Taking the three points on Saturday against St Mirren would have given us a huge boost in our quest for survival.
However, with Dunfermline falling to a 2-0 home defeat by Motherwell, I suppose the point attained from our match should be viewed as a positive one.
Both sides struggled to gain the initiative in what was largely a midfield battle and I felt our strikers looked extremely isolated from the start.
Although St Mirren never really tested Graham Stack to any real extent, they appeared much more of a unit than ourselves. This may be down to the new players still trying to gel within the team and getting to grip with the fast pace of Scottish football. However, there still appears to be an edginess surrounding one or two of the players where they must learn to relax and take stock of what’s going on in front of them. This is understandable to an extent and I am sure this will begin to ease if we manage back-to-back league victories. However, you cannot expect a side assembled over such a short period of time to be at the top of their game.
We are a team in transition making slow strides to improve the quality at the club. Things are not going to happen overnight and this is what we as supporters will have to accept. If the truth be told, I wonder if the manager is still unsure of his preferred starting XI as he continues to find the favoured positions for certain individuals. The key attributes of good management skills involve being motivated, determined and disciplined and these are all a necessity with the current position we find ourselves in. I have stated in the past that the pressure the players are under at the moment is in a league of its own. Many will be new to this sort of experience and the right guidance is therefore imperative to each individual at the club.
Simple things can make such a difference to a player’s mentality. Prior to a match at Ibrox, I remember seeing a young player in the dressing-room feeling extremely sick due to the nature of the game. I offered him a few words of advice I had indeed been given myself which was to go out, express yourself and just enjoy the occasion as the big games epitomise what you, as a professional footballer, have dedicated so much of your life to.
Players and managers alike, I believe each day is an opportunity to learn from others. When chatting with ex-Celtic and Manchester United player Brian McClair from my days at Motherwell, the conversation steered on to the great Eric Cantona. He described the Frenchman as having such an extensive influence in the dressing-room, particularly with the younger ones coming through at the time. His advice to Brian was to work endlessly at training through the week if you’re winning on a Saturday but not if you’re losing. Cantona said: “When winning, any man will climb a mountain but when losing, you have to encourage and make him feel like he can reach the top of the mountain.” Upon hearing this story I realised there is much more to football than training every day and half the battle is having the right mentality which is effectively what Cantona was trying to put across. Being involved in a relegation tussle can be so draining where some players can put their fears and thoughts to one side. Some players, however, are unable to do this and can let it take over their mind.
We now head to Somerset Park on Saturday to take on Ayr United with a good opportunity to progress in the Scottish Cup. It would be a real bonus to put the ghost of last year to bed and land a place in the semi-final. This is a difficult venue to win at with the supporters right on top of you but these surroundings must be overlooked if victory is to be achieved. As ever, there will be a strong Hibs contingent making the journey through to the Ayrshire coast where a hot atmosphere will be expected.