Andy's Up for SPLMonday, 25th Jul 2011
Andy Kirk made the last of his 114 SPL appearances for Hearts back in 2004 and hopes to be in the Dunfermline line up against St Mirren.
Andy Kirk returns to the SPL tonight after an absence of seven years. When he made his final of 114 SPL appearances for Hearts against Motherwell on 16th May 2004, his mind was already on a move south. His contract at the Tynecastle club which he had joined in February 1999 from Glentoran, was not going to be renewed so he left to try his hand at the English League Two with Boston United.
Andy scored 32 goals in his first season in England while at Boston and then at Northampton Town - a tally that had taken four seasons to amass at Hearts. The Northern Ireland internationalist recalled:-
"When I left Hearts and went down to England it was a completely different style of football, a totally different league altogether. I came back up here and worked hard for three years to achieve SPL status. It is great to have done that and it is exciting for me as well. I had some great years in the SPL with Hearts and hopefully I can repeat that with Dunfermline."
Jim McIntyre brought Andy back to Scotland in August 2008 and in his 108 appearances for the East End Park side he has banged in 55 goals. Twenty one goals went in last season as he helped the Pars to the First Division championship. It was a feat that Andy understood to be imperative, he added:-
"It was a big year for us. Raith Rovers pushed us all the way but over the course of the season I think we deserved it. We started off really well, had a bit of a flat patch round the middle and finished very strong. You need to do that in the First Division. It is a tough league to get out of but in the end we were delighted to finish the season ten points ahead.
"It would have been a massive blow for the Club in general had we failed. Look at Raith Rovers who didn't go up and had to release 13 or 14 players."
Having left the First Division Andy is hoping to get off the mark as soon as possible in the SPL and feels that is vital to get off to a good start:-
"If you don't do that it can be an uphill battle. The way the Manager worked last year was one game at a time and I'm sure that it will be the same this season. We will build on it during the week in training and depending upon who we are facing, what system we are going to play, get organised for it."
Acknowledging that in many people's thoughts Dunfermline are favourites to drop back down Andy was adamant that the Pars will be trying hard to silence those pundits.
"We have managed to get into the SPL and we want to stay in it. We have a lot of good players here, a good squad and we have to believe that we are capable of doing well."
Over half the Dunfermline squad have SPL experience but the 32 year old Pars striker refuted suggestions that they have something to prove back in the SPL:-
"Footballers are always proving themselves. Every game you go out to play in you are trying to impress and better yourself. Playing against better players can only do that for you. It will help the younger players as well and give them a bit more experience of what it takes to play at a higher level.
"It is exciting for some of the boys who have not played in the SPL before. They are looking forward to the season kicking off. It is a totally new challenge, it is going to be fresh for us and something that a lot of the boys will be hungry to do well in. We have a lot of good players and we are capable of doing well."