Manager Previews MontroseThursday, 2nd Feb 2023
02/02/23: JM - “They`re very well drilled, and they were unlucky when they came here.
Another Transfer Deadline Day has come and gone and Dunfermline manager James McPake lamented that he hadn’t had an exciting one yet! He confirmed that the club had targeted signing former captain, Euan Murray from Hartlepool Town. After making 44 appearances, Euan left the Pars and signed for Kilmarnock when his contract ended in May 2021. James explained that it just didn’t happen:-
“We worked hard on a couple. Euan Murray was the one that was reported and that was true. The player was desperate to come, he was keen to come and we were looking to get a deal done. That is the third time that I have tried to sign him now and not got it over the line. That is what happens when the parent club hold on and hold on. It never got done unfortunately.
“The offer went on and we thought that it would be accepted. We worked as hard as we could on it. He is a good player who had a good spell here before and I had tried to take him to Dundee twice as well. It is disappointing but fourth time lucky, who knows?”
“Sometimes it is up to the other club, we saw that last week with Sam Fisher going back to Dundee. When you have loan players or you are trying to bring in regardless of whether it is a loan or permanent you are always in a fight.
“I always find when it goes to the last day everything heats up, it is unfortunate and I don’t like it. I like to get business done, as would the player but there is always this excitement that goes around deadline day but I have not had an exciting one yet!”
The manager pointed out that the lower league clubs have the whole of February to work on loans and work will continue on that. He added:-
“Does that guarantee that we will get ones over the door? No. On the flip side we could have brought three or four in that we could have then said look we have brought bodies in, how much would that have strengthened the positions in the squad? I’m not too sure.
“We will continue to keep working and I would not lie. It has not been through the lack of trying, the two that were the closest - Euan being one of them and I will not name the other one - those two would have been real quality signings for us. Not just for this league but for the football club wherever it goes going forward.
“I can feel the fan’s’ frustrations, everybody at the club is frustrated as well because when you have targets you want to do it. When you lose a player of Sam Fisher’s quality you want to get him back or you want another one in. It is just not as easy as that, it is hard to go out and find someone to replace Sam Fisher who in my opinion has been excellent.
“Sam is someone I have known for five years since he was sixteen so I know his character better than any other manager. I wasn’t surprised to see him in the Dundee team at the weekend or to hear that he had done well.
“The fans will probably be frustrated with me when I say that we weren’t just going to sign anybody just for the sake of signing him. We might as well be honest about it. We did try, Euan would have been a good one. The fact that the player wanted to come, we were desperate to do it and it looked like it was going to happen but that one can’t happen now. There are certainly other ones ongoing.”
The manager was measured when asked if he was confident with the squad he currently has.
“It`s a difficult question to answer because, Saturday, we could get three or four injuries. You know the nature of football. But, in terms of the squad, it`s as strong as it’s been. It`s still only Paul Allan, that is injured but Paul`s coming back.
Kevin and Lewis now are at a level where they`re fully fit. Their minutes have been good so, if we still had Sam, then you could say I`d be delighted if they all stayed fit. That`s the thing we can`t predict, and that`s what we`re trying to do. I think it still all goes back to the fact that we need to make sure who we do bring in can help.
It`s not a case of just bringing people in to cover for, say, a certain position, or if we go to a different tactic. It has to be of the right quality. I was fully confident that Sam coming in at any point, if we went to a four, if we played a three, Sam could play ahead of anyone in a back two or three - a back four, or a back three, but with two centre halves playing, or three centre backs playing. Sam, in my opinion, on his day, is capable of doing that.
“That`s the kind of player that we`re looking for, and someone that can come in and, not so much hit the ground running, but if we decide someone needs a rest, someone needs taken out, or someone gets injured, then, whoever`s going in isn`t going to make us any weaker, if that makes sense.
That`s what we`re working on. I am confident with it, but I`m also very realistic to know that, at some point, if someone gets injured, then you could need people to step in. For that reason, we`ll continue to work in February, and see if we can get a couple of these over the line.”
Injuries and suspensions can affect every club in the division but James believes that, in certain positions, they are well covered but all:-
“We saw the trouble we had with strikers when Kevin (O’Hara) and Craig (Wighton) were out, when we`ve got four senior strikers at the club. That can quickly happen when you lose two, but we adapted really well to that.
“There was three of them out at one point, Lewis (McCann) as well. (Nikolay) Todorov scored a lot of important goals, and that showed the depth of that certain area of the squad, but we were really close to having none if Nikolay had picked up a niggle, a knock or a suspension, whatever it could`ve been.
“You then need to be confident in your structure, and the way you`re doing things, that other players can step in, or you`ve got the option there to bring players in. We`ve always had that, and we continue to have this. There`s more of an open scope until the end of February and, hopefully, come the end, we`re sitting with some quality in the door but I`ll stress, it has to be quality.
“Every other club is facing this. Other clubs will have a thicker squad in certain areas of the pitch but, in terms of quality, I`m not quite sure too many clubs have got the quality we`ve got, all over the pitch.”
Elaborating on Paul Allan’s status, the gaffer reported:-
“Paul`s now running, which is good. I think the next step will be getting him on the grass, which will hopefully be next week, or the following week, on the grass, with his boots on. He`s doing well, I`m really pleased with him. I`d like him back as well because he was really good at the start of the season, and he can take corners!”
Saturday’s opponents are Montrose and it was acknowledged that the Angus side have been doing well as they push for a play off place for the fourth season running:-
“I`ve got a lot of respect for them, and the job that Stewart Petrie and his staff have done up there. They`re very well drilled, and they were unlucky when they came here. We can say we were unlucky when we went to Montrose, but they put the ball in the net twice, we had a few chances and couldn`t do it. They deserved to win that day.
“It`s the only time we`ve tasted defeat in the league, but, if we`re not at a good level, then they`re a club that can hurt you home or away, so we need to be ready for it. We will be ready for it, and looking forward to be back at The KDM Group East End Park. It`s been a while, so it`s good to be back home.”
Having gone three games without a win everyone is hoping for a victory:-
“We`re always desperate to win but, probably more importantly, we need to get the performance back to the standards that we have been at. If we do that, then I`m confident we`ll get a positive result. It`s been strange. Those two performances, then we weren`t great at Clyde. When I came away, I was really disappointed. You watch it back and some of our play was good.
“Sometimes it`s different when you`re pitch side and you`re just focusing on things that are going wrong at certain points, but we had some really good play. We just never had that final pass, final finish in the game, and that`s maybe what was disappointing but when you look at the chances we created, the areas we got into, there was some good stuff.
“We just weren`t as fluid as normal, I don`t think that changed watching it back. We weren`t anywhere near the level in terms of taking care of the ball so, if we get back to that, hopefully it`ll be a positive result in front of our own fans.”
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