One story immediately springs to mind as Ross Matthews attempts to articulate John McGlynn’s remarkable attention to detail.
Raith Rovers had just beaten Dumbarton 5-1 in League 1 back in September 2018. It was the first match of McGlynn’s second stint in charge of the Fifers and it could barely have gone better.
Rovers travelled to the Rock — never an easy away day, particularly given how recently the Sons had been a Championship club at that time — and blew their opponents away, with goals from Lewis Vaughan, Kevin Nisbet, Liam Buchanan and a Nathan Flanagan brace.
Matthews, like the rest of his teammates, expected the subsequent video analysis session to be a brief one: a couple of minor pointers, plenty of pats on the back and then swiftly on to the grass.
Instead, the meeting last 90 minutes as McGlynn pored over the finer details from the encounter and underlined what could, should and must be done better.
Matthews laughed: “Everyone was coming out saying ‘wow, if that’s what it’s like when we win, I’d hate to see what it’s like when we lose!’
“The gaffer will find anything he can to pick up on. We watch the games that we win just as much as games that we lose. You would not believe the amount we study teams.”
While taken aback initially, McGlynn’s tireless work ethic and the never-ending pursuit of information with which to furnish his players are now a way of life at Stark’s Park.
“The gaffer is brilliant for that stuff and you can see that all the players appreciate it and totally buy into what he’s trying to do,” continued Matthews. “He picks up on everything and it’s one of the main reasons we have improved so much.
“The way we try to play doesn’t just happen — the gaffer has unreal attention to detail and gives us everything we need.
“The brand of football is a joy to play in and, from the people I speak to, is pretty nice to watch as well. We are an entertaining team and believe that we can beat anyone.”
That includes Dundee. The sides have faced each other three times this season — one win apiece and a draw — but the most recent contest was a particularly consequential one.
The Dee’s 2-1 triumph at Dens Park in the penultimate Championship game of the campaign laid the foundations for James McPake’s men to pinch second spot and the 12 days’ of rest, rehabilitation and preparation that afforded.
“Every game is different but there is a lot from that defeat that we can learn from,” added Matthews.
“We learn from every game we play — not just our own performances, but the strengths and weaknesses of other teams — and I’d like to think we can use that defeat to make sure we get a better performance and result this time.”
The carrot is a tantalising one for Rovers; just four matches away from ending a 24-year exile from Scottish football’s top table, mere 13 months after being promoted from League 1 on a points-per-game basis.
Matthews, not exactly a youngster at this point, sums the potential scale of the achievement perfectly, noting: “I was born in 1996 and I’ve been reminded a few times that was the start of Rovers last season in the top league.”
Moreover, as a Raith academy product who has played 218 times for the Kirkcaldy club, there are few players who have contributed more to the cause since making his debut in 2013.
“For that to happen, of course, we would need to beat Dundee and another team after that — so we’ll not be getting ahead of ourselves,” said Matthews. “But it would be amazing; it would be incredibly special.
“I’ve been here for such a long time and at the start there were maybe more lows than highs, but the last couple of years have been really enjoyable and I’m just loving playing under the gaffer.
“Even without supporters in the stands, I know how much promotion would mean to everyone.
“Social media is absolutely massive now, too, and it has been even more important this season. The fans have been in touch through various ways, showing their support and they have played a big part in our success.
“All the messages have been really positive this season. Let’s be honest: that hasn’t always been the case — I’ve found that out before, during some less happy times — but they’ve been immense this season.”
And there could yet be an emotional reunion with a handful of fortunate fans, with both legs of the Premiership playoff final set to be attended by 500 spectators.
“I was watching the FA Cup semi-finals and League Cup final in England [both with fans] and it’s a totally different spectacle,” added Matthews. “You just think: ‘Let’s get that back’.
“It’s not the same with an empty stadium and the sooner we get some fans back in seats, the better.
“If you are scoring goals and winning games, it’s not the same without folk to share it with. It would be brilliant if we can play in front of some supporters before the season is finished.”