BY IAIN COLLIN – @CCP_sport
PETER Houston has called on Falkirk fans to be realistic in their aims for the new Championship season and believes his side’s first aim has to be to make the promotion play-offs.
But the Bairns boss insists that does not mean they will not be setting their sights higher as they bid to go one better than last term’s second-placed finish behind Rangers.
Having pipped Hibernian to the runners-up spot and subsequently defeated them in the play-off semi-finals, Houston is aware there will be some supporters who expect his team to land the title in the absence of big guns Rangers.
The Scottish Cup-winning Dundee United manager is fiercely ambitious but is also too experienced to start making bold claims before a ball has been kicked.
However, after upsetting the odds to come so close to promotion, before losing to Kilmarnock in May’s play-off final, the former Scotland assistant is targeting the kind of improvements he knows could be good enough to return the club to the top-flight.
“The expectations are high at every single football club,” he said. “The Hibs fans will expect them to win the Scottish Cup again this season, that’s the way football teams work.
“At Falkirk, the expectations amongst the fans will be, I think, to make the play-offs again.
“But there will be some that think we’ll go on and win it.
“It will be very difficult to do that but that doesn’t mean we can’t try to do that.
“The expectation levels have to be realistic and remember what size of a club we are compared to others.
“But it doesn’t mean that because you’re a smaller club you can’t go (and succeed).
“Who would have tipped us to finish in second place last season? Probably nobody.
“Who would have tipped us, after finishing in second, to go to the final of the play-offs? I don’t think there would have been a lot of people outwith our group who would have expected us to do that.
“We fell short and our aim is to try to improve on it this season. If we do improve on it we’ll move up a division.”
Falkirk kick off the new campaign with a bang on Saturday against Hibs, their intense rivals of the past two years.
Houston is eager for his team to hit the ground running and prove they are capable of another successful season.
However, even though Rangers and Hearts have been removed from the division in the last two years, Houston is not expecting the Bairns to have it any easier.
He added: “It’s the start of a new league campaign and if it’s the same as last season there will be a lot of highs.
“And if we can eradicate the one or two lows we had and get into the play-offs again then that’s where we should be targeting, with the clubs that are in this division.
“Right away, we’ve set them a target of winning so many points per quarter. We’ll try to maintain that and see where it takes us.
“That’s what we did last year. We reached those targets and in that case we finished second.
“But Hibs under Neil Lennon will be strong, Dundee United – who I watched on Sunday – will be strong, St Mirren will be stronger, Dunfermline and Ayr United, even, coming up as well, so I don’t think you can take your eye off the ball for one second in any given match.”