It’s Jim Goodwin’s second year in Premiership management. He’ll not have a season like last term, but in the end, he got the primary job at St Mirren done.
A now famous Jon Obika goal secured the Buddies’ position in the top-flight in what turned out to be the last competitive game of football in Scotland pre-shutdown. Now there is ambition for something more than just a bottom of the league scrap.
Last year Goodwin was learning on the job after his successes at Alloa in the Championship. He’ll be a better boss for his time dealing with all aspects of professional life in the manager’s chair. His recruitment this season has gone after experience, able to call upon four captains in his backline. It’s experience that’ll stand the Buddies in good stead ahead of their opener at home to Livingston this afternoon.
Now going into a season that’ll be played, hopefully, only partially behind closed doors, it’s another season less ordinary. Many may scoff at Tony Fitzpatrick’s comments of his hopes for a Buddies top six push, but it’s ambition shared by Goodwin. Why not aim for the best you can be?
“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with people having ambition,” Goodwin said. “A lot is said about Tony saying what he said. I don’t think anyone should be shot down. Of course, we know how difficult the job is going to be to try and get in that top six. We are competing against some very good teams already. They just have to believe in themselves.
“I’ve brought players to the club who have had success of being up there. Richard Tait, when he came to Motherwell they weren’t exactly flying high. He leaves them sitting third in the table, Joe Shaughnessy has experienced fourth-place finishes with St Johnstone.
“I don’t think those clubs are much bigger than we are. I don’t want to put a squad together that’s just satisfied with staying up, we all have to have a bit of ambition. But us saying and doing that are two different things, we need to back it up on the pitch.
“I’ve got confidence in my own ability. I’m an ambitious young manager but when I took the job, I asked the board those questions; Are you as ambitious as I am? Because I am not interested in coming if we are just going to try and fight for survival every year. Are we going to put things in place that are going to give us a genuine chance of challenging for that top six?
“Thankfully, up until now, they’ve certainly matched what we have spoke about and invested in the squad. That’s all I can ask of them. If we finish ninth next year, we’ve underachieved as far as I’m concerned. We finish eighth or seventh, it’s progress. We finish in the top half, we’ll all be doing backflips!”
He knows he’s made mistakes along the way in his first season, things he should and shouldn’t have done. There’s been time for reflection on that period as he heads into his second season as Premiership manager of the Buddies.
“I’m a hell of a lot more prepared this time round,” he explained. “I’ve learned so much from that first season. Lockdown gave me and other managers time to reflect on the season. Last summer was a real rollercoaster for me as I was preparing for life in the Championship with Alloa. Then almost overnight I ended up here, it was really difficult.
“I was probably a little bit naive, probably a little bit negative as well and possibly gave some of the teams too much respect, just because of my lack of experience at this level. A year on, I feel a lot better about my own ability in this league and I’m really looking forward to hopefully showing that.”
Fraser’s Goodwin influence
Marcus Fraser is one player brought in under the Goodwin summer recruitment drive. Arriving from rivals Ross County on a one-year deal, he’ll add various elements to the Buddies backline. Leadership, versatility, ability to play out from the back, it could prove to be a shrewd addition.
He’s looking forward to life under Goodwin as the new season approaches: “It’s a good opportunity for myself. Speaking to the manager, he’s got good ambitions for the club and he speaks highly of it. The boys are brilliant as well and I’m looking forward to it.
“The manager was just talking about the team and what he wants to do this season. I just thought it was really good. I had a think and then I went for it.
“I felt at this stage in my career I wanted a wee change. I had a great five years at Ross County, it was brilliant. I had it set in my head that I wanted a change, this came up, and now it is good things going forward.
“I think it’s important not to get too carried away with what everyone else is saying. Us as players need to go and do the job on the park, starting Saturday.”