Interview by R J Mitchell
His installation as Stirling Albion assistant gaffer to Kevin Rutkiewicz may have surprised some but Martin Hardie has revealed his arrival is the product of endless hours of debate spanning Scotland’s highways and byways which has finally led him to Forthbank.
An outstanding member of the Partick Thistle side who annexed the old division two title at Forthbank on Saturday March 31, 2001, with a 3-0 defeat of the Binos, Martin has long felt that the foundations are there to build a side and a club which could rival our fine teams that graced the domestic second tier under Kevin Drinkell and Allan Moore.
After assisting new Reds boss Rutkiewicz on Thursday night, in what was his first training session, Martin is confident that the duo can draw a positive performance against league leaders Edinburgh City, who arrive at Forthbank today on the back of an 11-game winning streak which has already seen the capital club put Stirling to the sword.
The 42-year-old said: “Kevin and I were at St Johnstone for almost six years and during that time we travelled up to Perth and roomed together on away trips and it didn’t take long to discover that when it came to football we both sang from the same hymn sheet.
“With us also being team-mates at Dunfermline and Morton you are talking about us having played together for the best part of a decade, while we also did our SFA badges at St Andrews on the same courses. I guess it was always in my mind that maybe one day we would work together as a result of our shared values and thoughts on the game.
“In that respect, when I got the call and Kevin told me about the opportunity to assist him at Stirling I was absolutely delighted. Over many years, and a few clubs, I have played against Stirling Albion and always thought what a great ground and set-up there was here – in short that the foundations were all at Stirling to build something really positive.
“It has been a bit frantic this week but I really enjoyed Thursday night’s training session. It was a very high tempo and the boys have bought into everything we have laid out for them. It is down to Kevin and myself to use our experience and knowledge to get the absolute best out of the lads in terms of resolve, strength, mentality and physicality.
“It is a fresh opportunity for everyone and what better way to get things going than to face the ultimate challenge of the league leaders!”
As a player Hardie was tough as teak, never shirked a challenge and had an outstanding predatory eye for a goal that saw him bag 15 goals en route to Thistle’s division two title triumph 17 years back and then go one better as the Jags doubled up on league titles by pipping Airdrieonians to the old division one championship.
Now, having wound up his dual roles as St Mirren under-18 academy coach and Partick under-20 gaffer, Hardie will be hooking up with players he’s already worked with and is determined to imbue the Forthbank first-team squad with the type of work ethic that saw Martin leave nothing in the locker during an 18-year top-flight career.
The new Binos number two said: “I have been lucky to already work with the likes of Dom Docherty and Neil McLaughlin, both of whom played against Queen’s Park in the Scottish Cup tie last week. I also had responsibility for scouting and doing video analysis on opposition for Thistle and that knowledge is something I am determined to make the most of for Stirling Albion.
“What we want is a Stirling Albion side who we can get every last ounce out of and who will play for, battle with and fight for the jersey until the final whistle, together. Get that and you have every chance of building a side that will make the fans desperate to get behind them and also proud to support their side.”