BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
New Alloa Athletic boss Jack Ross insists he is ready to embark on the biggest challenge of his career following a “bruising” exit from Hearts.
The former Clyde, Falkirk and St Mirren favourite boasts dugout experience as Ian Murray’s assistant at Dumbarton, where he developed a reputation as a precocious young coach.
That earned him a move to Hearts in July 2014, where he took up the role as under-20s head coach, working closely with director of football Craig Levein with a view to ultimately succeeding Robbie Neilson as boss of the senior side. However, he left the club in October.
Ross, 39, acknowledges that was one of the kicks he has learned to take during 25 years in football – however, it has only made him more determined to be a success in his maiden managerial position.
Charged with lifting the Wasps off the foot of the Championship, Ross said:”My time at Hearts has helped me as a coach and hopefully has helped to prepare me for this opportunity.
“I’ve been lucky in the sense that I’ve worked with part-time players and was then given the chance to work with full-time players at a massive football club.
“You genuinely don’t realise how big Hearts are until you work there. It taught me a lot and I gained a lot from it. It hopefully strengthened the skills I had.
“But, when you work in football you need to acknowledge the game is about opinions, whether as a player or a coach. Sometimes those opinions go for you, sometimes they go against you.
”You need to accept that you are going to get bruised a bit, but you dust yourself down and look for the next challenge. If you’re not ready for that, you look for another career!
”It was probably the longest I’ve been out of football for a long time. Then you are out of football for any length of time, you want to get back involved as quickly as possible – and I feel very fortunate and excited.
”This would be the biggest challenge for me, certainly post-playing, as it is a wonderful chance to manage in my own right.”
Ross, who intends to keep Paddy Connolly on as his No.2, insists his tenure as assistant to Murray at Dumbarton gives him plenty of reason to be cheerful as he takes the reins at the Recs.
The Sons were marooned at the foot of the old First Division following Alan Adamson’s sacking in 2012, however, they were swiftly revitalised by the team of Murray and Ross, and secured a seventh place finish.
That experience buoys Ross, with Alloa currently three points adrift at the foot of the table.
Ross continued: “This is a challenge, but it’s not an insurmountable task. With my involvement at Dumbarton under similar circumstances – probably worse – I know that.
“It would be foolish not to draw on that time with Dumbarton, given the similarities of both clubs being part time and in the same division. Arguably the division is even tougher now, but hopefully we can implement some of those ideas and get the same results.
“Looking at some of the comments, you would think this was mission impossible. Alloa have been written off by some people, but when you look at the fixtures and opportunities for picking up points, there is plenty of reasons to be positive. I enjoy proving people wrong.”
Alloa chairman Mike Mulraney, who handed Paul Hartley his first job in management five years ago and was rewarded with a magnificent rise from the old Third Division, insists he had no qualms about appointing another rookie boss.
The likes of Jonatan Johansson, Stephen Frail, Stephen Simmons and Michael Chopra are thought to have been considered for the role, but Mulraney is certain he has the right man.
Mulraney added: “I’m not afraid to give people a chance. We believe the right candidate is important – it is the man we employ, not just the CV.
“Jack was someone we wanted to work with, we are happy he applied. I was sitting waiting for it! Everyone needs to start management some time – hopefully this is the right time and place for Jack.
“You are asked, as a chairman, why you pick someone out of 70-odd candidates. Sometimes it is just about how you believe someone will fit within your club and we believe Jack will fit with what Alloa Athletic is about.”
Ross, who succeeds Danny Lennon, will take charge of the Wasps for the first time against former club St Mirren on Saturday.