A Different Dunfermline Next SeasonTuesday, 8th Jun 2021
First Team Coach Greg Shields predicts playing to a system and being a little bit different to what it’s been in the past.
Greg Shields claims that even with Stevie Crawford vacating the manager’s position it was always his desire to remain at Dunfermline. He told the media:-
“I came back from America and really enjoyed coaching the reserves and then stepping into the first-team set-up. I love being on the training pitch and I really enjoyed working with the first team players last year.”
After Peter Grant was appointed as the successor to Stevie Crawford, chairman Ross McArthur called Greg in to meet the former Celtic player and he confessed to being smitten by the new gaffer:-
“I was probably in there for three hours talking to him — and after 90 minutes, I was desperate to put my boots on and play for him! That’s how enthusiastic he is. It was exciting for me and an easy sell.”
Peter Grant had earned Greg’s respect when coaching the Pars against Alloa Athletic and Greg was impressed with the passion and enthusiasm shown:-
“He was always very open and willing and really respectful when we came up against them. I liked coaching against him because he was quite fiery — that was me as a player, as was he.”
Greg has admired first hand how Alloa played over the past two seasons and felt that the Wasps were hampered by losing key players along the way:-
“He was unlucky to be without four key players: Kevin O’Hara, Jamie MacDonald, Iain Flannigan and big Andy Graham. The first three left, the other was injured for a lot of the season. That was a key part of the backbone of his team but they never struggled to play football and that was exciting for me.”
“Everything about Peter Grant excited me as soon as he got the job. His emphasis in style, how he coaches is what I’m really interested in. I didn’t know him personally but it was easy to accept, he makes you to want to play for him.”
At the age of 44 that might not be exactly what Greg can do but he has hopes that external influences will assist the Pars route to the Premiership, his own experiences while at Carolina RailHawks and the ambitious plans of the German investors DAFC Fussball GmbH:-
“Being over in the States was a real education for me, in terms of the game being so different. The league is all franchised but the styles and how the ball is on the deck, how they press. It was an eye opener for me.
“I just see the direction this club is going in. The club have got big plans and I would love to be a part of that, take them to the next level and have an influence in getting them there.
“The training ground has been a long time coming and I hope that happens pretty soon. The academy structure below that is probably key, it is getting players into the first team, making them part of a successful side and then selling them on. That is important for me as well. The ambition they have shown and the manner of the reconstruction has been positive.
“I get on really well with Steven Whittaker and, despite only knowing him for a year, we share a lot of the same ideals. The three of us we believe we can help the squad that is here and really kick us on. There are a lot of exciting things going on and I’m delighted to be a part of it.”
Greg made 114 appearances for Dunfermline as a player and played in the 2005-2006 League Cup final, the 2006-2007 Scottish Cup final and in Europe for the Fifers. He has experienced just how big the Pars fan base can be and what it is like playing in the top flight with them. St Johnstone’s successes in this past season prove what can be done by provincial teams, he continued:-
“They’ve maintained their Premiership status for a lot of years now. Callum’s gone in there, they’ve played to a structure, a style and a system and done really well. The players have bought into that and they’ve won two trophies.
“Dunfermline are as big a club, if not bigger - well, I think they’re bigger than St Johnstone. It’s getting on a roll, it’s getting the players believing in a system and a style, and being a bit lucky at times as well.
“The priority is to win the league, that’s the priority. We have a good squad. We need to add, but that’s the priority. But, having been part of that success in the past and going to cup finals - three finals in four seasons - with 19,000, 20,000 fans at Hampden, it’s moments like that which we want to get back.
“It is small steps. We need to get there again, but with a little bit of belief and a bit of trust and confidence in how we coach, you’ll probably see a different Dunfermline next season.”
While Greg agreed that fans want signings he stressed that there would be no rush for additions:-
“It’s respecting who we have as well. We have a really good squad, with a mixed age - I think the age has gone down a bit now that Whitts has gone out. That little bit of experience from him has been taken out but I think it’s respecting who we have.
“We played a lot of good stuff last season, more so early on, so the pieces are there and it’s just about getting the consistency levels. Yes, we need to add but it’s adding the right players into the system that the manager and ourselves want to play. That’s the important thing, not just adding somebody because he’s won a championship before at whatever club.
“It’s about adding the right pieces to play the right style, and that’s what excites me, not just adding anybody. It’s playing to a system and being a little bit different to what it’s been in the past.”
Greg endorsed Peter Grant’s promise to give youth a chance saying that he has always liked younger players coming into the first-team:-
“They’re like sponges. If you look at who we have - Lewis McCann, Matty Todd, Paul Allan - they’ll probably feel like they should have played more and they’ll want to play more. They’re still hungry, which is important.
“They want to learn day-in, day-out, and when you stop learning as a younger player you’ve no chance. I think we’ve still got the players - those three in particular - who want to learn.
“There were other players who have come into the club and done well and used it as a platform to get games. We’ve also been a club that has sold players in the last year as well. Kevin Nisbet came in from Raith Rovers and that’s an unbelievable story. He’s gone and kicked on and obviously scored the other night against Holland and did really well.
“Coaching those types of players and giving them a career at Dunfermline, and then it’s up to them if they want to kick on after that. The pieces are there. Lee Ashcroft came in here and did well and moved on to Dundee, and you see his run-in last season. He was absolutely outstanding.
“We have the players and we’re a club that can attract players as well. It’s just coaching them in the right way to believe in themselves. That’s the most important part - belief. If you don’t believe in yourself as a player you’re struggling, it’s half the battle.”
Having been brought in initially to coach the Reserve team, Greg acknowledged that under the tough circumstances currently being experienced a Reserve team might be a while away:-
“It was tough last season because we had a lot of the younger players - Lucas Berry, Miller Fenton, Ben Swinton, Scott Cusick - who couldn’t get any games. That’s tough when you’re training every day and you’ve not got any games, it becomes a chore.
“Kids can say all day they’re enjoying training but there’s just a big gap now between that 16/17-year-old and 19, 20. The jump is quite high when they first come in, to become a first-team regular. We found that last season and it becomes a bit frustrating for them as well. So, there’s got to be a gradual pathway but unfortunately we don’t see that pathway there right now.”
Another pathway as demonstrated in Dunfermline’s part in the Kevin Nisbet success story should not be forgotten however and Greg agreed that it is a path that might attract others:-
“That’s always the carrot but we want players who want to come to Dunfermline to play for Dunfermline. That’s the attraction - the pitch, the stadium, the management, the fans. That’s who we are and that’s what we want, to attract players who want to play for us. That’s the priority.
“I don’t want to take any credit for Kevin Nisbet. I was part of him training and part of the first-team when he was in it but the credit goes down to Stevie for that. He was a big part in him coming in and how he coached him and how he kicked on. So, kudos to Stevie - and Jason played a part in that too.
“You get a few successes and Kevin Nisbet’s certainly been one. But it’s something we don’t want to dwell on. We want to make that a habit. It’s about getting the right players in who want to play for Dunfermline.”
Greg Shields talks to Jordan Burt on ParsTV
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