Annan Assistant Manager Kevin Rutkiewicz has had an eye-opening first few weeks in his new role with himself and Manager Peter Murphy scraping together enough players to play this afternoon’s match against Clyde.
It was an unexpected phone call which attracted Rutkiewicz to join the Galabank side.
“When I joined Ayr United, Peter was there. I met him for a short period of time – 6 weeks or so. We hadn’t contacted each other thereafter however we were on our ‘A’ Licence together. I wouldn’t say we were super friendly or really close – but I got the phone call. I was expecting to continue my scouting this year with St Mirren but after I had spoken with Peter and he told me what he was looking for – someone with a good knowledge of Scottish football as well as someone that could bring something different from him as he is going to be playing. It meant my role would be more than an Assistant on match days as I will be making a lot of the decisions from the sidelines. It appealed: for me, it is the closest I am going to get to management without actually doing it, so for me, I felt it fulfilled my own ambitions looking at the future, but right now, I am looking to be the best Assistant I can and make Annan the best they can – that is my sole focus. It is fair to say, however, that this experience will be invaluable for me; it gets me back into the senior game and hopefully starts a journey for me that was similar to a player, that lasted for nearly 20 years and that is my dream. After all the hard work of the last few years, to get this opportunity allows me to think that in the years to come, I will get that opportunity to be my own man and do that position justice.”
Looking at the season ahead, the former Aberdeen, St Johnstone and Dunfermline defender stated that there would be no negativity around the club while he is around.
“There will definitely be positivity around the place while I am there – I am a naturally positive person. I work extremely hard; I am enthusiastic about my football. Yes, it will be difficult – we only started pre-season with 4 players: the previous manager had a lot of players out of contract and he has taken the nucleus of a squad to Clyde with him. We are building from scratch – there is a question mark about where we actually are at the moment, but, we are working hard to try and bring the right bodies in with the correct attitude. I am excited for the season, although I ain’t going to set any targets. This will be a huge learning curve for myself and Peter. The league is so tight – Jim Chapman did a fantastic job after moulding his squad over the course of a year – but what it showed me was that they were only 4 wins off a third placed finish but also only 4 defeats from a second or third bottom placed finish, so it is about hitting momentum at the right time. We hope that come February or Match, if we can string a couple of good results together, that it would then spring us into those promotion play-off places. On the flip side though, we have our own restrictions – we haven’t got the biggest budget and not the easiest location either. There are some clubs in this division who are paying big money – wages we just cannot compete with. We are well up for the challenge.”
Rutkiewicz continued: “It has been bedlam. We have been trying to enthuse the boys and trying to get them to buy into some new ideas into them but we have struggled to work with them that much tactically. Guys have been coming in on trial; we have been trying to get a settled group but we just aren’t quite there yet. We are going to be nearer the 5th of August and the league starting before we are close to getting the full squad gathered, but so far it has been a huge amount of fun, despite the stressful side. We will just keep scratching the surface and doing the right things. We have been both happy and angry in equal measure so far, to be honest, but I think that just comes with the territory of the job; for example, we played Queen of the South in pre-season and got beat 4-1 but we played really well. Stephen Dobbie was the difference – he scored a hat-trick. I am convinced, though, if we had him playing for us that night, we would have won the game…so we take a lot from that. It has been difficult though because we didn’t arrange this pre-season. We came in at a point where everything was in place and it maybe isn’t fully how we would’ve structured it but, it is just another learning experience. We will set our own short-term targets but the proof will be in the pudding come May if we have been a success or a failure this season.”
Assessing the BetFred Cup draw, Rutkiewicz describes it as “a tough group”.
“Ayr United might have went down from the Championship but for me, they have really went for it. They have made a big statement with their signings and what they hope to do this season, such as signing Moffat and Geggan from Dunfermline. They have also brought Chris Higgins in and that shows that they are going to be battling it out for the League One title; Dumbarton are already in the Championship and will be a hard team to beat – they have had a nucleus of a squad for a number of seasons now and they have added to that. The Kilmarnock game will take care of itself as they are a Premiership side, so, I think as a whole, the group will be hard for us but our full focus right now is solely on Clyde this afternoon.”
Speaking of this afternoon’s clash at Broadwood, the Museum Technician said:
“It is an important game; it is crucial we represent ourselves in the right fashion and get the correct performance. I think it is far too early to look at the games after it and say “oh, we are going to do this or that…”. It can certainly put markers down for us though – if we look particularly strong or weak in an area, we can maybe look for different options in certain areas of the park and it will allow us to assess what we still need to give us the best possible team in terms of signings as well as improving the players we already have. I am looking forward to it. It’ll be a great learning curve for the players – it’ll show them where they are and what they need to do to maintain or increase their level of performance. I ain’t trying to play it down but if either side were to win 3-0 convincingly, for example, I don’t think you will win the league at a canter or anything, that is very naive. We will just take it as it is – a one off cup-tie and see where it takes us from there. We don’t play on Tuesday but that is fine – I see it as a good opportunity to get another couple of training sessions into the lads – we can then begin the process of really putting ideas into their heads about what we are looking for, and what we want. We just have to make sure we come out of the other side from the Clyde game and be ready to go for another 3 tough fixtures: there is going to need to be a steady improvement and that is what we would like to see over the course of the group stage.”