It’s been a fantastic September for Falkirk and their manager Peter Houston with the Bairns unbeaten throughout the month in the Ladbrokes Championship, following an impressive four wins and a draw.
After a sluggish start, Houston’s side are starting to look like the impressive force they were last season and they have been backed into 7/1 third favourites for the title behind Hibernian and Dundee United.
The Bairns gaffer has been speaking exclusively to Ladbrokes News…
Ladbrokes News: Congratulations on your award Peter. How pleased are you with the start of your season?
Peter Houston: Well, funnily enough August wasn’t a great month for us as we picked up only one point from nine, and if I’m being honest I expected more.
But we talked it over and the month of September has been great. We won four and drew the fifth and it shows Falkirk are back to where they were last season. I’ve got to give credit to my players, they’ve gone out with the right attitude and they’ve been working hard.
LN: How big a confidence boost were the wins against Raith Rovers and Dundee United?
PH: They were both very tough games. Anyone in this league will tell you going to Raith is a hard trip and the fact they were unbeaten at that stage made it all the tougher.
We were gritty, we worked hard and got goals at the right time. Then there was Dundee United, although they’ve come down a division, they have a talented squad. I was pleased we got back in the habit of scoring late goals, it shows we are a fit squad who never knows when it’s beaten.
LN: You have a great blend of youth and experience in the squad, was that a priority for you in the summer?
PH: Yes, when I first came in I looked at the squad and we lacked quite a bit of experience and we had far too many young players.
To get out of this division you need a good balance and we needed to bring in a few wise heads. We brought in a good pro in John Rankin who I had previously worked with at Dundee United.
He has added to the experience of Mark Kerr, Lee Miller and David McCracken. They give the young players like Luca Gasparotto, who I brought in the summer, a big helping hand. Luca and David have been my centre-back partnership and Luca has learned a lot being talked through games by David. We have a good balance right now and that’s what needed at this club.
LN: Falkirk has a reputation for bringing through and developing young talent, how proud are you of this record?
PH: Since I have come in here we’ve sold on five young players which is quite a lot and I am proud of our record.
We have some great youngsters coming through the ranks now, Tony Gallagher and Kevin O’Hara are in the Scotland U19 squad. Liam Henderson we brought in from Hearts and he’s progressing well. Scott Shepherd has come through the youth ranks. These are all young players who are at the first team level, this football club has to develop then sell their young talent to survive.
I say to young players that if your ambition is to only play for Falkirk they are no use to me, I want players who want to play at the highest level possible. You have to work hard for that and I have a bunch of young players striving to break into the first team.
LN: Last season you got so many last minute goals, is there any reason why?
PH: We have a great fitness regime here and the players work really hard during the course of the week to be in the best position come the weekend.
We have a never-say-die mentality and it shows you that it’s no fluke as it’s happened so many times, it’s a good habit to have. Opposition teams start to get on the back foot in the later stages as they know our reputation and they start to maybe get a little nervous.
LN: You finished second last season, splitting Rangers and Hibs, have you set yourself a target this season?
PH: This league is very, very difficult. It would be easy for people to say we should be finishing first but when you look at the resources Hibs and Dundee United have compared to us it will be tough.
We’ve set ourselves a target of so many points per quarter and that’s the way we are tackling it. Last season we got 72 points and if you look at the history of the Championship and in normal circumstances that will win you the league but obviously we had Rangers in the league.
I’m convinced if we get 72 points again we will win it, but getting there is not going to be easy.
LN: How pleased are you with the experienced pair of Lee Miller and John Baird in attack?
PH: They are both doing fantastic for us. John was brilliant for us last season almost reaching 20 goals and if he can get anywhere near that this season I will be a happy man.
Lee Miller is filling in the role that Bob McHugh did so well last season, coming off the bench and making an impact and scoring late winning goals. Their experience is invaluable. Lee is great with the young kids and he’s been helping coaching the under-20’s, his attitude is first-class
LN: Finally, how exciting a prospect is Craig Sibbald?
PH: Craig’s been unlucky that he’s not moved on to bigger things yet. He’s a very consistent performer at a high level for us.
He’s a talented player and I’m very surprised he’s never had that Under 21 cap he deserves. It’s not for me to say but possibly because he plays in a lower league that he is overlooked.
Craig has all the ability in the world to play at a higher level and he just needs to keep working hard for us and if someone comes in with an offer that we think he is worth we wouldn’t hold him back.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing