Gregor Buchanan has made the jump back into full-time football after he joined Championship club St Mirren after his contract at Dumbarton expired.
Buchanan started off his career in the juniors but has racked up almost 200 appearances in the senior leagues.
“I would say I started [in the senior leagues] a bit later than I wanted to, but, I made the decision that I wanted to play football week-in, week-out, and in my opinion, the best way to do so was to, at the time play junior football,” explains Buchanan. “Five seasons and I am just coming up for my 200th game, that isn’t a bad record on my CV so far. It has been a lot of hard work; good days, bad days, but, I still feel I have a lot to give. I wouldn’t even say the prime of my career is here yet, I still think I’ve got 2 or 3 years yet until I get there.”
The 27-year-old has been in full-time football once before, in season 2014/15 with Dunfermline Athletic. Buchanan was just one of several players released at the end of that season by incoming boss, Allan Johnston, however, after the Pars finished 7th in League One.
“It was the first chance I ever got of full-time football. They are a good team and I was delighted to sign with them. It is something I had always wanted to do – something I’d dreamt of. When I was turning 21, I still hadn’t played professional football yet. It was something I had probably given up on to an extent, but, when I got that opportunity, it was one I took in a heartbeat.”
After a turbulent 12 months at East End Park, Buchanan moved on to Dumbarton – becoming new manager Stevie Aitken’s first signing for the Sons.
“There were a lot of changes happening with Dunfermline at the time. It was a strange year, to be honest,” says Buchanan, who took positives out of his spell in Fife. “I still managed to play 36 or so games, I played week-in, week-out. There were a few things that came up at the end of the season with the new manager [Allan Johnston] coming in. I had spoken to him and it was decided my future wasn’t at Dunfermline but straight away I had a number of calls but Dumbarton just suited everything and fitted everything for me, so I made the decision to go to Dumbarton and two seasons and 80 games, I feel in the long run I made the right move.”
Buchanan came up against his new employers while battling relegation against the Buddies last season.
“It was around November time, they were in a really bad place and it was going to take an almighty push to get them out of that, but, credit to everyone involved as it was unbelievable great escape over the last 5 or 6 months. In that time they were the form team: it caught everyone’s attention.”
Buchanan was announced on Friday, 26th May, but the process of bringing him to Paisley wasn’t a long, drawn-out, one.
“To be honest, it was only Wednesday [24th May] I got the call, to say that they were interested. They sent through a contract offer to my agent so as soon as I got word about it – and already knowing the size of club it is – it was something I wanted to do and by Friday we had it all signed, sealed and delivered. I am just delighted to get it all done, especially so quickly. I felt wanted by the club and that made it an easy decision.”
A second chance of full-time football was something which Gregor is embracing.
“To progress from Bathgate Juniors to St Mirren in five seasons is quite an achievement. It is another step forward. I feel like I’ve still got a lot to give and I just want to keep going in this forward motion.”
With speculation mounting about the future of Jack Ross, Buchanan will be hoping his new manager will be staying put at the Paisley 2021 Stadium.
“A lot of people have a lot of good things to say about them [Jack Ross and his coaching staff]. But there are more factors than just the manager – St Mirren being a massive club was one of the main reasons I am joining. They were only in the Premiership a few years ago; we need to make sure, for the fans, for the directors, for everyone at the club, that we are all pushing up and in the right direction, at the top end of the table. We will be looking to gain promotion, from whatever way it comes, but, I think after the couple of years they’ve had, Jack [Ross – manager] has steadied the ship a little bit and now it is time to kick on – I am sure that will be his message from the summer onwards.”
Buchanan isn’t the only part-time player making the step up this summer however. Jordan Kirkpatrick, similarly to Buchanan, has re-joined the full-time ranks while Ross Stewart and Ross Stewart have both signed from Albion Rovers.
“The manager and coaching staff will have been and watched these players, so, if they are bringing them to a club like St Mirren, they are going to be ready to make the move to full-time football. I think it is credit to the boys,” continues Buchanan, “they have got their move and I am sure they will all now be working hard to impress and move this club forward.”
This season’s Championship campaign is set to be a cracker, with no clear favourite looking likely to lift the trophy at the end of the season, as of yet.
“This year is definitely the most competitive and I think that is due to the fact that everybody can beat everybody. Everyone will have the intention of building a team to get a good, consistent run, of solid wins together, because, at the end of the day, a good month or two months could help you be looking up the table. But, on the opposite of that, a bad run could put you in a real bit of danger.”
With the BetFred Cup draw taking place tonight for the group stages – which will open the competitive SPFL action of season 2017/18 – Gregor feels the competition will not be taken lightly by the Buddies.
“It [the BetFred Cup] has its positives and its negatives, but, it means you are playing competitive football really early on so that makes you motivated to get fit and ready for the start of the season. These cups mean a lot to the clubs: at the end of the day, it can be the difference for things like having a bit of money to spend in January if you are successful, for example. So the clubs will all be making sure they are ready for that. Last year, clubs said they’d use it as workouts as well – competitive friendly matches. But, I think that view has changed with clubs now as they know the importance of getting into the latter rounds.”
The main focus for Buchanan, however, is making sure St Mirren are in a much safer position, next season.
“I feel this is a big club that will make its way back towards the Premiership. It is somewhere, where I feel I will be learning more about my game, also,” before concluding, “Hopefully I can improve as a player, on a personal note, but, most importantly, lets hope we can all put St Mirren back into a good place.”