BY ALAN TEMPLE – CCP_Sport
PETER HOUSTON admits he retains a burning desire to manage in the Scottish Premiership.
However, the experienced boss is adamant he only wants to do it with Falkirk.
With Motherwell and Kilmarnock seeking new gaffers, it seems an oversight that Houston’s name is so casually overlooked, given the way his battling Bairns have punched above their weight during his tenure.
He took them to a Scottish Cup final in his first season in charge, finished above Hibernian in his second campaign before reaching the Premiership promotion playoff final, and is sneaking ever closer to the summit of the Championship this term.
That is without mentioning the Scottish Cup winners’ medal and European finishes he has in his hipper from Dundee United.
However, the 58-year-old insists he is happy to fly under the radar at Falkirk as he attempts to get back into the top-flight on his own terms – one final goal before hanging up his tracksuit.
“I don’t get mentioned for jobs and I don’t go chasing them,” he said. “I hope this is my last job – the manager of Falkirk. I don’t even look to see if there are odds given for me. That doesn’t bother me, if you are happy where you are.
“Someone asked me the other day about the vacancies in the Premiership – well, I want to get Falkirk into the Premiership. That would be such an honour. I could retire happily from management if I took this club back to where I believe it belongs.
“We’ve been unfortunate to have been in at this club during a time when it has been the toughest time to get out of the Championship.
“But I still want to work at the top end of the game in Scotland. At Dundee United, I finished third, fourth and fourth and won the Scottish Cup. I was up against the Walter Smiths of this world – really good managers. I want to work at the sharp end again – but I’d like to do that with Falkirk.
“If I brought Falkirk up and consolidated them in the top division then I could say ‘job done’ and hopefully pass it on to someone like the two guys here with me [assistant, James McDonagh and under-20s coach Alan Maybury] if they are ready to take over.”
Houston was speaking as he picked up Ladbrokes Championship manager of the month for February, having led the Bairns to five games without defeat – including crucial wins over local foes Dunfermline and promotion rivals Dundee United.
It is a run of form that has seen Falkirk jump into second spot, just six points adrift of Hibs.
However, he revealed that he would already be enjoying that afore mentioned retirement from management if not for the lure of his beloved Bairns, with whom he played for six years and began his coaching career under Jim Jefferies.
“As long as Dick Campbell is still around, then I’m alright!” he laughed. “Heggy [Paul Hegarty] was in at Montrose last year too. But the list of managers older than me is getting smaller and smaller and I don’t want to be a manager at 70.
“I was at Celtic doing scouting work. I was all over Europe; eight days in the Czech Republic, eight days in Portugal, the under-19 European Championships. I was off watching specific players. That could have been a job for life, with no stick, no abuse, no pressure.
“I would still be in that job if it wasn’t Falkirk that came in for me. I was here as a player and always had a great affinity with this club – if it had been any other club trying to bring me back into the management side of things, I would have said no.
“I always said I wanted to manage Falkirk and, after learning at Hearts and Dundee United, when I was approached, I wanted to give it a go.”
And while emphasising that a playoff position remains his priority, he has not given up hope of overhauling Hibs and claiming the most unlikely of title triumphs.
“This division has been inconsistent. You look at Hibs, who haven’t won in four league matches,” he added. “I didn’t see that coming from Hibs.
“I don’t think I can say ‘we’re definitely going to finish second’ or ‘we’re going to win the league’, but we still need to be positive and believe there is an opportunity to catch Hibs.”