ST MIRREN manager Jack Ross hailed his players for a ‘remarkable turnaround’ which secured Championship safety and immediately set his sights on a promotion push next season.
Saturday’s 1-1 draw at champions Hibs meant Saints avoided having to go through a play-off to prevent dropping to the third tier of Scottish football for the first time in their history.
It completed an incredible Lazarus-like comeback from Ross’ side who looked dead and buried and were written off in many quarters after failing to win in their first 14 league matches.
Saints were bottom of the table as late as last month but ended up seventh having lost just twice in their final 14 league games and played some eye-catching football in the process.
Ross was fulsome of his praise for his squad, many of whom he brought in during a hectic January transfer window which saw 10 players arrive and 10 depart. That ultimately proved a turning point in the campaign, and the manager insisted there can be more celebrations in Paisley next season, but this time a promotion celebration.
He said: “When we are celebrating it is not celebrating St Mirren finishing seventh in the Championship because we need to have bigger ambitions than that, and we do have.
“But given the way this season has went, the players, the fans and everybody who has come together at the club deserve to celebrate what they have achieved over the last four months, because that turnaround is remarkable.
“To come to the home of the champions on a day like today and handle the occasion, come from a goal behind,that is indicative of how the squad has been recently. I’m so happy for the players because they deserve all the credit.
“I want to get the club back to the Premiership. What we have managed to generate around the club recently is a real feel good factor which we need to now carry into next year and make sure we never find ourselves in this type of position again, and make sure when we’re celebrating it is what Hibs were celebrating.”
Ross’ attention now turns to keeping the squad he has pieced together at the Paisley 2021 Stadium. Most of the players will be mulling their futures with contracts coming to an end, while under-contract midfielders Stevie Mallan, Lewis Morgan and Kyle Magennis will undoubtedly have attracted attention from bigger clubs after impressive seasons.
But Ross is convinced he can keep the bulk of his squad together and will hold talks with his players this week.
He said: “I think I can keep the bulk of the players that are out of contract here that want to stay, there is a lot want to stay because of how much they have enjoyed it.
“The difficulty will be keeping the ones that will attract interest from other clubs, that is part of success, because we have been successful in recent months. There are very young players who have played a part in that.
“The challenge for me is to persuade them that they are best served having another year at St Mirren and helping us challenge at the right end of the table.
“I’m confident I can keep the vast majority of that squad together, which will stand us in good stead. I’ve had informal conversations with a lot of them to see if they’d be keen to stay, as always with players they make the right noises but when it comes down to the formalities it’s a bit more testing.”