Queen of the South manager Marvin Bartley has reflected on more than a year in charge at the club as he targets a push into the playoff places this season.
The Doonhamers currently sit seventh in League One having amassed 27 points from 23 matches so far this campaign.
Bartley says he has been loving life in the job and has been developing himself as a manager along the way.
He said: “It has been brilliant for me at a personal level first and foremost because it is something I have always wanted to do.
"There has been some learning along the way that you don’t really get when you are doing your coaching badges, but I always knew that would be the case. All in all I have been happy with how things have gone.
"Last season we had a fantastic run towards the end and right now we are in touching distance of where we want to be.
"That is on the back of going through a real sticky period where I learnt more about myself as a manager and a person within this role than when we were winning games of football. I like to think I have come out the other end as a better manager."
After a run of poor form earlier in the season Queen of the South are just three points off of the playoff places in the league.
Bartley has insisted that the right time to pick up form is right at the end of the campaign.
He said: "The right time to pick up form or to be in form for me is the first weekend in May. Anything from the start until before that means absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things.
"I have always said it but if you are in the playoffs for every single game until the last game nobody is going to pat you on the back but if you are out of it for every single game then get in it on the last game then you are going to be happy. I am just someone who deals with the here and now and if we win enough games between now and the summer then we will be in the playoffs and if we don’t we won’t.
"You look at the sticky spell and you see the players that were out injured, and that is not me making excuses that is factual.
"There were some really important players who started the season well. Jack Brydon for me is a fantastic centre half, Harry Cochrane has missed a period of time and played in less than half the league games, Reegan Minimaugh has played around four league games I think.
"It has allowed opportunities for other people that being said we are three points outside of the playoffs and we need to win enough games between now and the first weekend in May."
Bartley has been in charge at the club for two full transfer windows and is happy with how his squad is starting to look.
He said: "We were extremely busy in the first window when I came in in the January, where I think we signed five players. In the summer we tried to reshape things again.
"Players like Reagan and Daniel Church who we brought in during the summer has missed a lot of football. In terms of transfer windows I have been happy, we have managed to do a bit of wheeling and dealing in and around the last day.
"Things are starting to be shaped in the direction that I want them to go in and for me this is a long term project."
Gavin Reilly is top goalscorer for Queen of the South this season having scored 12 goals. Having worked with Reilly at previous club Livingston Bartley is happy again to be linking up with the prolific frontman.
He said: "He is not only important on the pitch but off the pitch as well. Gav’s journey under me since coming here, he had to go out on loan to Stenhousemuir, when I came in her wasn’t the Gavin Reilly that I knew.
"He worked extremely hard the back end of last season even though he was disappointed to go out and in the summer he worked hard. Now you are seeing his performances, for me he has been first class for us.
"Even in the games where he does not score he is a constant threat for the opposition and in front of goal he really is the ice man. Gavin has been fantastic and he is a real leader in what is a young group."
Turning attention to Saturday, The Doonhamers take on sixth placed Kelty Hearts. Bartley's side have suffered two 3-1 defeats against the Fife side so far this season and Bartley believes it is going to be another difficult game.
He said: "It is going to be a tough game, games against Kelty Hearts always are. They have beaten us twice this season, on 3-1 on both occasions.
"We know the sort of game we are going to expect and it is a tighter pitch than what we have at home. They have good ball players but they are also extremely physical and at the top end they have a lot of pace."
17-year-old Alfie Bavidge scored a hat-trick for Kelty Hearts last time out and although Bartley is aware of his abilities he is not going to solely focus on the youngster.
He said: "It would be naive of me to focus on one attacker because if we talk about and focus on one attacker and then another two of their forwards go and score.
"We give everyone the respect that they deserve. He is going to be high on confidence after scoring a hat-trick but we have to deal with him. I look at my back three and I don’t think there is a better back three in this league."
As the season enters its final stage Bartley has his sights set on one clear target for his side between now and the end of the season.
He said: "To be in the Championship, there is no beating about the bush, for me that is success.
"Regardless of the injuries and everything else we have spoken about that is success for me and I always strive for the top. Right now we are not looking beyond the next game but if you are talking about the summer that has to be the success.
"That has to be what this club wants to do and it is what this club wants to do and it is up to me as the manager to drag this club there."
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