KEITH LASLEY has barely had time to draw breath since becoming St Mirren chief operating officer in the middle of last month. Indeed, if you were to sum up his approach to the role since succeeding Tony Fitzpatrick you might find yourself using a word that described his time as a footballer: industrious.

Since taking up the post he has found himself involved in all facets of the club's day-to-day business: from player recruitment – with seven new faces, including yesterday's signing Declan Gallagher – arriving in Paisley so far over the close season – to the launch of a new initiative to help disadvantaged fans get along to games. And then there is everything else in between.

If that means tweeting fans to thank them for their contribution to the Help A Buddie campaign or attending fans forums to listen to what exactly it is that the grassroots want, then so be it. In short, he says, he is placing fan engagement at the forefront of his reign.

Proof of those words could be seen in St Mirren's decision to retain the Tony Fitzpatrick stand for all home league games this season following a fans survey on the matter. That, of course, means St Mirren will not be handing over half of the ground to Celtic and Rangers when they meet them in the forthcoming campaign.

“That was a big piece of fan engagement basically,” says Lasley. “We are a fan owned football club. We put it out there for fans and it was a really big listening exercise for the football club. The fans spoke and the club did listen. I am absolutely determined now to make that happen. That is our family stand and I want to engage with as many families in our local area, and connect them with St Mirren, as I can.

“I know the Old Firm issue will essentially get the headlines but this is about far more than that for us. Yeah, it's a decision about taking a stand for those games but the underlying push behind that, the underlying feeling from the supporters and from ourselves is really about increasing our supporter base across all of the games, it is about putting our supporters at the heart of all our decision-making.

“We are already putting things in place to connect with local community groups, local schools, our own boys and girls academy, to get as many kids as we can to try to get them to connect to St Mirren Football Club and the only way we can do that is by showing that we care about them.”

“I've tried to get around the stakeholders. I've been to different fans group meetings in Paisley, I've met with SMiSA (St Mirren Independent Supporters Association) on a couple of occasions, there is a fantastic foundation charity and I have tried to connect with as many different people as I can. That won't just be a one-off thing, being in communication with them throughout the season is so important. I've got to walk the walk and ensure that I am doing my bit – and I absolutely will be.”

So that's his views on fan engagement, how has he found the rest of the job so far?

“This role really does encompass the whole football club. My role is to sit below the board and oversee the football club as a whole, how it functions, how I can help push it forward and improve every single area from the football side, the academy, the commercial side of it, community engagement . . . the list goes on. What that turns into is a very varied week but that is the exciting bit about it, making the transition to this side of it.”

“I am working with Stephen and Martin in terms of player recruitment. What I am not doing is controlling it. It is a case of getting good players and facilitating and empowering those guys to do the best job they can do. I am still involved in that. I am involved with Allan McManus, the academy director, in making sure we push our academy and get the best from that, integrating that into the first team especially in those latter stages of the academy.”

Unsurprisingly, the evidence seems to be that the noises Lasley is making have struck a chord with the locals. As of late last week season ticket sales for the forthcoming campaign were 11% shy of last season's total and they are expected to beat that figure despite an increase on the cost for 2021/22. Lasley says the club is grateful for the support.

“The increase was a sign of the times that we were in, unfortunately, so given the circumstances I just think it has been an unbelievable uptake and from the club's point of view I just want to thank everybody that has given that commitment.

With the inflation figures and the cost of living crisis that we are living in the amount of support we have had – not just from season ticket purchases but we launched Help A Buddie as a promotion to help people less fortunate to come along and support the team, it is just unbelievable. I am delighted and humbled by that and we hope that we can get past last year's number which, given the current circumstances, would be absolutely fantastic."

It is now well after 5pm and Lasley is still chatting enthusiastically in his office overlooking the SMiSA Stadium; it is clear that football is lodged deep in his marrow but it is not just his two decades as player, coach and assistant manager that he will be drawing on in his new job. For the past year, he has been studying for a Masters in Sports Directorship at Manchester Metropolitan University.

The masters – a two-year course that requires a dissertation by the end of it and has been running since 2015 – has produced well-known alumni from across British and Scottish sport including former Liverpool midfielder Didi Hamann, ex-England cricketer Vikram Solanki, Davie Weir, now Brighton director of football, Hearts boss Robbie Neilson and his assistant Lee McCulloch as well as new Dundee manager Gary Bowyer while his current classmates include the English Premier League referee Anthony Taylor and Pete Horne, the Glasgow Warriors skills coach.

“As somebody who wants to take myself out of my comfort zone and push myself to the absolute limit, that's where this course comes in. One of the main attractions is that it wasn't just about football. We've got guys on our course from cricket, guys working for the NBA, guys in Aussie Rules football. It's a really wide-ranging background and it's great for me to see best practice in these other sports, to see where it's similar to football or where there are differences and again, it is a fantastic learning experience from that alone.”

He says he has a fascination for the way things are done in Europe at executive and coaching level citing Ajax and Borussia Dortmund as examples of how major continental clubs have harnessed former players with a multi-faceted knowledge of the game and installed them in top positions in those clubs.

However, it will come as no surprise to learn that it is a club closer to home that Lasley will take some of his lead from. He spent 20 years across two spells at Motherwell so it is little surprise to learn that he has been influenced by the way the Fir Park club has placed itself at the heart of the community in North Lanarkshire.

“I think a lot of clubs say the right things, come out with flashy slogans and things like that but, for me, Motherwell have lived and breathed what they stand for and I think it would be wrong of me not to bring some of that across to St Mirren. But it's not as if St Mirren aren't already doing some fantastic work particularly in the community engagement side of things but I think that there are some things that I can maybe help with in that regard. You've got to add some of your own personality, know what you are passionate about and, hopefully, at the end of that journey, we'll be heading in the right direction.”