Michael Alexander speaks to a Dundee-trained artist and football fan who has immortalised a season’s worth of sacked football managers in paint.
What do Jackie McNamara, Mixu Paatelainen, Dick Campbell and Paul Sturrock have in common?
The answer, apart from having strong connections with Courier Country football clubs, is that they were all sacked as managers during the 2015-2016 football season – and then immortalised in paint by a Dundee FC supporting artist.
Fraser MacDonald, 31, from Perth, embarked on an ambitious project in 2015 to produce one-hour portraits of every manager sacked in Scotland and England during the season.
And now the Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design fine art graduate, who made national headlines with his light-hearted caricatures, is planning to publish them in a book this spring.
“It was something I had wanted to do for a wee while – but when I started off I could have had no idea I would be painting 52 sacked managers over the course of the season,” explains Fraser, who now lives in Huntly and whose day job is exhibition programmer with the Grampian Hospital Arts Trust in Aberdeen.
“I hadn’t painted for around 10 years and wanted to do something offbeat and limited to one season that I could post online and that would also appeal to football fans.”
Conscious of the cut-throat football business, Fraser kept abreast of the back pages and fans forums during the 2015/16 pre-season and got a feel for the speculation surrounding the future of many managers before a ball had even been kicked.
When the axe finally fell, however, the condition was that his acrylic on canvass compositions had to be based on pictures taken of the victims just days before their downfall, and the artwork could take no longer than one hour to produce.
It was also a strict condition that the managers had to have been sacked rather than resigning.
Casualties at an English Premiership level that season included Chelsea’s Jose Mourinho and Manchester United’s Louis van Gaal.
His portrait of Terry Butcher, sacked by Welsh club Newport County, caught the attention of broadcaster and St Johnstone fan Stuart Cosgrove who invited him on to the BBC Scotland radio show Off the Ball that October.
Fraser tried not to let his blue tinted spectacles get in the way of his portraits of McNamara and his successor Paatelainen when sacked from Dundee United!
But the greatest reaction often came from fans of English lower league clubs who were not used to their teams being talked about at all.
“There was a bit of a reaction when Paul Sturrock (ex-Dundee United player and manager) was sacked from Yeovil Town,” he says.
“Russ Wilcox, when he was sacked at York City, grew arms and legs with my caricature being shared by multiple fans on social media.
“A Cambridge Utd fan bought my picture of their manager Richard Money after he was sacked, and even sent me pics of it hanging in different places.
“The only one I missed was Dick Campbell who was sacked at Forfar when I was on holiday. I did that one a couple of months later!”
Fraser says that from a critical art perspective he admits he is “absolutely not convinced” by them all.
Yet several managers got in touch asking if they could buy their caricature, and overall around half of the originals were sold.
The Sacked Portraits book will feature a forward by fellow Dundee FC fan turned author Grant Hill.
And Fraser is now planning another scheme for next season. Working with fellow Dundee art graduate Euan Taylor, The Gaffer Tapes will see them visit lower league grounds in Scotland and candidly interview fans against a sponsors-style backdrop as they go in and out of games.