Manager on ThursdayThursday, 15th Aug 2019
15/08/19: SC - “It brings up plenty of different challenges and, although I won’t go into details, some of the discussions have been quite heated!”
There is little doubt that the imminent return of Dunfermline to Celtic Park after an absence of seven years has excited both players and supporters.
Stevie Crawford is delighted that there is a strong contingent of supporters willing to make the journey and feels that to get that that 1000+ backing says a lot because in the main it is a young Dunfermline squad.
“I know that throughout the season, with the challenges ahead of us the fans will be massive. We have just got to make sure we demand every bit we can from the players.
“You need the fans to believe and be with us. We are going through to Glasgow, where a lot of people will write us off because of the gulf in size between the clubs and strength in depth. But there is a lot of belief and we’ll give our all.
“One of the challenges for us was to get a connection between the players and the fans. If we can maximise the effort then the Dunfermline fans will come out in their numbers.”
Stevie feels that the players can take confidence from their league form.
“I know that we have only played two games but we have shown form in the league. I thought we were excellent against Dundee, it took a lot for Dundee to change formation and personnel to get themselves back in the game. On the night I still feel that we deserved the three points but never got them.
“We went down to Queens and were the better team in the first half. We didn’t start the second half great but competed for the remainder of the game and came away with another point. So in a good way our players are disappointed that we have only taken two points from two difficult games.”
Immediately after the Queen of the South game the coaching staff started looking ahead to the Betfred Cup game against Celtic. Discussing personnel and approach was not totally harmonious:-
“It brings up plenty of different challenges and, although I won’t go into details, some of the discussions between myself, Jason and Greg (Shields) have been quite heated!
“There’s been plenty of passion and we haven’t agreed on everything when it comes to how to approach it. But that all comes from a place of desperately wanting what is best for this club. The gulf in quality of player that we are going to come up against is a massive challenge but one that we are looking forward to.
“I think that’s really healthy. If we were all yes men, it doesn’t help anyone. It is always done in the right manner, in a respectful way, but we are forthright. And I’ve told the players that’s they way I expect them to train as well.
“There should be an edge to training every day - there was a moment on Wednesday when things slightly spilled over, then you put the reins on a little.
“As a coaching staff, we’re no different. We just make sure we’re not having those discussions in front of the players! We agree on plenty of things, but we’ll have our own takes on other things - and we’ll have it out and hopefully come up with the right strategy.”
Amongst them Stevie, Jason and Greg have considerable experience of playing at Celtic Park. Indeed Greg has played in three Dunfermline sides who have won at Celtic Park (1997, 2004 & 2005) but the coaches are known to believe in not harping on to the players about what they’ll face.
“What I did pass on was, when you go to Glasgow, it’s always difficult to get a 50/50 decision in your favour. That’s just the nature of the beast, with the size of the crowd.
“If you feel sorry for yourself, you are just playing into the hands of the opposition. We need to stay focused and not get frustrated, because they have good players who will punish you.
“As a player, just being thrown into that environment will sometimes teach you a lot. That’s exciting for us as a staff - whatever these boys experience on Saturday it is going to help them in their future. It won’t be a case of us talking about things we’ve done any more, they will have experienced it themselves and understand the levels these boys play at week-in, week-out.”
Crawford and Dair were key figures in the famous Raith Rovers side that defeated Celtic on penalties in the 1994 final of this League Cup competition. SC recalled:-
“That’s going back many years now. We had competed in the Premier League, been relegated back to the old First Division and gained a lot of experience through that journey. So we didn’t go into that game completely raw.
“People have come up to me over the years to say ‘what a great day that was’ and we have the opportunity to create one of those moments. How many teams have won at Celtic Park in recent years? Before Cluj, it was Valencia. So Aberdeen, Hearts, Rangers, Hibs have all tried and failed, but we’ll have a real go.
“However, you want to create memories for people and that’s why Dunfermline fans have bought more than 1000 tickets, because you just never know what could happen. We are not going there with a mindset of ‘we’ve already lost’, but I’m not going to be silly and guarantee we’ll win. But we will give it our best effort.
“You go into a boxing ring, you give it your best. You’ll take a few on the chin and it can be sore at times - but we’re going there to try and compete.”
Danny Devine played the full 90 minutes in Tuesday’s friendly at the Hibs Training Ground but the gaffer felt it was a difficult one to throw him in against Celtic in what would be his first competitive game of the season.
Euan Murray is still being checked out after his last minute injury at Dumfries on Saturday. The assessment will be on his shoulder and neck but Saturday might come too quickly. Other than that and Joe Thomson longer term, the rest of the squad are available for the trip to Celtic Park.