It’s been a rather quiet transfer window for Greenock Morton, as they prepare for life back in the Championship.
Jim Duffy has acquired two new faces ahead of what could be a long, difficult season. Ex-Livingston and East Fife midfielder Bobby Barr joined the club after his contract expired from League One side, Brechin City. In addition to this, the Morton manager agreed terms with Stranraer captain, Frank McKeown, who also joined the club on a free transfer.
Speaking exclusively to Scotzine, the fire-fighter expressed his delight at joining Greenock Morton.
He said: “I spoke to the gaffer about two weeks before I signed. I met him for a coffee and we spoke about the possibility of me going full-time. However, I would have to look into the situation with the fire service and see if it was even possible. I had a few days holiday in between so it probably slowed things down but we eventually got there and I was delighted to sign.”
After an impressive season with the ‘Ton’s closest challengers last season, Stranraer, interest for the central defender was high, including fellow Championship side Alloa. However, as soon as Jim Duffy came calling, McKeown knew it was time for his four-year stay at Stair Park to come to an end.
He added: “I had an offer to have a fifth season at Stranraer where I loved my time there, and was obviously captain. I also had an offer from Danny Lennon at Alloa too. But when Morton came around there was only one option for me, to be honest.
“I loved my time at Stranraer. It’s a great club however I think it was the right time to move on when Morton came calling. I could’ve left every year in previous years, and gone to a higher league, but I decided against it so I knew this was the right move when it came. I had four great years there and will leave with some happy memories.”
As McKeown continued to speak, he had nothing but praise for manager Jim Duffy who, along with the Greenock Morton fans, helped his decision to join the club all the more easier.
He explained: “When the gaffer spoke to me, he sold me on how he likes to play football and how he seen Morton in the Championship next year. He talks a lot of football sense and has been around the game for years so knows it inside out. And with him being a central defender in his day, I’m hoping he can improve me too. The club speak for itself though. Such a massive club with a massive fan base and that’s what sold me on the club!”
It was a special season for Morton last year, as they secured their return to the Championship at the first time of asking under the helm of Jim Duffy. In an exciting League One title race between Morton, Forfar and McKeown’s Stranraer, it would be the Greenock side who would reach the summit come the end of the season.
McKeown spoke highly of the Morton side that pipped his Stranraer squad to the title.
He admitted: “They had a very good squad last year which showed with them winning the league.
“The team who are top of the league always deserve it no matter what and Morton did great last year. It’s now good to be a part of that team! The fans I remember being very vocal and hostile to opposing teams so I’m now glad they will be supporting me this year instead of against me.”
Now, the Morton fans can prepare for two trips to Ibrox and Easter Road next season, as well as the return of the highly anticipated Renfrewshire Derby. And McKeown admitted it isn’t just the fans who are excited about the derby games.
“I can’t wait to play St Mirren.” explained McKeown. “I still have very good friends there who I know from my time as a youngster there. I was at St Mirren for about four years as a kid and also did a bit of coaching with them too.
“Believe it or not, I actually took one of their players Stevie Mallan for his first ever training session as a five-year old. He’s turned into an exciting young player! However, I will be looking to get one over him when we meet as I know how important it is to the fans.”
As well as two exciting trips to St.Mirren Park, McKeown is also excited at the prospect of taking on Rangers again.
He said: “I played Rangers four times before when they were in League 1, and it was a great experience. We actually drew with them at Ibrox to stop their 21 winning game streak. That was a nice memory. However I’m not done yet and would love to create more memories this year with Morton.
“I think if we are realistic the Championship is split into two mini leagues. The 2/3 clubs who fancy winning the league, then the rest will be challenging to finish as high as possible. I would love to grab that fourth play-off spot but it will be a very tough ask in our first season in the league. You never know though.”
Morton’s defence came under quite a bit of scrutiny last season, but hopefully with the addition of Frank McKeown, Morton will be ready for what the Championship has to throw at them.