Credit: Partick Thistle Football Club
You are currently a player of Partick Thistle as well as manager Partick Thistle Women’s Team. How are you enjoying your commitments at the club and how would you describe a club such as Partick Thistle?
I recently signed for the club having come from the Scottish Premier League from Ross County and at the time I when I arrived at the club Partick Thistle were fighting relegation in the Scottish Championship and I went there with the club that I would help Partick Thistle avoid relegation and that we would survive.
As you know the whole world pandemic when COVID 19 hit and they decision with made with a game in hand that the season was finished and we got relegated unfairly and I have never dealt with anything like that before in football and it was a really hard one to take not just for myself but all my other colleagues and staff and members at the club because it hits you financially and to be unfairly relegated and nobody really caring about it but this season we have found ourselves in Scottish League One which is a bit disappointing but we need to really get out of this division this year and Partick Thistle as a whole are a big massive club in Glasgow.
Obviously, we have Celtic FC and Rangers FC and when Partick Thistle are doing well they have the fan base to match and they are a massive club to play for and I feel really connected with them in the short period of time that I have been here and everything that we have been through and we are on another journey this year in that we need to get promotion and for me as a player I was banging the drum to the players that it is important that we start well and start picking up three points on a Saturday.
I have been quite lucky that the manager and the Committee asked me to take charge of Partick Thistle Women’s team and I am training and managing them and training them on a Tuesday and Thursday night and then I have my game with Partick Thistle men’s on a Saturday and the game with the women’s team on a Sunday and it is quite busy but I am really enjoying being able to do both roles.
You played one season at Hibernian FC. How do you look back on your time at the club and do you have any highlights and special memories?
I loved my time at Hibernian FC and getting to work with a manager like Neil Lennon and his man management skills are brilliant. He was a joy to work with and when Neil asked me to sign for the club and I took the opportunity because when a team like Hibs come calling you do not say no to them even through they were in a lower division at the time and I managed to win the league with Hibernian FC and we got to the semi-finals of the Scottish Cup and unfortunately we lost that day due to a deflected goal.
However, I still had a year left a Hibs and the manager decided to sign an international striker and looking back personally I could not see how he was any better than me and Neil told me to fight for your place and stay around but there was an opportunity for me to go down and play in England at Cheltenham Town and I did not want to be third or fourth choice I thought I should be higher up the pecking order and I thanked Neil for having me at the club.
You don’t realise how bigger club Hibernian FC is and how much you miss the club until you leave it but I have great memories such as beating Hearts of Midlothian in the Scottish Cup in the Edinburgh derby and the crowd singing Sunshine on Leith and being with my children on the pitch when we won the league and remembering the Hibs fans and all these pictures and memories will be great to look back on years to come.
You lead me nicely on to my next question mentioning Cheltenham Town. How do you look back on your time at the club and do you have any special memories or highlights?
If I am being honest after driving home from leaving Hibernian FC training ground and I was driving from Edinburgh to Glasgow and it was a Wednesday and I was due to signing for Cheltenham Town on the Thursday and I at the time I had one of my teammates in the car driving him home and I got a phone call and I had found out that my brother Daniel Graham just died so my world was upside down.
I had to rush home and see my family and then I had to break the news to my Mum that I would be driving down to England in the morning and that i would be moving away and if I am being honest with you James when I was driving back to Glasgow I should have stayed at Hibs for another year but because I had already given the Cheltenham Town manager my word that I would be coming I did not want to break that and looking back on it, it had effected my football and I was away from my family and Daniel was a big loss to the family.
Two of my Hibs teammates in John McGinn and Dylan McGeouch came to my brothers funeral and I could not believe it because I never expected them to come and for them to come and show that respect towards me and my family made me feel so humbled. John McGinn has gone on to have had the career he has and I want to thank those two boys for coming that day because it meant a lot and it is something that will leave with me forever that those two players attended the funeral of my brother. I met lovely people at Cheltenham Town especially off the pitch. I became very friendly with Fergal O’Brien the horse trainer and Chris Coley invited me and my teammate Kevin Dawson to go and see their incredible stables and the horse racing tracks as they became good friends and that was a real highlight.
The football side of it I started slowly and looking back losing my brother had an effect on that and I then sustained an injury which kept me out for three months and I was just getting myself back fit and the season had come to an end and I had worked really hard to and returned for pre season really fit and with the bit between myself that I was going to do well this year.
Then, I got a phone call from Ross County who had been relegated and wanted to get back in the Scottish Premier League and they asked me to return to Scotland on a two year deal and I spoke to my wife who was also a little bit homesick herself and we said let’s return to Scotland. Cheltenham Town was a great experience and I think if it was difference circumstances I would have stayed in England for longer but that is just life sometimes you never know what is round the corner.
You have accrued a lot of experience in your playing career in Scotland and in England. Could you say who are among the best players you have played alongside so far in your career?
I have been lucky. I played with John McGinn who is having an amazing career now. I was also lucky to play with Andy Robertson who has gone on to do fantastic things in his career winning the Champions League and the Premier League and he was influential in taking Scotland to the Euro’s for the first time in 22 years.
Other players such as Paul Hanlon at Hibs is a fantastic player as is Louis Stevens then players such as Don Cowie who has played at the top level and another is James McFadden who I played with at St Johnstone you could see in him a guy who had played at the top and how he moved about the place and his work in the gym too. You could see what the top players had and it inspired you as a player in training and it was a privilege to be on a training pitch with such a player and play alongside him on a Saturday. It was a joy.
You have just started out in coaching and management. How are you enjoying the profession and looking forward,is there anything in particular that you would ideally like to achieve in your managerial career in future?
Obviously, it is still very early and with the women’s side of the game I am learning new things about them everyday. I even read a headline this morning where current Chelsea FC manager Frank Lampard where he stated that there are one hundred different things that go on in management and that he finds it more difficult to be a manager than a player and even in these past few weeks you see how challenging it is for a manager when other things happen with certain individuals and it is a total different aspect.
When I was a player over my career I have been lucky enough to turn up at training and everything is laid out in front of me such as ,my kit and boots and I have been pampered and now you are doing everything you are setting up the training, making sure all the girls know their meeting points when turning up for training and making sure that you have availability lists of training and then the game is on a Sunday. It is a totally different aspect of it than being a player.