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Morton Blog: So Close, But Yet So Far…

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I suppose it was the inevitable. At the back of my mind, it was always lingering there: “Morton, in the SPL? Not a chance”. It’s the normality for any supporter of Greenock Morton – falling at the final hurdle. We got our hopes up that finally this season would be the one. This season would be the one where we could finally say we’re back were we belong. But Partick Thistle had other ideas.

Eight points behind; the manager has fled to pursue a career in the SPL; they could not win away from home, while we couldn’t stop winning. All of these factors were affecting Thistle at one point in the season. Surely now Morton could push on and book their place in the SPL; something chairmen, Douglas Rae had dreamt of for many years?

I was determined to drum out the lingering thought that we would blow it. I finally felt that all the heartache and disappointed I had endured over the years would come to an end, and I would realise that it was all worth it for this one season. I was wrong. Not many would have realised at the time, but the departure of Jackie McNamara to Dundee United would be a blessing in disguise for the ‘Harry Wraggs’. Newly appointed manager, Alan Archibald, would mastermind his sides incredible run to the finish line which would see our closest rivals for the title be crowned First Division Winners, 2012-13.

Even saying it makes me feel deflated, and beaten.

Peter MacDonald had headed home the fourth of Morton’s goals at East End Park. The view at the top of the league was beautiful: a view I hadn’t seen in quite some time. Our players were scoring for fun, our defence didn’t look troubled, while the best midfielder in the division was playing stunning football week in – week out. Surely something had got to give? Supporting Greenock Morton does not stay enjoyable for this length of time.

The enjoyment did, in actual fact, end, the following Tuesday. The players had the week off to rest and up and re-charge the batteries, while their upcoming appointments had to endure a hard-fought defeat to Falkirk in the Scottish Cup. The perfect build up from a Morton fans perspective, surely? Maybe it was complacency, or maybe they just couldn’t break through the Hamilton defence, but after that defeat, Morton’s, what once seemed to be an indestructible wall, was beginning to show signs of cracks.

The three results that followed, which were wins against Falkirk, Dumbarton and Cowdenbeath respectively, did restore confidence and flair within the team, but the defeat against Hamilton allowed Partick Thistle to be in control of their own destiny. With both teams then dropping points to a resilient Raith Rovers side, things had bubbled up nicely for the encounter at Firhill. It was the perfect ‘winner takes all’ sort of match.

Around 3000 supporters made the journey to Glasgow to see if Morton could take back control of the First Division and put them well on the way to securing the title. However, if you are a long follower of Morton like me, you would know that when the large crowds return to see their local side, they will leave disappointed. In our biggest game of the season, we produced arguably the worst performance of the campaign, leaving our hopes of returning to the SPL in tatters.

As I left Firhill that night, after all the build up and all the pre-match sing songs, I was completely and utterly devastated. The dream of facing off against Scotland’s biggest and best clubs will only remain a dream for at least another year.

However, after having time to reflect on everything that occurred that night, and the weeks afterwards that resulted in Partick Thistle going on to win the title, I came to the conclusion that it was nice to see a club like ourselves achieve something that their fans have loathed for, for many years. Both sets fans have been deprived of glory for many years, but now Thistle have their chance to establish themselves as an SPL club.

Myself, and the rest of Greenock Morton, would like to congratulate Partick Thistle on a great season, and partaking in a thoroughly exciting title race. To the fans; enjoy every minute of being in the SPL. It’s something that the ‘smaller clubs’ dream of for many years. You are finally going to have the chance to go back, and prove to the country that you belong there. Go to every football ground, and sing your heart out – win, lose or draw. It’s an experience that may not happen for another 10 to 15 years, so enjoy it while you can.

As for Morton, it may have been the final throw of the dice. With Douglas Rae confirming that part-time football is very likely, it may be a long, long time before we ever see a side good enough to challenge for as long as this current side have. We’ve enjoyed some special moments throughout the season, and moments that will live for us for many years, but in the end, we’ve come up sort…yet again.

It’s shame that a side that has performed so admirably throughout the season will have no reward at the end of it. In every league in Britain, or maybe even Europe, there are play-off systems in place for whoever finishes runner-up, so that they can have another chance of promotion after missing out on the automatic spot. Why should the First Division be any different?

Picture this: Greenock Morton vs St.Mirren for a place in the SPL next season, in front of a sell out crowd at both St.Mirren Park and Cappielow Park. A match of this magnitude is something Scottish Football has been crying out for, for many months. All titles are secured; most relegation places are also secured. You could argue that the European places are still up for grabs but would any of those remaining matches really attract the attention of many neutrals? It is without a doubt, that the biggest Renfrewshire Derby ever would attract huge attentions all over the country.

A few weeks ago, Morton were toe-to-toe with Thistle for the title, but now, they will finish second and gain nothing. Finishing second in the First Division is just like finishing sixth, seventh or eighth, however by budgeting to finish in one of these positions, the club would have saved a lot more money than the club who have performed consistently well throughout the season. Surely this is not right?

Any other team in Britain would have another shot at promotion, so why should the First Division be any different? Now, many may say that this is only being said because it is my club in the position, but any football fan with any love of the Scottish game must surely see that this is the way forward. Any match which would give a team the opportunity to gain promotion would attract attention from many neutrals, and possibly gain the interest of one or two TV companies.

It’s too late for the SFA to make amends this season, but surely it’s something that has to be rectified in the near future, for the sake of future clubs who miss out on the First Division title by a few points.

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