MANAGERS and coaches don't usually get testimonials, according to current Auchinleck Talbot boss Tommy Sloan.

So he admits it came "as a bit of a shock" when match secretary Henry Dumigan informed him that the club would be organising a testimonial year for both him and assistant Allan McLuckie - to mark their 20 years of "outstanding service" to the club.

Talbot confirmed at the beginning of this month that they would be forming a testimonial committee before the season gets under way, with plans to sort a fundraising schedule in the coming weeks.

Tommy Sloan admits he was surprised to hear the club were looking to arrange a testimonial year.Tommy Sloan admits he was surprised to hear the club were looking to arrange a testimonial year for him and assistant Allan McLuckie. (Image: Archive)

“It came as a bit of a shock to me," Sloan admitted.

"Henry mentioned it to me a while back, but managers and coaches don’t usually get testimonials.

“It’s really kind of the club to recognise it, since we’ve been here longer than many at most other clubs.

“I don’t remember many managers or coaches getting testimonials so fair play to them for doing that.”

In reality, Sloan and McLuckie will be two of the only people surprised by the announcement.

As the longest serving current manager at any level in Scottish football, Sloan truly is one of a kind.

With a trophy cabinet boasting more 30 triumphs, and some memorable senior Scottish Cup victories, it's fair to see it has been a fairly successful time at Beechwood Park for the pair.

And we're not sure how many would have seen the two decades of success coming when the Chronicle first reported 'Sloan named Talbot boss' on November 7, 2003.

The Chronicle's report from November 7, 2003, when Tommy Sloan was first appointed.The Chronicle's report from November 7, 2003, when Tommy Sloan was first appointed. (Image: Archive)

The former Stranraer and Kilwinning Rangers player came into his first management role, and his only one to date, more than two decades ago.

Initially with Ian Jardine as his assistant, with McLuckie coming to the club later that year, it's an appointment the East Ayrshire giants have not lived to regret.

And despite the time that has passed since then, Sloan says his first years in East Ayrshire still remain the toughest he has ever had.

Initially joining as a player-manager, with Talbot bottom of the table, he was tasked with keeping the club in the old Junior West of Scotland Super League.

Times have changed since Sloan first took on the role.Times have changed since Sloan first took on the role. (Image: Archive)

He told the Chronicle: “We’ve been here a while, and it’s been pretty tough at times.

"Look at last season. We were bottom of the league at one point. The club backed us again and we managed to improve it and have a decent finish.

“I’m not sure if it was the toughest, though, I remember the early days where I had to play as well as manage.

“Probably the toughest one is when we went to Maryhill, who were one of the top sides at the time.

“They were, I think, second, and we were second bottom – we had to win to stay in the league on the last game of the season.

“We managed to do that with a 3-1 victor,y and I was actually playing in the game."

Sloan drew comparisons with the turnaround in that initial season to those his side made in last year's West of Scotland Football League (WoSFL) Premier Division.

There have been a number of ups and downs since Sloan took on the role.There have been a number of ups and downs since Sloan took on the role. (Image: Archive)

He continued: “I was a bit younger, and maybe I didn’t notice it as much then.

“I certainly noticed last season, when we were going through that tough period.

“Just like then, the players turned it round. It was much the same players who turned it round. It just shows the players can make a difference by improving and becoming stronger.”

The legend of Ayrshire football gave a lot of credit to the players he has had over the years, admitting "there is luck in it" when it comes to the squads he has assembled.

But along with luck, looking after his squad has also played a key role in the club's success.

It has certainly been a successful tenure for the pair.Tommy Sloan and Allan McLuckie with the South Challenge Cup, which Talbot won in 2022. (Image: Archive)

Sloan added: “There’s been a few sleepless nights, because you take things seriously.

“Especially on a Friday night, if you’ve got a big game the next day, it’s going through your head.

“You’re dealing with players' careers as well. That’s why I’ve always taken things seriously.

“It’s a short career and you’ve got to treat everybody the same. You can’t have favourites. That’s one thing I’ve always tried to do.

“We’ve had some great players over the years, and we’ve still got some cracking players at this moment.

“It always helps when that’s the case, it would be a lot tougher if that wasn’t.”

While 'Tucker' is the name many may associate with Auchinleck, the boss was also full of plaudits for assistant McLuckie and the role he plays at the club.

Sloan was full of praise for his assistant.Sloan was full of praise for his assistant Allan McLuckie. (Image: Archive)

"We’ve had plenty of fallouts," he admitted, "but it’s all for the right reasons.

"We don’t fall out in terms of not talking to each other – we argue it out and then come to a decision.

“It’s good having someone like that there that you can argue the case with, and they give you a bit back, rather than just agreeing with everything you say.

“Allan’s been a huge part of things over the years. He deserves the recognition as much as I do.”

The management team have made clear more than once over the years that they don't think too much beyond Talbot's next game - an approach Sloan says has served him well, and he hopes will continue to do for some time yet.

"I've never planned that far ahead," he said.

"You just look at the next game and you’re looking forward to the next big match.

“Obviously I enjoy it. It’s tough at times, with training on those wintry nights, but I’ve never not wanted to do it.

“I’ve been involved in football for over 40 years. It’s maybe just a habit and you’re scared to give it up – and I’m not one for shopping on a Saturday.

“One day I dare say I’ll turn round and say 'that’s it', but that might not be in my hands."

But at a club like Talbot, Sloan is hopeful he will continue until the time is right to step away.

He continued: “Auchinleck have been really good to me and they have always backed us. The guys there are good people, and that has helped me through the years.

“When we’re in a wee bit of bother, they always try and help you, and dig you out a hole.

“It’s not just about Allan and I. The board has always backed us, and we did it again last year, for the umpteenth time.

“As long as that’s the case, it’s a hard job to give up to be honest. It makes it a lot easier for us when everyone’s behind you.”

That's why, with pre-season preparations now under way, his thoughts are firmly on building on Talbot's strong finish to last season.

And some things have changed in his 20 years, he and McLuckie's approach will not differ too far from their usual.

Sloan is now looking forward to the season ahead.Sloan is now looking forward to the season ahead. (Image: Archive)

Sloan said: “You try and keep the basic things that have kept us in good nick over the years.  There’s nothing complicated there.

“We’re looking for a good appetite in pre-season, and we’re getting that so far.

“There is a lot of money being spent, and there’s more than one or two teams you are challenging with now – they’re all capable of winning it.

“The youth set-up at senior clubs has changed things a lot as well. It used to be that you got players from the senior sides and they had played in first team games.

“Now you are getting players who have been youth players before they came here, rather than being in the first team.

“I think that makes it more difficult for the player, not having that first team experience.

“That’s not to say they’re not good players, but having that first team experience really helps you, coming to our level.

“We’re trying to get a team that can compete with everybody. That’s what we’ll always do here. You don’t get easy games now.

Talbot finished the 2023-24 season strongly - and Tommy Sloan says he wants to build on that in the new campaign.Talbot finished the 2023-24 season strongly - and Tommy Sloan says he wants to build on that in the new campaign. (Image: Craig McGhee)

“I think we finished last season well. It’s about building on that this year.

“We had a wee taste and nearly got there. We have players that haven’t played in Scottish finals and all that, but we’ve got that now.

“There’s a number of new players, they nearly got there last year and they’ve got to have that wee bit hunger to get to those stages now.

“We’ll see, but when it comes down to it it’s down to the players.”