THE only way is up for Gus MacPherson. The former St Mirren and Queen of the South manager has resurfaced as the new head coach at Queen's Park, Scotland's oldest club but one currently languishing 10 points adrift at the foot of the bottom tier.
There is no threat of relegation out of League 2 this season to immediately trouble him. Instead MacPherson's short-term aims are to restore confidence in a squad with just three wins to their name and gradually try to coax them up the table. Queen's Park's amateur and part-time status add to the levels of difficulty, but the new manager is happy to take on the challenge.
It has been a while in coming. Almost two years have passed since MacPherson left Queen of the South after a solitary, difficult season concluded in relegation to the then second division, the subsequent period throwing up a handful of managerial offers that were all considered but politely declined.
Loading article content
Taking over at the club ranked 42nd out of Scotland's 42 senior clubs may seem like something of a step down for a man who managed in the top division, and reached a cup final, just three-and-a-half years ago, but there is something about this job that MacPherson finds appealing.
"Queen's Park is a special club, it's different," he told Herald Sport. "But the amateur status is really just in name. In the recruitment process they were very thorough and professional, and it was very impressive how they conducted their business. So I'm just delighted to get this opportunity. There are old school values at this club, standards and a certain amount of professionalism expected. Other people might just look and see that they're bottom of League 2 but there's a lot more to it than that. The main task will be to get things on the park going in the right direction again."
Like many clubs these days, Queen's Park have placed an emphasis on trying to bring players through their youth development programme. Dundee United's Andy Robertson and Lawrence Shankland, on loan at Dunfermline Athletic from Aberdeen, are just two of the recent graduates, while there is a familiar face playing away in Queen's under-15 side.
"You just have to look at what's happened in the past 12 months to see some of the players they've developed and that's something they're renowned for," added MacPherson whose post will be officially part-time but with all the demands of a full-time role.
"And over the years there have been some high-profile ones who have gone on to play top-flight football. It's important that continues. There's a head of youth [David McCallum] who has done an excellent job, and the infrastructure within the club is very impressive. There's also a young Master MacPherson in the under-15s so we'll see how he progresses!"
A period out of work is never easy regardless of occupation but MacPherson has kept himself busy. A reporting role with Radio Clyde has taken him all across the country, covering matches and keeping in touch with the buzz that surrounds a matchday, while there has also been a useful sideline coaching Kilmarnock's under-15 side. All that, however, was merely marking time until the right opportunity presented itself for a return to frontline management. MacPherson has had to be patient but, as he points out, he has not been the only one in that position.
Opportunities are limited within Scottish football to get back into management," he added. "I've kept my hand in doing media work and coaching with Kilmarnock's under-15s. People might have looked and asked, "why is he doing that?" but it's because you love the game and want to be involved. All the time you're learning and picking up new things, preparing for when that opportunity comes around again.
"You would always hope you could get back into a job right away but it doesn't work like that. You only have to look at guys like Craig Levein and Peter Houston, for example, who are out of work just now, to realise how hard it is. It's frustrating, but you have to be positive and try to keep in touch with the game for the time when a chance comes up. Rightly or wrongly I've made decisions not to go into positions but that gives you confidence as well that people are still asking you."
Preparations for the Commonwealth Games mean Queen's won't play at Hampden again until late in the year, the team having decanted to Airdrie for their home games for the time being. MacPherson has even further to travel this weekend for his first match in charge - away to Peterhead - but he is eager to get going.
"I'm really looking forward to the challenge that lies ahead. And you want to make people aware that you're still desperate to do the job."