A fresh management team has brought fresh life to St Mirren.
The Paisley side have found themselves in the bottom half of the Championship table following a disappointing start to the campaign. Ian Murray departed after a defeat to Dumbarton and former Dundee pairing Alex Rae and David Farrell have been brought in.
Suddenly, with two wins in their first three matches, including a 1-0 victory away at local rivals Greenock Morton, hopes are high for 2016. It’s enough to justify assistant boss Farrell’s decision to get back into the game.
“The world of football is something that’s in your blood,” said Farrell, “Even if you’ve taken time out of the game, when the phone goes and an offer comes in, it’s something that needs to be considered. St Mirren is a big club with a real identity in Scottish football, and with the chance to work with Alex again, it was too good an opportunity to turn down.
“It’s great to get back into the game and hopefully we can prove ourselves here and improve the club.”
The duo worked at Dundee between 2006 and 2008, leading the side to third and second placed finishes respectively during their two full seasons at Dens, before working under Paul Ince at Notts County in 2010.
“We both know each others strengths and weaknesses, we know how to work with each other - we’ve done it twice before - but the biggest thing is that we’ve known each other for around 30 years. We speak two or three times a day, every day.
“There’s no doubt that there’s a maturity that comes with age and you learn a lot more about football, but I’d like to think that we could work in a similar sort of way to how we did at Dundee because it was a fairly successful period there”.
Having been relegated from Scotland’s top flight at the end of last season, St Mirren will be aiming to regain their position in the Premiership as swiftly as possible, however Farrell understands the challenge that lies ahead for him and the rest of the coaching staff at the club.
“We’ve got a big task ahead of us,” he stressed, “because the club are lower in the league than they would have wanted to be.
“It’s a very similar scenario to the situation at Dundee, although with the main difference being that we took over at Dundee during the summer, which allowed us time to assess and build over the course of six weeks of pre-season. Here, we’ve had to come straight out where you’ve got games coming up and haven’t got much of an opportunity to try things out, but that’s where hopefully the experience and maturity will help. The most important thing in the short term is to win some football matches and to get everyone back on a high again”.
Before making a return to football with the Buddies, Farrell was working as a taxi driver in Glasgow, but decided that the time was right to step out from the cab and get back onto the training ground.
“I won’t be continuing as a taxi driver,” he admitted. “It’s important for me to always be able to provide for my family. Now that I’m full time here means that I don’t have to go back to my taxi.
“The most important thing is that I couldn’t do this job part-time. This is a full-time job - we’re here at 8:30 in the morning doing match analysis, video analysis, organising training and often not leaving here until later at night, and even then, we’ll maybe go to an under-20’s game so you aren’t getting home until around 11 at night.
“From the managerial side of it, people only see the couple of hours of training and a game, but they don’t understand a lot of the preparation that is actually involved. But I’m really looking forward to getting my teeth into it.
“Getting recognised by fans happened quite a lot when I was driving my taxi and you’d get some good banter, particularly in Glasgow with Old Firm fans, and often also Hearts and Hibs supporters that had come through from Edinburgh. But it was great, most people usually wanted to just pick my brain and ask me about certain players, managers, or who I’d played against, just wanting to hear my opinion.”
A keen writer, Farrell has an online blog, ‘Football from the Inside’, talking about his own experiences and giving an insider’s take on the game, striking a cord with fans keen to find out what life behind the scenes of football is really like. Unfortunately, it may be a while before the next entry is uploaded.
“The blog has gone incredibly well. When I started it, there were three main myths that I wanted to dispel, the first one being that all footballers are thick, the second one that all footballers are millionaires and the third one that it is an easy job because you only have to work a few hours a day. So I just wanted to put across to people that those myths aren’t true and to write about what it is really like, at all levels.
“You always watch Match of The Day and see the glamorous side, but it’s not really like that. From then on, it spawned the book (Taxi for Farrell). Unfortunately however, that’s all going to have to go on the back burner again but I’m going to be putting 100 per cent into working here at St Mirren.”
Prior to his coaching career, Farrell featured for Hibs, spending seven years at the Edinburgh side who now find themselves challenging for the league title under manager Alan Stubbs. He’ll soon get the chance to go up against his former club on Ladbrokes Championship duty.
“I’ve see them a couple of times this season. They play nice football, they’ve got a really good squad of players. They play a very interesting style of play, with a lot of what they play unusual as to what you might expect in the championship because they play so much into feet and have a lot of good technical players. But that comes from having a bigger budget. You can sign better players when you have a bigger budget and that’s what tends to happen.
Hibs and Rangers are right up there in the top two, but it’s up to us as a team to aspire to get as close to that as possible. Our main aim for this season is consolidation after the six months this club has had. ‘Hard to beat’ is the key and clubs like Hibs should be our target ultimately.”
In a twist of fate, Farrell will, on Friday night, find himself come up against another of his former clubs, Patrick Thistle, in the Scottish Cup. The Jags have been in impressive form of late after an early season slump. Despite their recent impressive showings however, he is positive that St Mirren are capable of getting a positive result.
“Of course. I mean, make no mistake about it, Patrick Thistle are the form team in the premier league at this time. They’ve been on a brilliant run and I spoke to Archie recently and I commended him for his efforts because he’s really turned things around on a shoestring budget. They’re very well organised, they’ve got good legs in their team, very disciplined.
“It’s going to be a very tough game for us. It’ll be a great occasion and we’re hoping to get as many families and supporters down for the game. We’ll be organised, we’ll work very, very hard and do everything we can to try and get a result. But make no mistake, we can get a result”.
Follow Lewis McKenzie on twitter @LewisMcKenzie94