Paul McManus fuelled by relegation torment

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The pain of one relegation, rather than the joy of experiencing three promotions, is driving Paul McManus on to ensure he helps Arbroath secure a return to League 1 at the first attempt.

The 32-year-old striker reckons that only helping the Red Lichties out of League 2 will banish the disappointment that has lingered since they were relegated last May.

Paul McManus's goals have played a big part in taking Arbroath clear at the top of League 2. Picture: SNS

Paul McManus's goals have played a big part in taking Arbroath clear at the top of League 2. Picture: SNS

McManus missed out with a slight knee injury when Allan Moore’s table-topping side went down 2-1 at Queen’s Park on Saturday, but he is determined to bounce back and secure the fourth promotion of his career.

“I have won leagues with Raith Rovers and East Fife and been promoted with Stranraer when we finished second before the play-offs came in,” said McManus. “But going up with Arbroath would mean more. It is not just because I am older and realise that it does not happen that often, but it is because of the feeling that relegation gave me.

“I was only at Arbroath for a few months but going home after our final game I just felt like crying. I never wanted to be relegated. If we had got something at Airdrie on the final day we would have been in the play-offs and I would have fancied us, but we lost.

“One of the reasons I stayed at Arbroath is that they wanted to bounce straight back up. I knew we would have a good chance.”

The first promotion in McManus’ CV came nearly 12 years ago. “I was only 20 and starting out in the game when Raith won the Second Division under Antonio Calderon in 2003,” he recalls. “I moved on to Albion Rovers and then had a six-month spell at Stranraer where we won promotion in 2005 when we were runners up to Morton.”

A move back to Raith saw McManus work under Gordon Dalziel, Craig Levein and John McGlynn before he joined a stellar cast at East Fife. McManus said: “Willie Gray was the chairman and assembled quite an expensive team. We had players like Steven Tweed dropping down a couple of divisions to play and it worked as we were a very good side.

“We only lost four games and had the title won by March, with 88 points secured by the end of the season, so I know what it is like to win leagues. It feels great, but I also know how hard it is to drop down.”

After four years at Bayview, McManus moved to Brechin for a season before returning to the Fifers ahead of an unsuccessful six-month spell at Forfar. That period led to the switch of Angus clubs, with McManus saying: “Paul Sheerin took me on loan and I then signed a deal to stay until the end of the season. I thought we would stay up as we were a team that played good football and scored goals. However we would lose more than we scored as defensively we were poor.

“This season we have been tighter, with the new manager bringing in good players to build on a decent pool that Paul had left.”

Moore has certainly made an impact, with the Gayfield side still three points clear despite Saturday’s defeat. McManus joked: “The boss had tried to sign me for Morton and I am still waiting for his call back to me on that one.

“At his first night at training he was impressive and said that he wanted us to go up. That is what I wanted to hear as getting promoted would make the pain of relegation finally go away.”

McManus, who is closing in on 200 career goals, and his Dundee United-bound strike partner Simon Murray have scored 35 times this season, and the relationship between the pair has revived memories of how the elder strike partner learnt his trade.

McManus said: “I played with Scott Crabbe and learned a lot from him. I am trying to teach Simon what Scott taught me. Big Mark Yardley was also brilliant for me as he had come from the top flight and just knew where to be. He was not very mobile but he scored 15 goals and I hit 24 so it worked.

“Simon’s first training session was at the tail end of last season and he was frightening in it, his finishing was incredible. You could see that he was not the finished article, even for Arbroath, as he needed to hold the ball up better and know when to lay the ball off.

“He was young and naïve but he has learned well and improved a lot. He will not be in a game but will then pop up with a world-class finish and deserves his chance at Dundee United. In fact I reckon he can go on further than there. He is a level-headed kid who has good hard-working values in him, so he can do it.”