there and got into coaching.”
His playing career wound down at Phoenix FC and Arizona United, before the coaching transition came. The 36-year-old now finds himself in the sunny seaside community of La Jolla, 11 miles outside San Diego, working for one of the biggest youth clubs in the state, San Diego Surf.
“I got connected with someone who put me through to San Diego and to get on the US A license course, I had to come to a club which was a US development academy club at the time, which is the highest level of youth soccer in America.
“It was a big part of my life – I was scouted by Aberdeen at a summer camp at the age of nine. I played for their youth academy and for my various boys clubs and got through to the first-team at 17.
“It’s quite nice to be involved in the youth side, learn how to coach and help kids at the same time. I wouldn’t say I had designs on it; the only thing I knew was I wanted to be a footballer and play for Aberdeen. Everything else has just evolved. You come to somewhere like America and realise how valuable you are.”
He made his senior Dons debut as an 18-year-old under Steve Paterson in May 2003, spending two years as a senior pro at Pittodrie.
One of the highlights of his young career was beating Celtic in the 2001 Scottish Youth Cup final, in a team that included Kevin McNaughton and Darren Mackie.
“It was buses out to Balgownie and when you passed your test, you became a designated driver. It was quite exciting driving out there with some of the first-team boys in your car.
“It’s a lot more professional now but it was just part of the culture at Aberdeen at the team. Even when Fergie was there, it was what they did, training in the car park, Balgownie, Seaton Park. Wherever they could get on. You just had to roll your sleeves up and get on with it.
Brilliant @CormackDavie thanks for sharing both Aberdeen legends! Coach Drew had such a big influence on me growing up and it’s ironic that I now coach in his favorite place in the US!⚽️❤️🇺🇸
— Scott Morrison (@ScottMorrison84) May 31, 2020
“Drew Jarvie helped me a lot and I feel like I played for him pretty much all the way through my time at Aberdeen, from a young age through to the youth team. When we got a bit older Neil Cooper would take us, so those guys played a big part in my development.
“It all seemed to happen so quickly. I was so driven to get into the first-team; it was all you really wanted as a young boy in Aberdeen. I was fortunate to be involved in the Scottish youth teams as well, so it was a really great time.”
He left in 2005 for Dunfermline and while he managed a Scottish Cup final appearance with the Pars in 2007, a dislocated knee suffered on Scotland under-21 duty kept him out of the game for 15 months.
Three trips to Vail, Colorado, to visit respected surgeon Dr Richard Steadman saved his career, allowing him to go on to a successful four years at Ross County under two managers with Dons connections: Derek Adams and Jimmy Calderwood.
Family back keep him updated with goings on in Scottish football and he is keen for both of his former clubs to impress when the Premiership resumes this weekend.
“With the new training ground, I’m sure Aberdeen will have been able to work on a lot of tactical and technical principles in training. I’m sure Derek will be looking to start the season well and bringing back Jonny Hayes is a huge signing.”
But for now, he gets back to his task of trying to give his young players the chance to experience just what he did.
“Every kid in America now wants to be a soccer player but it’s so difficult out here. There’s such a big population and so few pro teams – it’s very difficult to get to Europe if you can’t get a contract here.
“You can pass on your knowledge and everyone is a sponge, so they can take it all in. It’s been great so far.”