'Make no mistake, we will stay up' vows Steven Pressley as he replaces Eddie May
Falkirk chairman Martin Ritchie insisted his club had no option but to part company with May in the aftermath of Wednesday's 1-0 home defeat by Kilmarnock which left them three points adrift at the bottom of the table.
Ritchie says relegation from the SPL would be catastrophic for Falkirk but is confident Pressley can salvage their season.
The 36-year-old former Scotland international will take charge for the first time tomorrow, football throwing up one of its regular ironies as Falkirk face Hearts at Tynecastle, where he enjoyed the best years of his playing career as an inspirational defender and captain.
Pressley, who will be assisted by Alex Smith as the remaining two-thirds of the coaching team Falkirk appointed with May last summer stay at the club, has no doubt he can turn around the fortunes of a squad he believes have under-achieved significantly over the last seven months.
"I wouldn't have taken this job if I didn't think we could stay up this season," he said. "Make no mistake about it, we will stay in the SPL. There is no doubt about it. I have huge belief in this group of players."
Asked why those players had failed to justify that belief under May's guidance, Pressley's comments suggested motivation had been a problem under his predecessor.
"There are many facets to football management," he said. "They are tactical, motivational and psychological. Tactics give you a base, but I need to get inside the players' heads. I need to make sure they know the demands of playing at this club. I need to start creating a winning mentality. We did that at Hearts when I was there and that's what I want to create here."
Having been part of May's regime, Pressley appreciates that he will have to accept full responsibility if Falkirk cannot turn their fortunes around in the remaining 15 games of the SPL campaign.
"You can dress it up anyway you want," he added, "but the single most important factor in management is winning matches. The only way I can convince people I am the right appointment is by winning matches and keeping Falkirk in the SPL. In my own eyes, I will have failed if I don't keep Falkirk up. But, as I say, we will stay up."
Pressley, who has promoted Lee Bullen to a senior role in his coaching staff, believes he will have no difficulty in altering his relationship with the Falkirk players now that the buck stops at his door.
"It is important you treat players in the manner you would wish to be treated yourself," he said. "It is important that I stay close to them, but not too close. Ultimately there has to be a line.
"There have been mixed emotions for me today, because I was very disappointed to see Eddie leave the club. We grew very close over the last seven months and I enjoyed working with him. We agreed on many things, but our philosophies differed greatly on others."
May – who said last night he felt "the club might benefit from someone else taking the reins" – was appointed as successor to John Hughes last June following a long spell at the helm of Falkirk's youth academy. But the 42-year-old former Hibs and Motherwell midfielder won just four and lost 15 of his 27 games in charge. In addition to struggling at the foot of the SPL, Falkirk were knocked out of the Europa League by Vaduz of Liechtenstein and also suffered elimination from both the Co-operative Insurance Cup and Active Nation Scottish Cup at the first hurdle.
Club chairman Ritchie lamented May's failure but is sure Pressley can follow Owen Coyle and John Hughes in starting an outstanding managerial career at Falkirk.
"Steven has played at the highest level and will bring a different leadership style," said Ritchie. "We believe he is the person to keep Falkirk in the SPL. Owen and John got their first taste of management here and our feeling is that Steven can follow in their footsteps.
"Parting company with Eddie was a mutual decision after Wednesday's game because there was a danger we could get cut adrift from the rest of the pack. The consequences of any side being relegated from the SPL are disastrous."