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UK Athletics poach Scotland's coaching director at crucial time

THE governing body for athletics in Scotland faces a period of uncertainty, just when absolute unity was most required, after it was confirmed that Steven Maguire, the well-regarded director of coaching for scottishathletics, has been poached by UK Athletics to head up their sprints and hurdles programme.

For the Northern Irishman, it is a plum post, with his appointment finalised just days after Richard Kilty claimed the world indoor title over 60 metres and with the emergence of James Dasaolu and Adam Gemili over the last 12 months leading UKA's performance director Neil Black to forecast a new golden age in the disciplines.

However, his departure to Loughborough will be felt keenly north of the border. Although a deal has been struck which will see him remain in his post until the Commonwealth Games have concluded, he has earned widespread respect for his work in pushing through a greater support for young coaches and athletics, including Andy Young and his protégé Laura Muir, while rebuilding bridges between the governing bodies and its members in the field.

With prior experience working with athletes such as American sprinter Tyson Gay and Paralympic champion Jason Smyth, it is unsurprising that Maguire should be wanted elsewhere. But he insisted last night that he will leave a legacy on which a successor can build.

"I would hope that there are now frameworks in place which will help," he said. "What is certain is that there are some highly talented and motivated Scottish athletes at the moment. I was advised before my move from America that there were some green shoots of recovery happening. We are seeing some of those start to really fulfil their potential. It would be a privilege to be able to see my role in Scotland through to the high point of the Commonwealth Games. My immediate and medium-term focus now is on giving Scottish athletes the best possible chance of success in Glasgow."

Yet with the annual IFAC Coaching conference discarded, and the prospect of financial disruption following Glasgow 2014, it is unclear how high Scottish Athletics will be able to aim when the vacancy is advertised later this week. "The reality that we face is that, after Glasgow 2014, it is a further four years before Scotland competes as Scotland in a major event," admitted its chief executive Nigel Holl. "Top coaches and those with serious international experience and credentials will seek more frequent international competition in leading roles."

But Black, who will hold interviews later this month for a head of jumps, throws and combined events, believes the appointment will forge stronger links between grassroots in the Scotland and the Olympic programme. "I'm particularly proud that we have effectively recruited for this senior role from within British athletics, part of our 'growing our own' philosophy," he said.

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