His first game in charge in the absence of old pal and midfield partner Matt McGrandles featured Craig Sangster helping to coax Stirling County's young bucks to the much-needed performance which ended a sequence of five consecutive losses last weekend.

They did it, too, without their new captain/goal-kicker quite leading by example.

''The message I gave them in the changing room, during the warm-up, and as we went out on to the pitch was about concentration,'' he explains.

''They took it on board as well, because perhaps the only time it slipped was in first-half injury time, when we let Kirkcaldy score their try, and maybe that had something to do with me trying to run it out of the 22.

''Ah well . . . do as I say, not as I do.''

An intense performer on the field, Sangster could hardly seem less so off it, but even though he is only in his mid-20s he is deeply aware of the responsibility he now has to help encourage the club's rich array of youngsters.

Like fellow centre McGrandles, currently sidelined with a worrying neck injury, Sangster notes that the way the balance has swung since they were two of the County kids in Stirling's 1995 championship-winning side makes it more difficult for the senior players.

Then a gnarled pack kept the team on the front foot, whereas now the older heads are in the backs, dependent on younger forwards - average age 19 in one match last season - to give them the chance to play.

For his own part Sangster might well be the sort of player who, with professional rugby expanding in Scotland again, could have a future as a full-timer again, though he says he and others would have to think long and hard should the opportunity arise, because ''we've been stung before in giving up careers for short-term deals.''

A member of the Glasgow side which remains the only Scottish team to reach the knock-out stages in Europe in 1997, he then spent a year with London's Blackheath before returning to Stirling to find Pollock taking charge and McGrandles - another member of that Glasgow squad - heading back after a spell with Glasgow Hawks.

Newly relegated from the first division, they spent a season consolidating before bouncing back last season as champions.

Meanwhile Pollock's vision of effectively turning the club into a rugby academy - inspired by the memory of the late Ken Crichton, who first generated the momentum to make the club a force in the game and after whom the academy structure is now named - is taking shape.

''I was down at Bridgehaugh at 5.30 last night ahead of training and where you used to find maybe two or three in the gym, there were a dozen guys being barked at by Millan Browne (first XV prop/Crichton Academy co-ordinator),'' says Sangster. ''All the youngsters are being pushed and being shown the right techniques and they are responding.

''There are so many training that even the development team players who used to be sure of their game on a Saturday are having to be there on Tuesday and Thursday to earn their place.

''Compared with six years ago we are doing much more for everyone in the club, looking to the future. At that time we had a good first team and relied on that. Now the effort runs right through and from under-18s up through the development XV, the 2As, and the seconds, the only team in the club that has lost a game this season is us.

The renewed sense of community is also demonstrated behind the scenes, too.

Sangster is now manager of Best Bar None, a plush pub/restaurant in the town centre, which also sponsors the aforementioned development XV, while his own sponsored car is funded by The Stirling Observer, based just two doors along.

The impression, then, is of a resurgent club which has its sights set on a return to the very top of the Scottish game even while encouraging its best talent to move on to the full-time professional scene.

Without there being any sense of desperation about proceedings yet, then, today's visit of joint-top Boroughmuir will offer some indication of how far they still have to go, particularly since second-bottom Stirling expect their visitors to bring with them Calvin Howarth, their regular play-maker of recent years, who is now a full-timer at Edinburgh.

''It is a very tight league,'' Sangster reckons. ''Gala's win at Melrose last week proved that anyone can beat anyone on their day.

''I'm really enjoying what we're doing just now and a few more wins would help, but I'm not worried about that at this stage, because we feel we are doing the right things and the wins will come.''