GLF 72:Christopher looks back at McGhee and forward with Gannon.
Herr Today ........Gannon Tomorrow!
When Mark McGhee was introduced as our new manager he spoke of how he would use his extensive contact book to bringing in players from places such as Germany.Who did he manage to source??Bob Malcolm .........
So began our two-season stint under messrs McGhee and Leitch.He came in with a reputation of being a one-season wonder - and ultimatelydid nothing to assuage fears he would repeat this at Fir Park.His first window of signings saw two key buys made in the shape of Chris Porter and Stephen Hughes, although the rumours remain that the funding for these came more from John Boyle's wallet than the club's transfer kitty.What he did well was get existing players such as Jim Paterson, Ross McCormack, Stevie McGarry and David Clarkson fitter and sharper than ever before and sent us out in an attacking formation that caught our opponents cold and saw us win games within the opening half of matches with goals aplenty.
We'll never fully guage just what impact the tragic loss of Phil O'Donnell had on our momentum but in our last seventeen games of season 2007/08 we won only six and lost seven (including a sorry Cup exit to Dundee) yet still finished seven points ahead of Aberdeen to finish third and qualify for the UEFA Cup.It was a massive achievement and a major feather in our self-promoting gaffer's cap - but then the wheels started to come off.
Again we'll never know what (or perhaps more accurately how much) stopped McGhee from joining Romanov's payroll but a summer which should have saw the club building towards a new season with a good solid squad looking towards European football simply stalled.We ironically started at Tynecastle with the only 'new' faces being Malcolm signed on a one-year deal (and subbed before the hour or he'd have been sent off) & Neilsen as another loan signing we failed to see much of.It was late September and five home games in before we tasted success at home and by early October, Cups CIS and UEFA respectively were but distant memories.
We sat third on the first day of November 2008 yet seven losing and goalless games (bar one free kick) saw us only half-a-dozen goals off the bottom spot at Christmas, 14 points off of 3rd place.Maros Klimpl finally appeared as a midfield enforcer rather than the centre-half he was signed as, and a run of 2 points from our last 4 pre-split games saw us finish 7th.Fair Play Europa qualification paperd some cracks but as players departed en masse so did McGhee to Parkhead - in his mind, but instead he had to do with Pittodrie...
It's shouldn't be underestimated just what Jim Gannon has achieved in such a short space of time.At the time of writing he has been in place for barely ten weeks and to feel frustrated at only taking a point from the SPL championsis remarkable progress.If you look at three lists of players it should show just what he and his management team have had to deal with;
PLAYERS OUT - Graeme Smith, Artur Krysiak, Brian McLean, Maros Klimpl, Bob Malcolm, Stephen Hughes, Paul Quinn, David Clarkson, Cillian Sheridan,
'WELL STARTS OF SQUAD MEMBERS FOR LLANELLI HOME GAME - Michael Fraser (0), Paul Slane(0), Robert McHugh(0), Ross Forbes(0), Stevie Saunders(2), Seb Kosiorowski(0), Shaun Hutchison(1), Jonathan Page(0),Jamie Murphy (13), Darren Smith (19).
PLAYERS IN - John Ruddy, Tom Hateley, Giles Coke, Lukas Jutkiewicz, Steve Jennings, Chris Humphrey. Yassin Moutaouakil.
50% of those usually stripped on a Saturday as recently as May out the door, six of the eighteen having never started a game in Claret and Amber named for our first game of the new season in July and seven new faces not only to Fir Park but Scottish Football by August - phew!?!!??
Gannon arrived speaking of his track record of giving youth a chance and suddenly the likes of Slane, Forbes, Saunders and Hutchison - whom McGhee had told us were simply not ready for first team places - have lit up both the Europa qualifers and our unbeaten start to the SPL.Every one of Jim's signings has shown they have something about them to date, and we are using our lovely new surface to play a passing style that looks set to treat us to plenty of entertaining football this season.
As ever there are areas that will test us this campaign.The aforementioned desire to play football from the back has seen us take a few risks and nearly gift our opponents a goal.The fans will have tocurb the typical Scottish tendencies of "get intae them/get it in the mixer' as we continue to develop of patient passing style.And finally the likes of Ross and Hutch won't continue to weigh in with goals every other week so our attackers will need to come to the fore in the coming months.
So plenty to work on, but plenty more to be positive about.Let's concentrate on looking forward to tomorrow and forget about what or who went yesterday.
by Christopher Hutton
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