I never thought that the first article I would be posting on this blog was a reaction to the team I support sacking their manager, however, I can’t pretend to be disappointed.
Allan Johnston was appointed Dunfermline boss on the 8th of May 2015, after the Pars had finished a very disappointing 7th place in league one the season prior. He took over a club desperate to return to the championship in what was their third consecutive season in the third tier of Scottish football. Johnston’s debut season was a joy to behold for Pars fans. He brought fans favourite, Joe Cardle, back to East End Park and made a number of smart signings to help fire the Pars to promotion, along with getting the best out of the front two of Michael Moffat and now cult hero Faissal El Bahktoaui who went on to notch 30 goals for the Pars in Johnston’s first season. More on him later. The 2015/2016 season will live long in the memories as the Pars won the league at a canter.
Johnston’s main target in the following season was to consolidate in the championship, an expectation shared by the board and fans a like and that’s exactly what was achieved as the Pars finished 5th. However it wasn’t all plain sailing. Johnston had publicly stated that his aim for the season was to reach the playoffs and after a very poor start to the season pressure had started to mount on AJ from certain sections of the Pars support, but to his credit he overcame a bad start to the season to end up with a respectable league finish. Their was a similar theme to AJ’s third season in charge as once again before the turn of the year the Pars gaffer found himself under all sorts of pressure. A particular low point came after a 5-2 home defeat to Queen of the South and it seemed at that point that a lot of supporters wanted rid of the manager. However yet again Johnston managed to turn things around after some smart January signings helped send the Pars into the playoffs. The playoffs ultimately ended in failure but AJ had now done what was expected of him for the third year on the trot, but despite this it was clear that there was some division in the fan base towards the manager.
After an up and down but ultimately satisfactory 3 seasons at the helm, the current season saw Johnston embark on his fourth as Pars boss and it seemed pretty clear that the expectation from the supporters was that Dunfermline should be challenging right at the top of the Scottish championship. A difficult start to the transfer window for AJ had some Pars fans fearing the worst as he lost several key players. The likes of Fraser Aird, Callum Morris, Declan McManus and Nicky clark, who were all vital in the previous season’s playoff push had left to join championship rivals. However a decent league cup campaign including a win away to premiership Dundee, as well as the return to the club of the Pars favourite goal scoring Moroccan, Faissal El Bahktaoui seemed to ease the early concerns. The Pars got the league season off to a flyer as they secured a 3-2 win away to early season title rivals Dundee United and there was really feeling of optimism towards the league campaign. However it has been pretty much all downhill since then.
Since the delight of the opening day its been a bit of a horror show for the Pars. Humbling defeats from the likes of Inverness, Ross County and Ayr. New signings not performing. Injuries to key players. Poor tactics. Horrendous game management. Anger turned to apathy from the supporters. There has been a sense of acceptance almost from the majority of Pars supporters for some time that Allan Johnston wasn’t going to be the man to lead the Dunfermline to the premiership and perhaps he had taken us as far as he could. Even after wins it has felt a lot like papering over the very obvious cracks. Damaging defeats to bottom of the league Falkirk at home and away to then bottom of the league Partick Thistle seemed like the last straw for almost every Pars fan. However the board stood by their man and the Pars headed in to the new year in relatively decent form after a convincing victory away to arch rivals Falkirk and it seemed like AJ was here to stay for the time being. However fast forward to the next game at home to Alloa and Dunfermline surrender a 2 goal half time lead as they draw 2-2 with the league’s only part time side in what would end up being Allan Johnston’s last game as Dunfermline manager.
The announcement that Allan Johnston has left Dunfermline Athletic is not surprising in itself, as I said it has seemed inevitable for a while now that he was not going to be the man to lead Dunfermline to the top flight of Scottish football. However the timing of the announcement is what has taken people by surprise and there are still a lot questions unanswered that I’m sure will be cleared up in the coming days. One thing is for sure though, the majority of Dunfermline fans (myself included) will be happy with the news and there will be a renewed sense of optimism and excitement in the coming weeks as we wait to see what direction the club go in.
It certainly will be weird not to hear cries of “Johnston get the subs oan!” in the coming weeks!
Thanks for everything AJ.