12th October 2017 Eddie Wolecki Black

A fantastic tribute and story about former Lochee United manager Eddie Wolecki Black

A Cruel and Beautiful Game

By IAIN KING, East Kilbride, October 11, 2017

THE DRESSING-ROOM, the secret space, the privileged place.
When I knew all my dreams of making it as a professional footballer had faded it was the sanctuary I still sought.
As a journeyman in Scotland's junior ranks, a Sunday League scuffler reliving his glory days, a writer seeking the inside story scoops from the stars, a would-be coach aiming to inspire tomorrow's heroes.
The dressing-room was always the place I felt most at home.
On March 5, 2016, I would have given everything to be anywhere else but the inner sanctum of Cowdenbeath's Central Park.
Airdrieonians' Head Coach Eddie Wolecki Black, my trusted friend and coaching mentor, lay stricken on the floor as the savage stroke that was ravaging his body did its worst.
Today 19 months on from a day that changed my outlook on life forever I am home on vacation from my new life coaching with North Toronto Nitros in Canada.
I saw my friend this afternoon, hugged him, laughed with his remarkable wife Emma, one of the bravest women I have ever known.
We had a quiet moment as we watched their one-year-old daughter Sophia giggle and play. The beckoning light that kept her dad fighting in the darkest of days.
Emma was pregnant and sitting in the stand beside me the day the stresses and strains of guiding the Diamonds into the League One play-off slots took their terrible toll.
Eddie's undetected spiralling blood pressure caused the massive stroke and the horrifying brain haemorrhage that followed.
Surgeons told us afterwards that seven out of ten would have succumbed and been lost to us, not Eddie.
Too thrawn, too downright stubborn to die. Bred that way under the legendary Jim McLean at Dundee United, clinging to a fighting spirit hewn on the tough pitches of Tayside. Still here.

THE DREAM JOBS...Eddie and I beginning our partnership together at Airdrieonians

Over these first seven months of the beginning of my Canadian adventure Eddie, the UEFA Pro Licence tactician who led Glasgow City to the last eight of the womens Champions League, has remained a constant in my coaching life.
There with counsel and advice as I battled to adapt to the new demands of helping to structure a U10/U11 Academy program with the forward-thinking, ambitious Nitros organisation who fuel the soccer life of 5,200 kids in my adopted hometown of Toronto.
I leant on Eddie again, I always have as my coaching journey came to mean so much that I eventually took the escape route that offered me a way out of journalism's rat race.
The reasons? The same logic that made me passionately pitch for Eddie to be Airdrieonians' Head of Academy when I was Chief Executive at the Scottish League One club in my first job after leaving the newspaper world.
Eddie thinks differently, cuts through the clamour and chaos of games to detect problems and fix them, plans and layers training sessions that challenge and educate his players.
After those harrowing first months on the long road to recovery in the wake of his stroke I knew that, whilst Eddie's body would always carry the scars of that fateful day in Fife, his razor-sharp football brain remained.
In the wake of another World Cup failure in Slovenia we are now in the throes of Post Mortem 10, the gruesome remake of a soulsearching quest for answers to our footballing shortcomings as Scotland miss out on another major tournament.
For almost two decades now since I was lucky enough to sit in a Press Box alongside England's Maracana hero John Barnes and Brazilian legend Roberto Rivelino we have craved another invite to the World Cup party.
That France 98 opener - when John Collins' penalty so nearly brought us a point against the Samba superstars in a desperately unlucky 2-1 defeat in Paris - seemed like the precursor to many more nights dining at the big table. Instead we have been surviving on crumbs.
As a full-time coach living and working abroad now, thanks in no small part to the education the SFA's coaching pathway gave me, I have been asked to throw in my ten cents worth.
Informed bloggers like my old East Kilbride Youth Club team-mate David Dale, who writes the insightful You Win Everything With Kids, asked questions of how Scotland differs from a developing football nation like Canada.
I'll tackle those issues head-on and in detail as Turnin' Over a New Maple Leaf develops in the months to come but to scratch the surface here are two questions.
Would a dedicated youth coach in Scotland be paid enough to give up the day job and concentrate their mind fully on improving the players we produce?
Would a coach in Canada who had won a University title, took a team to the top of junior football, broke the mould and led a Scottish club to the last eight of the womens Champions League and consistently churned out class players in pro youth academies be cast aside?
The answers to both these questions is, of course, a resounding NO.
As he battles to find the £10,000 that would take him to the USA for revolutionary treatment that has had a profound effect on stroke victims, a true football man remains on the outside of Scottish football looking in.
With the sport we love in my homeland in this sorry state that just shouldn't be the case. The Beautiful Game has shown a cruel, mean, bitter and twisted side of its nature to a man who didn't deserve it.
I hope somewhere there is a club with the courage to look beyond the stick my friend walks with these days and simply ask a question of that inquiring football mind.
The dressing-room, the secret space, the privileged place.
Eddie Wolecki Black deserves to set foot back inside one now.
HIS LIGHT AFTER THE DARKNESS...Eddie with wife Emma and their daughter Sophia

* TURNIN' OVER A NEW MAPLE LEAF is written for fun not money but if you have enjoyed this post please take a minute to help Eddie's quest at gofundme.com/3sw53jc

Written on 12 October 2017