THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT

On Saturday I watched Saint Mirren clinch the Championship Title.

12 months earlier I witnessed the Buddies perform the Great Escape when they avoided relegation to League One on the final day of the season.

There is one, and only one, reason for this amazing turnaround in the Paisley side’s fortunes and he goes by the name of Jack Ross.

Sure, chairman Gordon Scott and chief-exec Tony Fitzpatrick deserve praise for the way that they have helped galvanise the club since they took control and players like Stephen McGinn, Lewis Morgan and Gavin Reilly obviously also played their part but the manager has been the catalyst for the club’s revival.

When he arrived at the Paisley 2021Stadium the team were bottom of the pile and bereft of confidence and cohesion.

Previous gaffer Alex Rae might have turned it around with a bit of luck and another transfer window but wasn’t given the chance.

Instead the directors decided that they would look to Alloa Athletic manager Jack Ross and since he arrived he has hardly put a foot wrong.

His first couple of months were spent rebuilding the confidence of the players – and the fans. Who can forget his ‘debate’ with the punters following the Queen of the South defeat in early January last year?

That was the watershed; when the fans saw how much it meant to him too.

With an influx of players throughout that transfer window, including the signing of the inspirational skipper Stephen McGinn, things started to change on and off the pitch.

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Me with Stephen McGinn after the final whistle on Saturday

Four straight wins including a victory over Champions elect Hibs and, more importantly, against fellow strugglers Ayr United at Somerset Park changed the dynamic.

Suddenly the Paisley Faithful had something to believe in and were witnessing the turning of the tide.

Between that game in Ayrshire and the end of the campaign Ross guided the Saints to safety; taking 22 points from the 36 on offer. The job was done.

Or so we thought.

Come Season 2017-18 we wondered how the Buddies would fare with most pundits and punters suggesting a season of consolidation and perhaps a charge to the Premiership Play-Offs was a possibility given a good wind.

Instead, following some very decent recruitment including the addition of Craig Samson, Liam Smith, Ian McShane, Gavin Reilly and Harry Davies to name a few, the Buddies bounced into league action with a convincing 3-1 win over much-fancied Falkirk.

A 4-1 pumping at Cappielow the next week however put the Buddies’ gas at a peep.

That only sparked them into real action with six wins from the next seven league fixtures. They sat on top of the pile and, in truth, seldom looked like being anywhere else.

Blips at East End Park in the middle of September and a home defeat to Dumbarton in early December were the low points of an almost perfect campaign.

In fact, ironically for the Saints, their home form has been the backbone of their league success with 13 wins from 16 games and only one defeat at the Paisley 2021 Stadium.

That’s the House that Jack has built and although other clubs have been welcome, very few have left with anything.

Craig Samson has only picked the ball out of his net nine times in Paisley and actually broke the club’s home clean sheet record with eight on the bounce – incredibly he’s not conceded at the 2021 this year yet.

All-in-all it has been whirlwind 18 months for St Mirren and their fans.

You wouldn’t know it looking at their manager though.

He retained his cool, calm demeanour following the game when I was interviewing him and was quick to heap praise on his players for their efforts and achievements.

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Interview over – time to relax

You get the distinct impression that this won’t be the only time this young man gets the chance to celebrate as a gaffer in the madcap world of football management.

Last week I wrote about John Lambie being a man who had a huge influence on everyone he worked with in football. Jack Ross is not unlike him.

Minus the pigeons, cigars and expletives of course.