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End of Season Q & A: Morton FC

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After seeing his side relegated from the SPFL championship, Morton fan blogger Andrew Ward takes a look back at the Greenock side’s season

With the season now at an end, did your club achieve or underachieve? And why?

It is without question that this season was a complete disaster for Greenock Morton FC. With expectations high at the start of the domestic campaign, after impressive pre-season performances, everyone connected with the club firmly believed that Morton would go one step further than last season, and clinch promotion back to the top flight. However, instead, despite a famous League Cup victory against Celtic back in September, we would only manage to record a mere six victories over the course of thirty-eight games, along with eight draws and a disastrous twenty-two defeats.

Not many can pinpoint where exactly it all went wrong for the ‘Ton. Many will argue that it was solely down to the summer signings by ex-manager, Allan Moore. As I stated in my season preview for Scotzine, the club were most certainly stepping into the unknown with the foreign contingency brought to Cappielow to replace the experienced Scottish players used during the 2012/13 season. Players such as Kabba-Modou Cham, Thomas Peciar and Michal Habai moved to the club in the hope that they would set the league alight, but unfortunately they would only help condemn Morton to League 1 football next season.

Others will claim, however, that the squad assembled in the summer would have survived if Allan Moore had added to the squad rather cautiously and sensibly. Instead though, one would argue that Moore panic bought, which would explain why we saw ex-Rangers striker, Nacho Novo, make the move to Greenock. The move shocked the country as Novo made his return to Scottish football, but, as many expected, the thirty-four year old would be a complete flop, managing to only net once in his time, before eventually being released by Allan Moore’s successor, Kenny Shiels.

Christmas time had arrived and Morton – who were early title favourites – found themselves rock bottom of the Scottish Championship. Allan Moore had, by this point, been relieved of his duties, and the gauntlet was later passed onto ex-Kilmarnock manager, Kenny Shiels’.

As Shiels’ stepped into the hot-seat, he was assured by Chairman Douglas Rae that he would have adequate funds to build his own side. And Shiels’ did just that. The Northern Irishmen brought in ex-Scotland internationalist, Gary O’Connor, ex-Dundee United midfielder, David Robertson, ex-Wigan defender, Jamie McCormack, and ex-Rangers players Darren Cole and Barrie McKay [loan]in until the end of the season.

Things did take time for Shiels’ at first: losing to Falkirk, Hamilton and Dumbarton put the club further adrift from the pack, but a draw against Raith Rovers followed by a hard tough victory away to Livingston gave ‘Ton supporters a small, small glimmer of hope. Back-to-back draws against Queen of the South and Falkirk set up an important crunch game against ninth placed Cowdenbeath. However, the club would only manage to secure a draw, all but signalling the end of Morton’s seven year stay in the Championship.

How do you rate your manager after this season’s campaign? What did he do or fail to do?

During the 2013/14 season, Greenock Morton had three men in the dugout, two of which were permanent managers, and both of whom have already had their contracts terminated by the club. Allan Moore, who was entering his fourth season in the Morton dugout, had assembled a squad full of youth and of foreign pedigree. It was clear what Allan Moore had done was a major risk to take, but if pulled off, could be the risk that would fire Morton back to the Premiership.

Clearly though, the risk did, indeed, fail and Moore would play a huge part in Morton being relegated to the League 1. However, Mr Moore helped mastermind one of the greatest evening in the lives of all Morton supporters. That evening at Celtic Park will live long in the memory of all connected with Greenock Morton FC, and we must thank Allan for that.

I did, in a way, feel bad for Kenny Shiels though, who handed in his resignation after our humiliating ten two defeat to Hamilton. In a way, I felt Kenny took the bullet for the players who, at no point throughout this season, have fought or battled for the badge, and it would have only taken a complete miracle for any man to come into the club and rescue them from relegation. However, later developments showed that Mr Shiels had planned on offering all first team players – bar three – new contracts which would see them stay at the club for the 2014/15 season. This, in my honest opinion, is worthy of a sacking and, in hindsight, I am glad to see the back of him.

Who were the standout players for the club this term and why?

It’s hard to talk about ‘standouts’ in a side that managed to only secure a pathetic twenty-six points from thirty-eight games, which did include the second worse score-line in the illustrious history of Greenock Morton FC. However, one player who has played with passion, as well as delivering an impressive eleven goals from midfield this season, was captain, Douglas Imrie. One of Allan Moore’s summer signings from local rivals St.Mirren, Imrie, from day one, has covered every blade of grass, tracked backed, tried to push the players forward, and managed to keep his cool from twelve yards to give Morton supporters a night to remember at Celtic Park. Granted he hasn’t been perfect, and hasn’t performed well every single week, but in a squad of such poor quality, performing consistently well would have been near nigh impossible.

Along with Douglas, goalkeeper, Derek Gaston, has been another bright light in what has been a dark, dark season for the Greenock side. The twenty-seven year old has performed exceptionally well this season, and has prevented Morton from a number of humiliating defeats. An exceptional shot-stopper who commands his box well; and a player who, if he continues to perform at the level he has delivered this season, could be set for a big move.

Who failed to impressive, why?

Where do you we start? I suppose, after conceding seventy-one goals, you could argue that the defence has been a major issue this season. Marc Fitzpatrick, Thomas Peciar, Darren Cole, Mark McLaughlin and Scott Taggart have all had disastrous seasons, and it is no surprises to see some not even make it to the end of the domestic campaign before having their contracts terminated.

In midfield, Joe McKee was signed with high expectations, but couldn’t even make the bench towards the end of the season. In a way, I feel sorry for the youngster, who has only really had four first starts to prove himself, before picking up an injury, ruling him out for the majority of the season. Fouad Bachirou’s performances have dropped quite substantially too, after his midfield partner, Michael Tidser, departed for Rotherham in the summer. The Frenchman – who has one more year remaining on his current deal – could be set for a new challenge though; as rumours grow stronger that the twenty-four year old could be set to depart Cappielow. Embarrassments such as Stephen Stirling and Tony Wallace have also added to the humiliating season Morton fans have had to endure, with all lacking the creativity and killer pass needed for a title chasing midfield.

As well as a shaky back line, and a non-creative midfield, Morton have also been unable to put the ball in the back of the net. Whether it was a Belgium youngster, or a former Europa League finalists, or an ex-Scotland international, none have managed to net enough to help fire Morton to safety.

The list as to who hasn’t impressed this season could go on, and on, and on. I believe it’s safe to say, though, that the vast majority of players who have pulled on the blue and white hoops this season will not, in any way, be missed.

What would you change at the club over the summer?

Quite simply: everything. Like an old, dreary house, everything should be ripped out and started again; a fresh start is needed at Cappielow. In order to get that fresh start though, we need radical change: the board should go; the players should go; the commercial department should go; the secretaries should go. Everything!

Expectations for next season?

The expectation for next season is really simple; the club must return to the Championship as soon as possible, preferably as Champions. It will be said that, with Morton remaining full-time next season, they will win the league by a canter, however, what many forget is, it took Morton five seasons to conquer the second division last time round; that cannot happen this time. A new manager will be appointed in the coming weeks, and the mission that they’ll be presented with is rather simple. Create a squad that is capable of gaining a points total that will comfortably secure our place back in the Championship. It’s as simple as that.

If you want to review your own club’s season, get in touch now via editor@scotzine.com

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