Jack ‘n’ Victor were the surprise recruits who were given the task of restoring sanity to the club following the removal of Jim Gannon. The duo, with a combined age of 131, were welcomed into SPL management with a mixture of warmth and curiosity but their temporary appointment was to last almost a calendar year.
Their first game preparations came to naught as the Ne’erday derby at Fir Park was postponed due to multiple burst pipes in the winter chill. Brown’s appearance in the dugout was delayed a fortnight but before a ball was kicked it was known that a transformation was underway behind the scenes. The atmosphere from the front office to the dressing room had been lifted and folk were happy to come to their work.
Craig & Archie
We were in 6th place in the table but that was not a true reflection of our standing. Teams below had games in hand and our form had dipped alarmingly. The new management team delivered a wonderful league run of 12 games (8 wins, 4 draws) that saw us 4th by early March. It started with a 3-0 win at Rugby Park and O’Brien’s leap for joy into the travelling fans and included a 3-0 win at Pittodrie and a 3-1 win against Hearts. The only blip was a woeful Scottish Cup exit in Inverness on a freezing Monday in front of 1450 spectators.
The January transfer window brought extensions to the Jutkiewicz and Ruddy loan spells and the temporary addition of Micheal McGlinchey as he kept fit for New Zealand’s World Cup campaign. Moutaouakil returned to Charlton and we said farewell to Steven McGarry as he opted to try his luck with Perth Glory in the sunshine.
The extensive and expensive new pitch at Fir Park suffered horribly for a long spell when a combination of under soil heating and covers led to a crumbling surface. It was a public relations nightmare and the media had a field day as ever more grotesque descriptions appeared. The SPL got in on the act and there was talk of moving our home games.
Last game of the season, 3-3 at Ibrox
With our top six position appearing secure the focus was to finish in the top four to guarantee a third consecutive place in European competition. Unfortunately the early success faltered in the run in. Only one win was recorded in the last eight games and we finished in 5th place. Fortunately the cup final success of Dundee United gave us entry to the Europa League.
The inequity if the split meant that we were allocated only two of the last five fixtures at home and denied a visit from Celtic. This was to leave a big hole in our finances and the club expressed its disgust and thundered, “All avenues of protest will be explored”.
Ruddy does some gardening
The last home game entered the record books. A spectacular 6-6 draw with Hibs left those present and the live TV audience breathless and we recovered from 1-4 and 2-6 to draw level with a spectacular strike from Jutkiewicz in the final seconds. The pitch was dug up the following day.
The season had seen a worrying drop in our average home crowd, down again, to 5,153 and the club reported a loss of £700,000 over the previous financial year. Talk of high prices and the need to review the structure of the game had a familiar ring.
The playing staff embarked on their early summer break but already it was announced that the first pre-season friendly would be in the first week of July as thoughts quickly turned to Craig Brown’s first full season in charge.