The Manager Writes ......Thursday, 6th Aug 2015
AJ hopes for a magical season in an open letter to Pars fans
I am absolutely delighted to have this unique opportunity to communicate at length with the Pars supporters, on the eve of the new league season. Since I took over in early May, it has been really hectic familiarising myself with the club, organising pre-season training, sorting out my backroom staff, and of course trying to recruit the best players available to me. Football is all about players, and I am very satisfied with the squad we now have, although I would like to make a couple of more additions.
The young players who were already at the club have impressed me, and they are clearly desperate to do well and learn, and as a Coach or Manager you cannot ask for any more than that. The new players I have signed, will hopefully complement the existing players who were under contract. Before signing a player, you want to assess a player’s ability, temperament and character and so far all of the boys have fitted in really well with the squad and in the pre-season matches.
Myself, Sandy, John and the players are all ambitious and want to take the club forward and recognise how important this season is to the club. We will do everything in our power to make it a successful season, however we need the fans to stay with the team at all times and encourage the boys, home and away.
I was told that this is a traditional Football Club, with a real sense of community and a proud history, backed by good people and supporters, and every day I see that first hand. I have been impressed by the ambition of the club, and I would not have taken on this job if I did not think we could all be successful. You can see that everyone is thirsty for success, and I have been genuinely taken aback by the loyalty and passion of the supporters, and the season has not even started yet!
Dunfermline Athletic is a big club in Scotland, and they should not be in the third tier, but we are, and we all need to work together as one team, on and off the field, to move the club forward. The last two seasons have proved that it will not be easy, as we are now the team that other clubs will be gunning for, and there will be up and downs over the course of the coming season, as there is every season, but I urge all of our supporters to keep backing the players as we are still a relatively young squad.
It is important though that I take the time to outline for the fans of the Club what I am looking to achieve this campaign, and how I like to operate.
Naturally, we are all gearing to achieve the goal of promotion come the end of the season although it will be difficult. I know some people will say we are the only full time team in the league, but part time players are probably fitter than they have ever been, and a number of part time players in this league are paid more than you might think. Nonetheless, I brought the squad in for pre-season training early as I want them in the best possible shape, physically and mentally for the campaign ahead. It is not just about being stronger though, we want the players to be fitter and faster.
I like my teams to play with pace and score goals, as attacking play is not only enjoyable for the players but exciting for the supporters! Football is all about entertaining, and I hope to give you all an exciting brand of football. This was something that I impressed upon the Board when we were discussing the opportunity of me coming to the club. I can understand that with everything that has happened at the club in recent years, a lot of people are hurting, and I would obtain real satisfaction personally if I was able to restore some pride by building an attractive football team to watch at East End Park.
I have worked under a lot of good and experienced managers such as Peter Reid, Dick Advocaat, Craig Brown, Sam Allardyce and of course Sandy Clark! One manager that I played for at Middlesborough was Steve McLaren, who at that time introduced an innovative approach to strength, conditioning and sports science. A lot of these early principles that I was first introduced to then, I have now taken forward in my own management career, and I like to use modern analysis techniques, statistical data rather than just traditional “by the eye” methods.
I am delighted the club has supported me in this area with the purchase of a state of the art heart monitoring system and allowed me to utilise a designated sport scientist. Leadership and man management of players is obviously important, but detailed analysis, thorough preparation and conditioning is also now vital in the modern game.
Before I took on the job, I expected the club to be at a low ebb as it had been underachieving, but I was pleasantly surprised with the sheer positivity around the club, and there is a real sense of togetherness between the supporters, players, management team and directors. That makes such a big difference, and allows me and my staff to be entirely focussed on the challenge that awaits us all, starting on Saturday, against Brechin City.
I have been in football long enough to know that it is important that we manage fans expectations, so I will not make any rash predictions, but what I can promise though is that every one of my staff will be giving their all, on and off the pitch, and whatever happens come the end of the season, it will not be for the want of trying.
I know how difficult it was for supporters at East End Park last season, and without question we need to put on performances for our home fans next year. As a manager I have always liked to play exciting football, and we now have a few more options within the squad to stretch teams on the big playing surface at East End Park. There are a lot of difficult and experienced teams in this league, and in a number of away games we may need to change our system to be more combative, so the players will have to work hard and compete, with good energy to get around the pitch.
Football is a results business, and by getting results on the pitch we hope we can galvanise the fans off it. A positive, noisy East End Park will give the players a massive lift on match day too, so we can all help each other. The atmosphere at Saturday’s game against Cowdenbeath was fantastic, helped by the new clappers, so please keep that up!
As I write, I believe the club has sold nearly 2,200 season tickets for next season, and the Centenary Club Lifeline membership is at a 30 year high! For where we are, that is an incredible show of loyalty towards the club, and your backing deserves to be rewarded with a successful season. Thanks also for making me feel welcome at the club, your fantastic response and I look forward to your backing and continuing support home and away next season”.
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