He’s the Scot who is is a virtual unknown in his home country. But all that is about to change with Micky Mellon now installed as the new manager of Dundee united.
Having forged an impressive managerial reputation in England, the 48-year-old has left Tranmere Rovers to return north and lead United in their first Premiership campaign for four years.
Mellon fended off competition from some impressive candidates – Scottish FA performance director Malky Mackay among them – to land the Tannadice role.
So why were United so keen to get him and who exactly is Micky Mellon?
Early grounding under a Scotland legend
Glasgow born and Paisley raised, Mellon started out as a player in Hearts’ youth system. Former Tynecastle skipper and manager Craig Levein, seven years his senior, remembers playing alongside the midfielder in reserve team games.
“He was on the groundstaff at Hearts way back in 1983. He was a good lad and I’ve had quite a lot of dealings with him over the years,” said Levein.
Mellon was released without making the first-team breakthrough and, at age 17, signed for compatriot Joe Jordan at Bristol City.
It was here the seeds of his own management career were sown under the firm but fair leadership of a Scotland legend.
“Joe Jordan was brilliant. Disciplined. Scary. But I liked him,” Mellon told Nutmeg magazine. “There was no inch given.
“If you tried to cut a corner, Joe was all over you. A consummate professional. Ran a fantastic football club, from top to bottom. I loved playing under him.”
Barring a short loan spell with Cork City, Mellon spent the rest of his playing career in England’s lower and non-leagues, including learning from manager Sam Allardyce at Blackpool and over 200 appearances across three spells with Tranmere.
Promotion specialist & discovering Vardy
Although a journeyman as a player, it’s in management where Mellon has really made his mark.
Having hung up as boots at Lancaster City, he took the number two role there before rejoining former club Burnley as youth-team coach.
His big break came when Fleetwood Town, then in the Conference North, appointed him manager in September 2008.
Bottom of the table when he took over, they were promoted in his first full campaign. And it was thanks to Mellon’s eye for a player that Fleetwood then smashed the glass ceiling to reach the Football League for the first time in their history.
He took a chance on a wiry, lightning quick 24-year-old striker from Halifax Town called Jamie Vardy. The forward’s sole season on the Fylde coast before a £1m move to Leicester City yielded 34 goals in 40 games and propelled Fleetwood to the title with a 29-game unbeaten run.
“Every man and his dog now says they were going to sign Jamie. But no one was willing to take the plunge on him,” said Mellon.
Fleetwood were seventh in League Two when Mellon was sacked following an FA Cup loss to Aldershot in December 2012.
He was quickly snapped up by Championship side Barnsley as assistant boss, helping to nurture the likes of future £50m defender John Stones, before taking over as Shrewsbury Town manager in summer 2014.
Promotion to League One was secured at the first attempt and Mellon steered the club to safety the next season while they reached the FA Cup fifth round for the first time in 25 years.
A special Tranmere turnaround
The Scot departed Shrewsbury after two wins from 11 games at the start of the following campaign. Dropping two divisions, he took over at Tranmere in where his impact was indelible.
The club were floundering outside the Football League, yet under Mellon they reached the play-offs then followed it up with successive promotions.
He is the only Tranmere manager to achieve such a feat. And despite his four-year tenure having ended in harsh relegation – Tranmere were three points adrift in third bottom with a game in hand when League One was ended – his exit has been universally mourned by fans.
Not since The Beatles broke up has an abrupt departure caused such angst in this patch of Merseyside.
In his farewell message to Tranmere supporters, Mellon spoke of “how big a decision it was” to leave and said the lure of managing in Scotland and being among family proved too strong.
He heads north with five English promotions as a manager on his CV. Keeping United in the top flight is now his immediate task if his return home is to be success.
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