St Mirren: Jack Ross says players are good enough to challenge for next season's title

St Mirren manager Jack Ross
St Mirren were bottom when Jack Ross took over but are now only one point from safety

St Mirren manager Jack Ross believes he has a squad capable of challenging for the Championship title next season.

The Paisley side need one point from their final game against Hibernian on Saturday to achieve safety.

St Mirren's form since the turn of the year has seen them climb off the bottom of the table, and Ross is hopeful he can retain the majority of his squad.

"I believe [this] group would challenge at the right end of the table, where the club should be," Ross said.

"When you look back over the last 20 games, we would be a point off second - that is evidence to suggest that they would [challenge for the Championship title]."

Ross succeeded Alex Rae as manager in October last year, with St Mirren two points adrift of Dumbarton at the bottom of the table and yet to register a win in the league.

It was December before they won their first Championship match of the season, but later that month they were still nine points behind second bottom Dunfermline.

Scottish Championship Table

Following a busy January transfer window - with 10 players arriving and 10 players departing - Ross began to turn St Mirren's fortunes around and based on the last eight games, they are the form side in the Championship, sitting two points clear of Raith Rovers who are in the relegation play-off position.

"Again the summer will be a testing period for us in terms of retaining players. Because there are a number of young players, their performance levels will mean they attract attention from other clubs and bigger clubs," Ross said.

"My ambition is to retain as much of the squad as I possibly can. I don't think I have to do an awful lot to it.

"I don't really want to do what I did in January, I don't want to have to make as many changes as I did. I would like to never have to do that again in my whole managerial career. It was a big challenge, and a gamble to an extent.

"Hopefully we can finish the job this season. Hopefully the summer will be a fairly stable period and we can carry this momentum into next season as well."

If St Mirren were to fail to get a point against champions Hibs, and Raith Rovers managed to get a win against bottom side Ayr United this weekend, there is still a chance St Mirren could find themselves embroiled in the play-offs.

St Mirren midfielder Stephen Mallan
St Mirren midfielder Stephen Mallan has scored six times in eight games as the team's form picked up

However Ross insists that if the worst was to happen and St Mirren dropped down into League One, the club would still retain its full-time status.

"In terms of that structure it would remain the same," he said. "From several months ago, when that looked like it might be the case, obviously you have to have discussions with the board.

"The club would retain its current structure [but] it would be a blow in terms of revenue generated.

"However, there are other big clubs that have had to do that in recent years. So I don't think it would be the hammer blow that people would think in the overall structure of the club; in terms of the club's pride and where it should be, it would be a massive blow."

St Mirren may only require one point on Saturday, but Ross insists that his side will arrive at Easter Road with a very positive approach.

"I don't think we are a squad that is set up to not try and win games, we have a strength in attacking areas, scored a large number of goals recently - I think in April alone we scored 20 goals," Ross said.

"We understand there will be times in the game when we will be on the back foot, where we will be dominated in terms of territory because we are going to the home of the champions.

"But that group of players believe they are capable of going anywhere in this league at the moment and winning matches, so it is important for me to buy into that as manager and not dilute that in any way."

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