'Fergie gave me good advice' - Falkirk defender Coll Donaldson recalls trial at Manchester United a decade ago

Donaldson in action for Falkirk against Airdrieonians this season (Pic Michael Gillen)Donaldson in action for Falkirk against Airdrieonians this season (Pic Michael Gillen)
Donaldson in action for Falkirk against Airdrieonians this season (Pic Michael Gillen)
Falkirk centre back Coll Donaldson has explained how a week-long trial at Manchester United a decade ago led to an inspirational office chat with Sir Alex Ferguson.

Donaldson, then 17, spoke about the unforgettable experience of meeting the legendary Old Trafford gaffer back in January 2013.

“It was done through John Collins, the Livi director of football at the time,” Donaldson told the Falkirk Herald. "Martin Ferguson, Alex Ferguson’s brother, was pally with John and had been up at a Livi under-18s game where I played really well.

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"I went down to Carrington for a week and it was a really good experience.

"I had a meeting with Alex Ferguson which was terrifying, as a 17-year-old who had never been in that environment before.

"The first team had been in Dubai for a week and he came back on the Friday. I was really nervous about talking to Alex in his office but he was really good, gave me good advice and he was nice.

"He said I needed to go to the gym.

"When I was training down there – with the reserves and the under-18s – I could keep up technically because the training I was getting at Livi was a very high standard, John Hughes was the manager and Collins was working us every day.

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"But some of the athletes at Man Utd were unbelievable. Training was like something I’ve never seen before, so intense.

"The reserves had guys like Jesse Lingard who was really good, Adnan Januzaj, Tom Lawrence, they have all had good careers.

"It was quite eye-opening that these were the sort of levels you had to get to.

"Man United said they would keep an eye on me but it never transpired.”

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On the back of Donaldson’s Man Utd experience, Martin Ferguson contacted Queen’s Park Rangers chief scout Ian Broomfield, and the centre back signed for them a year later.

Donaldson was to play one match for Harry Redknapp’s team, a 3-2 win at Barnsley in the English Championship on May 3, 2014.

"I’d played for the under-21s and been on the bench a few times for the first team in the Championship,” Donaldson said.

"Then I was training one morning and one of the younger boys came out, he was injured and doing his rehab.

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"But whilst we were training Redknapp had been doing his press conference and said that I was going to play.

"Then he came over to me and said: ‘You’re playing tomorrow’.

"The game at Barnsley was a bizarre game to be honest with you because Barnsley were already relegated, we were fourth in the league, couldn’t go fifth, couldn’t go sixth so it was a good game to play in.

"I was surrounded by very good players who made it an awful lot easier for me. England goalie Rob Green, Nedum Onuoha, Aaron Hughes, Nico Kranjcar playing in front of us. So if you can’t play well with that lot you’d be struggling.”

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He was to leave West London a year later, spending two years at Dundee United before turning out for Inverness Caledonian Thistle between 2017 and 2020.

Donaldson was on Ross County’s books for the next two years and spent the second half of last term on loan at Dunfermline Athletic before penning a two-year deal with the Bairns this summer.

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