Rennie proves a Major League success

Martin Rennie is in charge at Vancouver Whitecaps
Martin Rennie is in charge at Vancouver Whitecaps

Martin Rennie used to sit trackside at Brockville, mesmerised by Sammy McGivern and Simon Stainrod.

On Saturday, he’ll be trackside in front of a live TV audience and 30,000 fans leading his side into the opening game of North America’s premier football league - the MLS.

As The Falkirk Herald revealed in a Scottish exclusive last August, Martin Rennie is the new head coach of Vancouver Whitecaps.

He kicks off his MLS career in a home match with Canadian rivals Montreal Impact.

“It’s a massive game,” Rennie told The Falkirk Herald this week. “Both cities are going head-to-head, because the ice hockey teams (Vancouver Canuks and Montreal Canadiens) also play eachother, so it’s a double-header.”

The hopes and pride of a city rests, partially, on his shoulders and is thousands of miles away from Martin’s playing days when he starred for Bo’ness United and Dunipace Juniors.

That was before a switch across the pond where he’s gradually developed his coaching, and taken a step-by-step career path to the top of the sport stateside.

He most recently tasted success with Carolina Railhawks - the team Vancouver defeated last week in their final warm-up before the big kick-off.

At Carolina, Rennie was finalist in coach of the year awards and led the club to their highest ever position - second in the league. He’s now assisted by former Rangers, Manchester City and Hearts defender Paul Ritchie, and will soon be joined by another Scottish international, Barry Robson.

The Scottish influence runs deep at Vancouver, and Rennie keeps his eye on games screened on TV.

“I have usually got a good chance to watch a lot of British and Scottish football - though since coming to Vancouver and during pre-season it’s been a bit more hectic so I haven’t watched as much but I usually keep an eye out.

“The Scottish games do get screened here in Canada, but although Falkirk aren’t on so much now after dropping out of the SPL I still keep up to date with how they’re doing.

“I grew up watching the club, Simon Stainrod and Sammy McGivern. I followed them all over the place and was a ballboy, and remember the ground being so packed the fans spilled onto the trackside.”

The 36-year-old’s football background isn’t just based in Brockville, but is rooted in Scotland.

He was born in Thurso but moved to Larbert aged 10, and it was while based in the district he progressed through the SFA ranks all the way to the management course at Largs that has spawned Jose Mourinho, David Moyes and Andre Villas-Boas.

“Paul Ritchie came through the courses there too, and Barry Robson is currently doing his badges there.

“I did all my badges there - early touches and all the way through - it taught me a lot.”

The course has garnered international reputation, and Rennie - who lived in Larbert from the age of 10, and moved to Airth between his stints in the States - is yet another manager to hit one of the top leagues on the back of study on the Ayrshire coast.

“The league is certainly an up-and-coming one - it’s strong, maybe not on the level of the Premiership, or the top European leagues, but it’s a good standard.

“There’s big crowds, a lot of media interest and good athletes here. It seems to be getting stronger all the time.”

Former Bairn Tam McManus is also heading to north America for ‘soccer’ pursuits, and former Scotland striker Kris Boyd is already there.

“For players (coming to the MLS like Boyd and Robson), who have played at a high level and know what it takes to compete, they should do well.

“We’re very much looking forward to Barry coming over to join us.

“They know what it takes and the associated pressure. They’ll know what’s expected in terms of desire and professionalism too, so I’m sure they can do well.”

Sports is big business in North America, and forming part of city-v-city sporting day for the 600,000 people of Vancouver is a big day for Rennie and his new club, in front of 30,000 people.

“With 25 or 30,000 people watching, there is a lot of pressure.

“It’s definitely a step up for me.

“Each one I’ve taken as a coach has been a bigger step up.

“There’s more interest, more attention, more pressure and more fans at the game, but also we’ve better players and more resources so as I step up the opportunities and facilities and resources improve too so I’m loving it.

“We were unbeaten in pre-season and won some silverware, and I’m really looking forward to getting onto the pitch for the game and the season getting under way.”