Hibernian head coach Jack Ross has said that he owes St Mirren a huge debt of gratitude, particularly for showing faith in him during a difficult start to his dugout tenure at the Paisley club.
The 43-year-old returns to the Simple Digital Arena this evening with the intention of prolonging his flawless start at Hibs following Saturday’s 3-1 success over Motherwell.
However, his tutelage began with a demoralising six-game losing run in the Championship and Ross concedes his managerial career could have suffered irreparable damage had the St Mirren board relieved him of his duties.
“I lost my first six league games at St Mirren and there wasn’t that change,” said Ross, who also took the usual step of confronting one irate supporters in the stands after a 3-0 home loss to Queen of the South.
“So I’ll always be grateful in terms of having that opportunity to come through that period.
“For a young manager, that was not easy. It could have ended my management career quite quickly as well.
“The whole period there, the club benefited from it as they found themselves back in the Premiership and thankfully they’ve stayed there.
“For me as a manager, it was a huge part of my learning process.
“It helped me get the opportunities since – to manage a club the size of Sunderland and the opportunity to manage a club the size of Hibs.
“Everything we went through there, the more difficult times and the more enjoyable times, were really important for me.”
Reminded of the incident involving the fan, Ross added: “I am sure he still goes so he’ll probably give me stick at the game.
“It was one of those things I certainly did not pre-plan and I do not envisage doing it again.
“It felt alright doing it at the time and anyone who heard me that day will know it was fine, there was nothing sinister behind it in any way.
“It was just a bit different. Hopefully I will not repeat it ever again.”
After helping St Mirren narrowly escape relegation to League One before masterminding league title triumph, Ross, who replaced Alex Rae in October 2016, ended up forming a strong rapport with the St Mirren fans.
However, he has made it clear there can be no room for sentiment in his first competitive game back at his one time employers.
He added: “I think the fact I went back so quickly after I left with Sunderland for pre season probably helps.
“I think it comes, I’m not saying a lot easier than people imagine but to be a football manager you’ve got to be able to detach yourself from emotion a lot of the time anyway, because if you get caught up in the emotion of everything, you would probably crumble under the criticism you get at times.
“I’ve always looked at it as my job. It’s the profession I’ve chosen to go into.
“I need to do that the best I can.
“The best way for me to do that is to go and win the game on Tuesday.”
Hibs striker Christian Doidge, meanwhile, insists a two-game winning run under interim manager Eddie May and now Ross has changed the whole atmosphere at the club.
Paul Heckingbottom had lost his job in the dugout on the back of a ten game winless run in the league but the Leith outfit can move to within four points of fourth place Motherwell with victory over Saints.
Doidge said: “We were speaking about that in the changing room on Saturday, how it looks different now.
“We were all annoyed we got so many draws in a row. Then you win two games in a row and everything is rosy again.
“We just have to keep trying to win those games and keep trying to climb the table.
“It’s important we try and close the gap on the rest and it’s a good opportunity on Tuesday to pick up some up some points, we’re playing well and in good spirits and hopefully we can do that.”