BY IAIN COLLIN – @CCP_sport
As he surveyed the Christmas party scene in a Dublin pub last weekend, it was the strength of the team spirit clearly in evidence that struck John Baird and not the spirits filling the glasses on the table.
And it is that same camaraderie the striker believes can spur Falkirk on to a shock against Rangers this afternoon.
Immediately after their hard-fought 1-1 draw with Hibernian last Saturday, the Bairns flew to the Emerald Isle to let their hair down ahead of a busy festive period.
They soon found they were not alone in decamping to Dublin’s renowned Temple Bar, with players from Dunfermline, Ross County and Raith Rovers, as well as a few English teams, celebrating the joys of a different season in the same place.
However, Baird believes what he witnessed amongst the other clubs was telling and made the trip all the more enjoyable before they headed back to the serious business of preparing for the visit of Rangers this lunch-time.
He said: “The weekend in Dublin was the best I’ve ever spent with a group of lads. That dressing room? Twenty-three boys went and not once did we split apart. We stayed together and it’s a credit to the strength of our dressing room.
“People can read a lot into nights out but ours went well and I’m sure it will help us over the course of the season.
“There were a few teams there – five or six, including Bradford, Doncaster, Raith, Dunfermline and Ross County. That was only the ones we could see in The Dubliner, just the one pub!
“Over the nights out I’ve been on with other teams, everyone goes off in their wee groups, but that was the biggest thing for me – everyone stuck together.
“It’s the best dressing room I’ve ever been part of and I say that with respect to my other clubs, such as St Mirren. We won the league when I was there and it was a good dressing room but this is right up there.
“You know everyone has your back. You can see the way the boys are on the park, especially against Hibs. We were brilliant in the second half. We didn’t manage to break them down, but everyone was together and if someone gave the ball away? There are no bitches. Everyone is all in it together and looks after each other.”
Had Falkirk been able to hang on for just a couple more minutes last weekend they would have hauled themselves to within three points of Hibs in second and seven of Rangers at the top.
The Bairns have been happy to let others characterise the Championship title race as a two-horse race between the pair above them, but Baird admits he would love to get into the position where they are being treated as genuine challengers.
He added: “I wouldn’t say we’re in the middle of it because no-one is really acknowledging us, as in the other teams.
“I read a couple of things over the weekend and it was all about the title race between Hibs and Rangers, but we’re not that far away from them, to be honest.
“Everyone is entitled to their opinion and it’s keeping us under the radar but sooner or later we want to be in between them or above them – you’ve got to aim to win the league and if that doesn’t happen the play-offs are the next thing.”