An end of season like no other

Date: 22nd April 2020

We are happy to share with members the latest piece on recent events by Donald Stewart:

 

OK we have a new dance in Scottish Football – it’s called the Dundee Hokey Kokey.

But dinna fash yersel as we now have the result of a vote that wisnae a vote and now is a vote that sees a lot of clubs getting cash and a few that promised courtroom battles now in charge of leading how we should reorganise the whole shebang. It feels like a disorganised ceilidh but never mind.

But once the music has stopped playing, how is it going to look? When all is settled and done will we see an expanded top flight and a new dawn in Scottish Football. Society itself is wondering what it will look like after all this; shouldn’t Scottish football? We, the people, are asking big questions, like if we give businesses money to bail them out can we now lever in better employee practices? Can we start a realistic green agenda that will be kept to because we, the Government are paying for businesses to stay alive?

Has the SPFL considered such an idea?

Can you imagine if they spent out the cash – which are owed to the member clubs by a member organisation and yet the organisation decides the rules – and said, you get this if by 2022, following the German model, you have a degree off an ownership on your Board? Or alternatively, in return you reintroduce standing sections? Or we ask clubs to join a grassroots enrichment scheme where they have to deliver 100 hours per week in their local communities or … or … or…

But one of those gnarly issues for me is not what will happen to clubs or even what the squads will look like but what is going to happen to the managers. I reckon the clubs might just – and I mean just – survive this, but will we have the same 44 people in charge in August/September as we have now? (We have 2 co-manager things going on in the 44 SPFL clubs…)

At the beginning of the year I wondered whether this was going to be a year in which we saw a major moving of managers round the country as the previous year had been pretty quiet. Apart from the strange case of a striker (Kenny Miller) who very much did and then didn’t fancy being a manager (at Livingston), leaving to find himself back playing (at Partick Thistle). He then was temporarily part of the management team, this season, when a manager with immense success at Ayr United (Ian McCall) decided to jump ship and is now facing relegation (At Partick Thistle).

Aside from Kenny Miller being he hokey kokey champion before forfeiting to Dundee, we did see Jim Duffy back in management, the close season appointment of Mr Gerrard at Rangers and John McGlynn returning to Raith but it was relatively safe fayre for the season.

I expected a turbulent year – thank God I was prepared…

So 2019/20… what would it be remembered for?

Well…

Before the season even began we had no fewer than six changes with Jim Goodwin going from Alloa Athletic to St Mirren. Ray McKinnon had abandoned Morton, ended up at Falkirk but didn’t last and landed at Hampden we have had, a further ten changes in the SPFL of managers.

The biggest question may well be what will happen at Hearts, under new manager Daniel Stendel who apparently has a relegation clause in his contract, Partick Thistle who’s manager Ian McCall left Ayr United to take up his first love only to feel like someone has been cheating on them as they go down with a game in hand and only two points behind Queen of the South and Stranraer who love a strongly worded statement on their website will there be managerial changes?

Of course, one of the questions fans will be debating, because there is nae fitba to argue about, is have the changes worked for the clubs and what about the prospects of a COIVID axe? Are there manager’s that fans would love to see go but now, given the fact that the season is done, they will see them grudgingly back? Surely not…

And what about Brechin City. A club who went an entire season without a win in the very recent past and then fell through the leagues like a team carrying a load of sporting integrity on their back, how lucky must Mark Wilson feel? He won’t be in a playoff tight spot, but what about Brora Rangers and Kelty Hearts? Oh aye… league reconstruction…

So, begin at the foot of the SPFL structure, League Twohas some clear-cut outcomes. With a thirteen point gap at the top, Cove Rangers were clear champions in their first year in the SPFL and their sparkling appointment of Paul Hartley brings his career back into sharp focus. Will he do with Cove what he managed at Alloa or will he be lured away once again?

Below them, not much to quibble about and the change from Mark Roberts to Ray McKinnon seems to have worked well as the Spiders find themselves in a respectable fifth spot. The change at Stenhousemuir might still need bedded in but what do the fans at Cliftonhill think of Kevin Harper now? It has not been a sparkling season and after a period of steadying the ship the previous year, has he got rid of the Juniors and not replaced them with anything better? Of course, if the squad stays the same next year as this it is perhaps only then you should judge a manager?

In League OneJohn McGlynn managed what Harper should have done; took over a team needing stability, got them steadied and then won the league. Falkirk, their near neighbours, incandescent that they have lost a league whilst 1 point behind did dump Ray McKinnon to “allow” him to take on the Queen’s Park job at Hampden. Falkirk’s co-managers of David McCracken and Lee Miller seems to be working. The issue may be, for such a fine club with a tremendous stadium – can they do another year in League One? Oh aye… there’s yon reconstruction…

Bellow them there will be a fuming Ian Murray, who would have believed his Airdrie side could have made it through the playoffs, Jim Duffy, Danny Lennon, the longest serving manager in the SPFL, Jim McInally and Darren Young looking like safe pairs of hands. Stuart Malcolm at Forfar Athletic will be given time whilst Stephen Farrell at Stranraer might have questions being asked – won’t he? There years in the Stair Park hot seat? Oh no wait a minute what about league reconstruction…

Now the Championship is possibly where it is all that! Dundee United gave Robbie Neilson an opportunity and he followed the McGlynn model and not the Harper one, steadied the ship and then the following year, won the league…

Underneath them we have the anger of Inverness Caledonian Thistle, the bemused behaviour of Dundee and then the rest all the way down to ninth appear to have guys at the helm needing time or, like Dick Campbell at Arbroath, having the footballing heft to keep their ball in the air. Even at Queen of the South one half season does not a campaign make.

The issue is clearly what happens to Ian McCall. I have little doubt he won’t be asked to go but what a difference a couple of years make. This time last year, Ayr were challenging under him for the title, the year before he was winning his very first title at Ayr and this year it’s relegation. Oh now wait a minute isn’t there reconstruction?

Finally, the Premiership. Now the appointment of Stephen Gerrard at Rangers has made a significant difference to the club. There is a man of stature at the helm, which given the history of the last decade is no mean feat. A first season of no trophies followed by a historic ninth title for their bitter rivals is not what was hoped for. To make it worse it has been “given” whilst Rangers are merely 13 points behind with a single game in hand which they claim may well illuminate how unfair it all is. Whilst it may be the same margin as Cove Rangers won their league and only one point less than Dundee United’s winning total it is still unfair – if it happens – which it will.

The changes during the season have been positive at Hibs, mixed at Kilmarnock but showing very positive signs towards the end of the premature season and all over the place at Hearts.

As for the rest, there is unlikely to be the appetite for change at places like Aberdeen, Motherwell and St Johnstone as there would not appear to be much by way of alternatives whilst all three managers are pretty good anyway.

As for the change at St Mirren, like at Kilmarnock that has taken time to take root but seems to be so doing whilst Ross County have two decent co managers and Livingston are still punching well above their weight.

It leaves the Hamilton Academical and Hearts. Would Brian Rice have managed to escape the playoffs? Would Stendel have got them out of relegation? Will one depart and the other remain… wait a minute aren’t they both in charge at looking at…

League reconstruction…

In my next column I shall be looking at whether the vote for league reconstructions is likely to go through and its alleged major stumbling block… self interest…

 

 


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