The managers that have lead Ayr United over the years have clearly been influential to the clubs fortunes - some for the better and some for the worse. Since 1910 Ayr United have had 29 different managers though a few have come back for more than one stint at the job.
Herbert Dainty - (6/5/1914 – 1915)
United's first ever manager was appointed on 6th May 1914. Herbert Dainty, who was already playing with Ayr United as a centre half and continued playing after his appointment, was a native of Geddington (near Kettering). Having been with the club since October 1913 he became player-manager at age 35.
Before joining Ayr Herbert had played for many clubs including Leicester Fosse, Southampton and Dundee, with whom he got a Scottish Cup winner's medal in 1910. On quitting Ayr United he joined Dundee Hibernian because he had a business in Dundee. He later coached in South America.
Lawrence Gemson (1915 – 1918)
Lawrence Gemson had not previously played nor coached at senior level prior to taking the reigns at Ayr. Although his duties were largely secretarial, he guided Ayr United to what remains the club's best ever league season, 1915-16 with a fourth-placed finish in the top flight.
This was achieved by utilising his good connections with Celtic. He was a native of Preston who became headmaster of Ayr's St.Margaret's School from 1899 until 1933. He resigned from Ayr United due to ill health prompted by work pressure but he rejoined the board in 1922.
John Cameron (August 1918 – 1919)
John Cameron was a native of Ayr and had played as an inside-forward with the local Ayr Parkhouse before going to Queen's Park (gaining a Scotland cap in 1896), Everton then Tottenham Hotspur. In fact John had been player-manager at Spurs they won the FA Cup in 1901.
He became the first secretary of the Players Union and When World War One broke out he was a coach at Dresden FC. After more than three years in a prison camp he was eventually repatriated and became Ayr United manager in the summer of 1918. His credentials to take over Ayr were in many ways impeccable. However, one year later he resigned, not having fully recovered from the effects of being a prisoner.
James McDonald (1919 – 1923)
James McDonald took over the job at Ayr having been the manager at Kilmarnock and he almost immediately signed future international full-back Jock Smith from Neilston Victoria.
An early result was a 5-0 win over his old club. McDonald had a richness of individual talent at his disposal and a notable result during his tenure was a 4-1 win at Celtic Park in November 1922.
As with other Ayr United managers before and after him, McDonald had little authority in the matter of team selection, that task being the responsibility of the board.
Jimmy Richardson (1923 – 1924)
After signing from Sunderland, Jimmy Richardson scored 109 league goals for Ayr United between 1914 and 1921. Thereafter he joined Millwall prior to returning to Ayr as manager in 1923.
After one season he quit to become manager at Cowdenbeath, who proceeded to have what remains the best season in their history. He continued to support Ayr and was spotted at Somerset Park for a Scottish Cup tie against Motherwell in March 1951. Sadly he died in August of that year.
He remains the club's third highest scorer of league goals despite missing more than two seasons due to active service.
Jimmy Hay (June 1924 – 27/1/1926)
Jimmy Hay was a native of Woodside, near Coylton, and he went on to captain Celtic and Scotland as well as playing for Newcastle United.
He had played for the Ayr FC prior to Celtic and had been an Ayr United player between 1915 and 1918. In his first season as manager, the club slipped into the Second Division. After accusing Ayr United director Tom Steen of attempting to bribe a referee, Hay was banned sine die by the SFA for refusing to apologise and he settled into a career as an insurance agent until his death in April 1940.
Archie Buchanan (January 1926 - September 1931)
Following the Hay ban, Archie Buchanan took over although he had no responsibility for engaging players and was confined mainly to clerical work including that pertaining to registrations and transfers.
During this phase the club won the Second Division title. Buchanan's father had been a director of Ayr United and a director of Ayr FC prior to the amalgamation in 1910. On the eve of what would have been his 94th birthday, Archie Buchanan died.
He was a native of Ayr and, in his latter years, was able to recall the excitement of the Jimmy Smith era and the Scandinavian Tour of 1928.
Alex Gibson (24/9/1931 – 7/1/1935)
Alex Gibson was a former Kilmarnock chairman and ex-manager of Preston North End having left PNE in the summer of 1931. Despite his Scottish connections Gibson had been accused at Preston of not releasing players to play for Scotland. During his time at Ayr there was some fleeting glory such as a 3-0 win at Celtic Park in March 1934 but he eventually struggled to maintain Ayr United's First Division status.
That status looked fragile following an 8-0 defeat away to Albion Rovers in January 1935 and Gibson resigned on the Monday. A particularly smart bit of business was in August 1933 when he convinced rampant scorer Terry McGibbons that he should sign for Ayr United.
Frank Thompson (21/1/1935 – May 1940)
Frank Thompson was a native of Ballynahinch, County Down and, after moving as a winger from Linfield to Bradford City, he got an FA Cup winner's medal in 1911. He joined Clyde in 1913 and became their player-manager in 1922.
As manager of Ayr United he experienced a last day relegation escape in 1935 but the club went down a year later. In 1937 the Second Division title was won in glorious fashion. He lost his job when the club ceased for the duration in the summer of 1940.
After managing Glentoran he returned to stay in Ayr until his death in October 1950.
Bob Ferrier (20/6/1945 – 27/11/1948)
Sheffield born Bob Ferrier was brought up in Scotland and was a Motherwell winger from 1918 until 1937, captaining their First Division championship side of 1931-32. He managed Airdrie before taking up the same post at Ayr in June 1945.
After the second world war the league system was in tatters although in June 1945 a 16 team league was re-introduced with Ayr in 'B' division. Ayr United appointed Bob Ferrier (pictured to the left) in July 1945 to take over as manager and he begin the difficult task to rebuild the club after a five-year absence but he did well to recruit players of the calibre of Norrie McNeil, Malky Morrison and, a year later, Alec Beattie.
The team developed into a strong force in Scottish football under Bob but in December 1948 he tendered his resignation in the wake of a 7-1 defeat away to Stenhousemuir.
Archie Anderson (15/3/1949 – May 1953)
As manager of Arbroath, Anderson took that club to the Scotish Cup semi-finals in 1947. After agreeing to manage Ayr United, Arbroath did not immediately release him and this created a gap in which the club had no manager.
His side were only 7 minutes away from there first ever national final. On 7th October 1950 when, during the Scottish Cup semi-final against Motherwell they lost 2 goals in those nail biting last 7 minutes to lose the match and the chance of that ellusive final spot. The season is always regarded as one of Ayr's best in post war days. However, things never last in football and by season 1952/53 things wern't going so well with the team being unsettled through many player changes. Although the season improved with a good run of 8 wins in a row.
Free transfers were becoming commonplace and the accounts reported at the time showed that Ayr had spent £1,192 on players and were in dept to the tune of £2,219. Archie, left in April 1953 sensationally after a mid week director's meeting
Reuben Bennett (May 1953 – 9/4/1955)
Reuben Bennett was a native of Aberdeen who had played in goal for Hull City, Dundee and Elgin City before rejoining Dundee as a coach.
Coaching was his strength but he was not cut out for management and season 1954-55 was punctuated by some demoralising results. Despite his two cup quarter final places, his team also squandered two good promotion chances after mediocre league performances and he left as manager in April 1955. After resigning he later became assistant trainer at Motherwell then trainer at Third Lanark.
The best had yet to come and he was on the coaching staff at Liverpool during the glorious Shankly era. As late as 1980 he was still on the staff at Liverpool.
Neil McBain (April 1955 – 1956)
Neil McBain was a native of Campbeltown who signed for Ayr United as an eighteen year old inside-forward in May 1914. He eventually found a niche as an inside-forward and represented such clubs as Manchester United, Everton and Liverpool, also becoming an internationalist.
McBain was appointed as Ayr United manager in April 1955 with the aim of to ending the nine years of second division football. The long suffering supporters were rewarded for these years in the wilderness when 'McBain's Babes' won 2-0 at Brechin to gain promotion to the First Division. Having won promotion Neil had been approached by English club Watford to manage them. Ayr could not offer the good terms that Watford had offered and he sensationally departed Ayr at the end of the 1955/56 season.
Neil's wisdom and skill would not available to Ayr for that very difficult step back into the first division.
Jacky Cox (1956 – 28/10/1961)
Jackie Cox was a native of Darvel who broke into senior football as a wing-half with Hamilton Accies. He later joined Preston North End and became an Ayr United player in time for the 1939-40 season. Further clubs were Partick Thistle, St.Mirren and Stranraer.
In 1956 he left the managerial position at Hamilton Accies to take up the same job at Ayr. There was the disappointment of relegation in his first season as manager but he this did not dampen his enthusiasm and his efforts to re-build the team were rewarded with a second division championship title in 1958/59. Cox oversaw the famous Price era and, in 1959, saw his team beat both Rangers and Celtic away.
By season 1962-63 he was manager of St.Mirren. He died in 1990.
Bobby Flavell (30/10/1961 – 16/11/1961)
Bobby Flavell played for Airdrie, Hearts, Dundee, Kilmarnock and St.Mirren as well as Millionerios (Bogota). He also guested with Arsenal during wartime.
His first spell in charge of Ayr United comprised a 17-day reign. He then left to manage St.Mirren, the club he had left as a coach immediately prior to taking up the managers post at Somerset Park
Gerry Mays (17/11/1961 – 4/12/1962)
After a playing career of some repute with Hibs, St.Johnstone and Kilmarnock, Gerry Mays became United’s third boss in three weeks when he left his coaching post at Rugby Park to take charge at Somerset Park.
His brother Jock had played for Ayr in the 1930's but Gerry had little success in his brief spell in charge. He freed Peter Price, Willie Paton and ‘Tottie’ McGhee but brought Johnny Hubbard and Johnny Kilgannon to the club. However a poor start the following season saw him quit after a 3-1 defeat at Dumbarton.
Neil McBain (December 1962 – 31/10/1963)
On terminating his second spell as Ayr United manager, Neil was marginally short of his sixty-eighth birthday and he remains the oldest person ever to have occupied the manager's chair at Somerset Park.
His brief spell in charge second time around also ended in controversial circumstances following his disciplinary action against a player who had allegedly failed to appear for treatment. A club statement confirmed that Mr McBain had tendered his resignation.
However McBain denied that he had resigned and turned up for work the following day! Two days later McBain left the club, along with the resignation of two directors and the new boss appointed. He died in May 1974.
Bobby Flavell (31/10/1963 – 8/12/1964)
Despite a sensational Scottish Cup win at Aberdeen, his second spell in charge took place during the club's darkest days but he did recruit Ally MacLeod as a player for Ayr United as well as others who would, in time, become Ayr United greats.
In December 1964 he quit, ostensibly, to devote time to his pub in Airdrie. He later managed Albion Rovers.
Tom McCreath (12/12/1964 – May 1966)
Tom McCreath had played junior football in his younger days but he had no grounding in senior football other than helping to run the Ayr United reserve team.
At this time he lived in Kirkmichael and was a master joiner. Yet, in his only full season as manager, Ayr United won the Second Division championship after finishing second from foot the season before.
On standing down in favour of Ally MacLeod, he remained with the club as a director.
Ally MacLeod (6/5/1966 – 4/11/1975)
Initially Ally McLeod was signed as a player but he soon became involved in coaching then management. He had previously been a winger with Third Lanark, St.Mirren, Blackburn Rovers, Hibs and then back to Third Lanark.
His three terms of management at Ayr United totalled close to fifteen years during which time he recorded 214 league wins. Ally's enthusiasm transformed the club and he remains the greatest Ayr United great of them all. As a coach Ally had took the club into the First Division as Champions but following relegation, bounced back immediately to the top flight.
His enthusiasm for the task was infectious and spread to the wider Ayr public. He was in charge in 1969 when Ayr beat Rangers in front of Somerset Park’s record crowd and led the club to the semi finals of both the League and Scottish Cup, a feat which saw him voted as Ayr’s Citizen of the Year in 1973.
He also took the club to within a point of qualification for European football as well as successfully securing United’s place in the inaugural Premier League. He left to take up the managers position at Aberdeen.
Alex Stuart (25/11/1975 – 23/9/1978)
Alex Stuart initially made his name playing for Dundee before excelling as manager of Montrose whom he left to replace Ally MacLeod at Ayr.
As manager of the only part time club in the Premier League, he did well to maintain a top ten place in consecutive seasons but the drop to the First Division did come in 1978 despite beating Celtic twice that season.
An indifferent start to season 1978-79 influenced his resignation.
Ally MacLeod (26/9/1978 – 9/12/1978)
Ally returned to Ayr after the club lured him from his post at Scotland boss following the disasterous 1978 World Cup in Argentina.
However this reign only lasted 74 days before he left to take up the job at Motherwell. Even this short stint at the club proved to be successful as under his stewardship United charged up the First Division table, moving from 11th to 3rd.
Willie McLean (January 1979 – 11/4/1983)
Willie McLean played for Airdrie, Sheffield Wednesday, Queen of the South, Clyde and Raith Rovers before managing Queen of the South, Motherwell and Raith Rovers whom he left to take charge at Ayr.
He came close to taking the club into the 1980-81 League Cup Final with a team rich in individual talent. Alas, he was unable to get the club back to the Premier League and he resigned at a time when it was a struggle to even stay in the First Division.
George Caldwell (1983 – 21/10/1985)
Goerge Caldwell was a Catrine man who played for Glenafton Athletic, Airdrie, St.Mirren and Alloa Athletic. He then coached at Albion Rovers before becoming a coach at Ayr in August 1976.
In the summer of 1979 he was promoted to the post of assistant manager to Willie McLean. He succeeded Willie McLean as manager in 1983 and had a last day relegation escape in 1984, He started the following season and four of the last five First Division games were won.
Despite this, he resigned in October 1985 following a 1-0 win over East Fife.
Ally MacLeod (1/11/1985 – December 1990)
Another successful spell for Mr Ayr United. It was a job Ally couldn’t refuse despite the best attempts of the Airdrie directors to keep him at Broomfield.
Despite suffering relegation in his first season in charge, he mustered a team that won the Second Division Championship in 1987/8 in a canter. Once again the local population got behind him and the club and that season over 11,000 fans crammed back into Somerset for a Cup replay against Dunfermline. Sadly they lost the day but again won many friends.
Ally may be remembered for his controversial intervention in the David Murray takeover battle at Ayr after the 1987/88 season when he said that if Murray took over he would leave. This seemed to sway the shareholders.
He was a real character who never missed an opportunity to promote his players or the club and there will never be another like him. He died on 6th February 2004.
George Burley (1991 – 23/12/1993)
George Burley was a native of Cumnock who played at right-back for Ipswich Town, Sunderland, Gillingham and Motherwell before joining Ayr United as a player-manager.
He had won an FA Cup winner's medal with Ipswich in 1978 and had the further distinction of receiving eleven Scotland caps.
After being dismissed for adverse results, he played briefly for Falkirk before rejoining Motherwell. Thereafter he managed Colchester United, Ipswich Town and Derby County.
Simon Stainrod (23/12/93 – 2/9/1995)
Simon Stainrod was a flamboyant Yorkshireman who came to Ayr United as a player-manager. He had previously played for Sheffiled United, Oldham Athletic, Queen's Park Rangers, Sheffield Wednesday, Aston Villa, Stoke City, Strasbourg, Rouen, Falkirk then Dundee where he gained management experience.
He then played for Leixoes (Portugal). Stainrod survived Ayr United's descent into the Second Division in 1995 but the pressure of a bad start to season 1995-96 eventually told. He then became a football agent.
Gordon Dalziel (October 1995 – 18/11/2002)
In July 1995, Gordon Dalziel came to Ayr United as a striker, having previously played for Rangers, Manchester City, Partick Thistle, East Stirling and Raith Rovers.
At Ayr he was to become player-manager then manager Gordon had been playing his football at Ayr and on joining Ayr as a player he stated that he had joined Ayr to gain the chance to coach and to make Ayr United big again. That he ultimately did. He steered the club to the Second Division title in 1997. Gradually Ayr United became a scourge of SPL clubs in cup competitions and Dalziel became the first manager to take the club to a major final - the CIS Cup Final in May 2002 although they lost to Rangers.
He also took the club to Scottish Cup semi-finals in 2000 and 2002.
Financial constraints meant that a number of the Cup Final team were asked to leave Somerset Park and consequently the club had a bad start to the 2002/03 season. This dismal start to the season fueled expectations that Gordon Dalziel would be replaced as manager despite his previous season’s success and the financial constraints under which he operated. In November 2002 Gordon himself asked the United Chairman to reconsider the roles within the club and the result was that assistant manager Cambpell Money became Ayr United manager with Gordon remaining to support him, at least until the end of the season.
He remains the club's second longest serving manager of all time and his achievements will secure Gordon's place in as Ayr United's most successful manager to date.
Campbell Money (18/11/2002 – 27/8/2004)
Campbell Money moved into management with Stranraer, winning the Second Division title in 1998.
After successfully running Ayr United's youth development he became club manager and had the satisfaction of seeing so many of the youths become first team regulars.
The reign of Campbell Money did not start well with some indecisive results. Nevertheless he managed to steady the Ayr United ship, bereft as it was of the big wage players from the Cup Final days, and steer the young players to first division survival. The following season was full of expectation as a good crop of young players were brought together. However results did not go well and Campbell Money was blamed for not being able to motivate players and Ayr found themselves relegated to division 2. Despite this relegation Campbell Money was given a new two year contract to the bemusement of most fans.
The following season saw disastrous results with Ayr also being knocked out of the Challenge cup and CIS cup early in the season. With fans calling for his resignation United suddenly found themselves in severe financial difficulties with an unexpected inland revenue bill throwing the club to the brink of administration. In immediate cost cutting measures Campbell Money and assistant Norrie McWhirter were asked to go part time and take a wage cut. When they refused the writing for them was on the wall and they were dismissed late in August 2004.
Mark Shanks (28/8/2004 - 1/3/2005)
Mark Shanks was a defender who had been with Blackburn Rovers and Motherwell before signing for Ayr United in the summer of 1979.
He remained at the club for six years then went to play for a Cypriot club. As a manager he served Queen of the South, Albion Rovers and Kilwinning Rangers before taking the Ayr United job. A coaching team was installed comprising Robert Connor, Robert Reilly and Jim Dempsey and an immediate impact was made. Shanks struggled to put a side togther capable of regaining first division status but this was more to do with the dire financial position of the club who had to dispense with highly paid players to save the club from financial ruin. Nevertheless, there were signs that the club was on the way forward in a playing sense.
Hs tenure was a short one, lasting only six months, resigning from the club amidst a takeover bid for the club and the resignation of the club chariman Capperauld.
Robert Conner (4/3/2005 - 14/2/2007)
Robert Connor was appointed Manager and Robert Reilly his Assistant Manager in March 2005. Results didn’t go to well for the ‘two Rabs’ as they became known amongst supporters. Season 2005/06 started with promise, however, but despite some good performances the club did not even make the newly created play off’s.
The following season began more promisingly and by Christmas 2006 the club were sitting in second spot. But a serious of bad results, brightened only but a few good cup performances, left the club in serious relegation trouble a mere six weeks later. In mid February 2007 the two Rabs were sacked by the club.
Neil Watt (22/2/2007 to 22/10/2007)
Ayr United appointed Neil Watt as the club's new Football Manager on 22nd February 2007 after the sacking of Robert Conner a few weeks earlier
The former Stranraer Manager was entrusted with the job of steering United back to the first division. Aged 44 Neil was a partner in a Glasgow based property business. Following a successful spell as manager at Stranraer, successfully bringing them two back to back promotions, Neil had also been awarded Bells Manager of the Year in successive years. He left Stranraer to take some time out from football to develop his business and after a ten month break from football he was ready to make his mark again on the game.
Neil began the job of ensuring that United avoided relegation. With six wins and two draws from the last nine matches of the season he steered United away from relegation and to the brink of the play off’s. A bad start to the following season saw United slump but Neil brought a good squad of players back into contention for promoton. A 4-1 home defeat to Division Two leaders Ross County followed a minor bad run in form. Neil suddenly left the club on 22nd October 2007 citing a difference in outlook with the club’s Board as his reasons.
Brian Reid (26/10/2007 to 14/05/2012)
Ayr United moved quickly to appoint Brian as their new manager to succeed Neil Watt after his sudden departure. The defender was a man of many clubs having been at Rangers, (where he spent five years), Dunfermline, Falkirk Morton, Queen of the South, Burnley and Blackpool.
37-year-old Brian Reid had what the club describe as a "brief and successful" spell as caretaker manager at Ayr in season 2005/2006 when, along with fellow player Mark McGeown, he took temporary charge of the first team while the club searched for a new manager. His first job was to stabilize the club and avoid relegation in 2007/08, as seems to have been the first task a number of the managers immediately preceding him.
He strengthened the squad for a successful promotion challenge in season 2008/09, bringing the club into the 1st Division for the centenary season of 2009/10. Unfortunately United were not able to remain there and were relegated at the end of that season. Nevertheless the failing was not laid at the managers door and he remained in charge to attempt to steer the Honest Men to promotion which he did successfully at the end of season 2010/11 via the new play off system. However once again, despite some good wins and some clear improvement the club were again relegated, also via the play off system.
The club were keen to retain the managers services but Brian himself decided that it was time for a new challenged and left the club.
Mark Roberts (15/05/2012 to Present)
On the 15th May 2012, Mark Roberts took over the managerial reins of Ayr United from Brian Reid following the club's relegation to Division Two as player manager.
Roberts, 36, was embarking on his first journey into management at Somerset Park after enjoying a lengthy playing career which saw him playing for nine clubs including Kilmarnock, St Mirren, Falkirk, Partick Thistle and Airdrie United. Mark Roberts had still been competing at a high level and since signing for The Honest Men in 2009, having appeared 148 times and scored 54 goals.
After being appointed as Manager Roberts said : " Being a Manager was something i wanted to do and i love this club. I'm delighted i've got the chance to manage Ayr United "
In his first season in charge Ayr finished a disappointing 7th something that the manager acknowledged ‘To finish seventh in the league wasn’t acceptable. Whether that was down to mistakes made by myself I don’t know but I think the players have to take responsibility for their inconsistency. We gave them every opportunity to go out onto the park and build on good results but they rarely did that which is very disappointing. The following season Mark managed the club to a promotion play off position but sadly lost to eventual play off winners Cowdenbeath. The Board extended his contract into season 2014/2015 with a set of targets that they allowed to become public.