Aug 14 2009 by Gordon Bannerman, Perthshire Advertiser Friday
AFTER a summer of speculation surrounding his future, Derek McInnes leads his St Johnstone squad into the first SPL campaign since a meagre 21-point haul deprived Perth of top division football seven years ago.
As a player, McInnes amassed medals from his Rangers days, and a couple of Scotland caps take pride of place in the collection.
But reflecting on last season’s First Division title success at Perth, which included a best-ever undefeated sequence, McInnes said: “I took a lot of satisfaction from that as a manager. I doubt if I’ve had more pleasure from any achievement in my football career.
“As a manager it’s no longer about yourself. You have more to worry about. You’ve brought in players to the club and they worked so hard and remained so resolute throughout the campaign. You want success for them.
“I also wanted to reward the fans and chairman Geoff Brown, who gave me my chance here. You’re more pleased for others.
“I’m probably a psychiatrist’s dream. But there were people saying I was too young for the job or lacked experience. I drew satisfaction from proving them wrong. That gave me a real buzz. Maybe that says more about me than them. I’ll let someone else analyse it.
“Don’t get me wrong, it was great winning the championship. With only one team going up there is real pressure. And others tried to apply it as the season unfolded.
“There is a thin line between success and failure and we won the title that everyone craved at the start of the season.”
While family man McInnes recalls intense pressure building at Ibrox as Rangers chased nine titles in a row to emulate their city rivals Celtic’s world record, he admits managers have to bear a greater burden than their players.
“It’s hard selecting one achievement over another but captaining West Brom to the Premiership was massive for me.
“I’d won promotion as skipper at Morton and helped Toulouse to the top division in France. There had been cups and leagues with Rangers, but often as a bit part player. But the West Brom experience was especially memorable.”
McInnes freely admits more gifted footballers than him don’t have tangible rewards from their playing days.
“I only won two Scotland caps but playing for your country is special for any player. My only regret is that my dad didn’t live to see it.
“I’d have liked more international experience and maybe if I’d established myself more with Rangers that would have followed. Possibly at West Brom I might have got another chance, But there were better central midfielders than me around, guys like Stuart McCall, Gary McAllister and Paul Lambert. If I was brutally honest I don’t think I showed the consistency at the top level to warrant more recognition.
“But I can honestly say I’m happy with my career as a player. There would be one or two decisions I’d have changed but I believe I made the most of my ability.”
Looking ahead, he’d like to see Saints winning with some style and mixing-up the game plans, but that basic work ethic is at the core of the McInnes managerial ethos.
He explained: “I can take satisfaction from knowing I worked for everything I’ve got out of the game. Not many players can say that. I was dedicated to every club I played for.
“I played better for some than others but none ever got less than 100% from me while I was there. I’d give that every day, whether it was a match or in training.
“I made the most of what I had and that’s what I want to see from my players. I want that same application to their job as a professional footballer. I want them to make the most of their talent, every day and every week.
“I am trying to instil that level of discipline. Nobody had more poor games or bad passes than me. But the effort was always there.
Commitment is the key
“And I believe I have players at the club who will give me that sense of commitment as we move into a season which is eagerly awaited by players, our fans and myself.
“I want to see us do ourselves justice in the SPL. The initial aim is to still be an SPL side this time next year. Eleventh out of 12 would be relative success but hopefully we can be better than that.
“We go in against more experienced teams with bigger budgets but that’s all part of the challenge. We know we’ll have to fight tooth and nail to keep our heads above water but I genuinely believe we can compete at this level.”