The ‘Gers are currently enjoying their best run of the season – unbeaten in the last five games with three wins and two draws – and have lifted themselves up to seventh in the table and, more importantly, nine points clear of basement club East Stirlingshire.
And Fairbairn thinks that despite taking a while for the results to come, Coughlin’s tactics are really starting to rub off on the squad which has led to the upturn in form.
“I think what the manager’s done is that he’s given us an identity,” Fairbairn told the official website after Saturday’s 1-0 win over Stirling Albion. “We’re tough to play against, we’re going to work hard and there are no passengers in the team – no luxury players now. If you’re not going to put the work in, put tackles in, press the ball, then you’re not going to be in the team.
“The manager set his stall out with that very early on and it’s continuing. Everyone knows where they stand and it’s working well. He’s a good man-manager. He keeps the guys’ heads up who have maybe been dropped and he’ll go and speak to them to keep them onboard, because you never want an atmosphere of a divide between the starting XI and the bench.”
Since returning from a two-match ban, Fairbairn has been a vital component in the shoring up of the ‘Gers defence, but admitted he wasn’t too keen at first on the manager’s decision to play three centre-backs.
“If I’m honest, I wasn’t too sure about us playing three at the back because it’s never been something I’ve played in,” he said. “But it’s suited me quite nicely because the other guys are athletic and like to attack things and I can cover, while the competition for places is great and keeps us all on our toes. It helps that the four of us [Fairbairn, Jordan McGregor, Brian Martin and Robert Wilson] get on really well, too.
“So we’re looking really solid. We don’t look like we’re going to concede goals and teams aren’t carving us open which, at this stage of the season, is very important and when we’ve got the odd goal, it’s been enough to win the game.”
By Martin Inglis