An anniversary of note for Falkirk’s own Elvis

Pressley has celebrated two years in charge of Falkirk
Pressley has celebrated two years in charge of Falkirk
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For two years now, in the corner of an Edinburgh room where football boots once lay, there’s been a mound of red and black notebooks growing by the day.

Each one of the pile of pads accumulated throughout his first two years of management, contains the thoughts, notes and ideas of Falkirk manager Steven Pressley.

“I’ve actually accumulated quite a lot,” he told The Falkirk Herald, in the final throes of his second full year as manager of the Bairns. “I even have a look through them sometimes, it’s interesting looking back.

“They have notes on tactics, players I’ve liked in the opposition, things people have said - even small things, and how players have trained.

“I don’t take as many notes now as I used to but i do regularly, I pick up little things, and when you look back, it can prick your memory. Little conversations I’ve had, numbers and figures, and little reminders. It’s been a good thing.”

The notebooks have become as synonymous with Pressley’s managerial career as his chosen colour of footwear, but his constant note-taking is a reflection of the meticulous manner in his managerial style. The collage of scribbles and notes aren’t just limited to the notebooks. The walls of the managerial offices at the Striling training base are covered in whiteboards detailing a multi-coloured mass planning exercise that stretches from the lowest rung of the club’s Academy ladder to the first team.

“I’m a deep thinker, by nature, and I’m always thinking about the game, training methods, opposition. I enjoy that side of the game - the strategy, and the planning behind the game.

“I have actually enjoy being a manager more than playing.”

He celebrated his second anniversary in the job at Cappielow on Saturday, where Falkirk drew 0-0. He noted several aspects of his team’s play down. But the Pressley on the Greenock touchline is different beast to the one that strode the technical area at Tynecastle on February 13, 2010.

The roaring Bairns’ boss of the semi-final meltdown was a throwback to the early days of the SPL, bottles were kicked, feet were stomped, referees were rollicked.

This term, it’s been a lot more controlled. Tweaking tactics, cajoling players, encouraging them and urging them forward.

“I think I have changed a lot, and I’m learning in the job every day. Falkirk is the perfect club for a young manager learning the job.

“The chairman and the board here, they let you manage. Just like me the players are learning their job too and we are progressing together.

“It’s the progression I’ve seen in the club over the past two years, bringing it closer to a place of financial stability with a progressive team on the park. That has been my highlight, I take great satisfaction from that, not one particular match.”

There is a match that stands out though, in the Pressley era - the day of the home defeat by Partick Thistle when a homemade banner and crude chants turned against the manager. The chants upset him and he was vociferous in his after-match comments - but ever-more determined to prove himself to the dissenters in the stand. This season, he has and he feels it too.

In fact the whole Pressley image has changed this season - but had been evolving before that fateful day.

A common stereotype is of seriousness bordering arrogance, yet throughout his two years he’s hospitable, jovial and sometimes self-deprecating. He takes his work seriously, and strives for success, sometimes, perhaps too much.

“I’ve certainly changed. In many ways I have changed and learned.

“The club has changed too, this season there’s more transparency, and that’s important in what we’re trying to achieve at the club. The supporters need to know what we are trying to do - they might not agree, but they have to know what we’re aiming for.

“A club needs the staff, board, fans and players all united and pulling in the one direction.”

For a couple of months just beyond his 12-month anniversary, unity was far from clear at Falkirk, particularly between the supporters and the team.

“There’s been a change in the supporters towards me. Last season the difficulty I was faced with there was a degree of resentment from sections of the support towards me, but that’s my job, a part of it - to accept that. I understood it.

“ I have no issue with them calling for my head, they’re passionate supporters who want the best for their club.

“My ambition was to turn these supporters round and make them believe in me and slowly but surely that’s beginning to happen.

“But that type of situation makes you stronger, to turn it round, and we’re constantly working to do that and improve the club - all decisions are for the good of this club - long term, not for any one individual, Steven Pressley, staff member or anyone. The club is what’s most important.

“The supporters seem to know that now and are aware of the financial constraints of the club and that’s all with the transparency.

“Not just for me, but the club in general, you need to be honest with the supporters and we have been.”

There are likely a whole lot more home truths concealed within those notebooks. Maybe even a few surprises. Eyebrows were raised when Pressley introduced shareholders to Japanese at the recent AGM detailing the Oriental philosophy “kaizen” which he insists the club seeks. In other words, continuous development.

The theoretical side is one that he’s happy to mull over nowadays.

“I have never even been tempted to join in training - not even a passing drill.

“I haven’t played for almost three years - save for in a parents’ and children match with my son and his football team.”

His boy, Pressley says, is a Falkirk fanatic now, supporting the team of his mother’s birthplace, as well as his dad’s workplace. He was behind the goals, in the mix with the support at Hampden recently - “He loves singing the songs with the fans and going to the games”.

Pressley is now presiding over a team which he can call his own. Only Tam Scobbie remains in the first team pool from the Eddie May reign. To most, there has only been one gaffer at Falkirk.

“Recently I was in the audience for a seminar with Marcello Lippi, and he says, as a manager you want to get through 18 months and then people seem to regard you as a manager, because if you do a year or so and then get sacked you are viewed as a young guy who came in. Not really as a manager as such.”

Pressley has always spoken of his faith in himself, and his players. He now has the team to prove it.

And despite almost being handed his jotters, he got through those 18 months, and more. Now he has the notebooks to prove it too.