You started your playing career at St Mirren where you played under Scottish football legend Steve Archibald. How much did you learn from working under him?
“I left school at fifteen years of age to join St Mirren and I was at the club for eight years. Overall, I had a good time at the club.
“I came through when Steve Archibald was at the club and when we had Spanish football legend Victor Muñoz playing for the club.
“Both of them took me under their wing and were fantastic with me as a young player. They gave me great advice and I am still in touch with both of them to this day.
“When I went into coaching, I contacted Steve who helped arrange visits to a few clubs in the Catalonia region which was a great educational experience for me as a young coach.
“As a coach, I want my teams to play on the front foot and I admire the Spanish style of football so much so that I continue to visit Spain on coaching visits to this day. Most recently, I was at Sevilla which was another great learning opportunity.”
As a player, you won the Scottish Challenge Cup at Airdrie United in 2002 and you and many of your teammates from that team have gone on to become managers. What was it about that group that produced so many leaders?
“It is funny to think that so many of us from that team went on to become coaches and managers.
“We were strong-minded and leaders as players and I think that is what translated into many of us having the drive to continue in the game on the managerial side.
“The likes of Kenny Black, Owen Coyle and Sandy Stewart were a big part of that group and they have had good careers as managers too.
“Guys like those had a growth mindset and a natural resilience to any negativity which I believe are fundamentally important to succeeding as a coach or manager.”
You worked under former Chelsea assistant manager Billy Reid at Hamilton as a player/assistant manager. What was it like to work alongside him?
“My coaching career started at Airdrie under Sandy Stewart as first-team coach before I moved on to Hamilton to assist Billy.
“I learned a lot from Billy because he was a strong communicator and he created a positive environment at the club.
“I have learned a lot from all of the coaches that I have worked under in different ways whether that be tactical approaches to the game or how to effectively man manage individual players or a group as a whole.
“It is important that when you are coaching that players know that you want the best for them as human beings as well as professionals and that your drive is to create an environment where they can succeed individually and as a collective.
“Billy Reid had great relationships with his players and that is something that stands out when I remember my time working alongside him.”
You then went on to work alongside Champions League winner Paul Lambert at various clubs in England such as Aston Villa, Wolves Stoke City and Ipswich Town. What are your standout memories from working with Paul in English football?
“Working with Paul was a great experience. Paul played in Scotland and in German football under top coaches such as Martin O’Neill and Ottmar Hitzfeld so he had high standards.
“I have taken a lot from him and his philosophy of wanting his teams to be organised and press out of position too.
“I was manager of Limerick in the Premier League of Ireland after Paul went in to manage Aston Villa.
“I was enjoying my role there but when Paul asked me to join him in the Premier League, I could not turn it down.
“I went from being a first-team manager at Limerick to initially become the under 23’s manager at Villa.
“The jump in size of clubs was phenomenal but working at Aston Villa was a delight because working at Premier League level was a joy.
“I was working with top young players such as Jack Grealish and Callum Robinson who have gone on to play international football.
“The facilities were first class and I emphasised to my staff that there was no excuse for putting on a poor coaching session given the luxury of resources that we had to work with at the training ground.
“After three years with him at Aston Villa, we went on to work together at Wolves where I became his assistant manager.
“Wolves are a big club too and I enjoyed my time working there.
“We were tasked with keeping the club in the league and going on a cup run if possible which we did in the FA Cup by beating Stoke away, beating Liverpool at Anfield before being knocked out by Chelsea at home in the latter rounds.
“We worked with good senior professionals such as Conor Coady who was excellent to work with as were the rest of the group.
“After Wolves, we moved to Stoke City in the Premier League and to be an assistant at that level was superb.
“Unfortunately, we were narrowly relegated but it was still an enjoyable experience working with international players at the highest level.
“Overall, I learned a lot from working with Paul and from my time in English football in the Premier League and the Football League.”
You returned to being a first-team manager with Hamilton Accies for one season in 2021/22. How do you reflect on that experience?
“I want to learn as much as I can and going back into management was something that I wanted to do after having a taste of it at Limerick prior to joining Aston Villa.
“I worked with Malky MacKay at Ross County before the opportunity to move to Hamilton arose.
“The move to Hamilton allowed me to be closer to my family which was vitally important for me at that time having spent many years travelling due to working in England.
“When I went into the club, we were bottom of the league and I was tasked with keeping the club in the league which we achieved by finishing mid-table.
“That was a success given where we started from and the players were fantastic. They gave me everything which is all that you can ask for as a manager.”
Finally, Stuart, what do you hope to do in the future? Do you want to manage again or would you be willing to work as an assistant?
“I want to be a manager again because I know that I have a lot to give to the role and I have good experience from my time in management so far.
“However, I do not have an ego and I want to learn even more about the game so I am open to the right opportunity because it is important to find the right club that can allow you to flourish as a manager or as a coach.
“I would also be open to being an assistant manager again provided that I am able to work with a manager that I can learn from who shares similar ideas to how I like football to be played.
“Furthermore, I am currently doing a masters in sports directorship so that is another avenue that I am keen to explore because I want to build something meaningful at any football club that I go into in whatever role that may be.”