End of an era

Andy Geggan returned to Ayr United on a two-year contract after a five-season stint at Dunfermline Athletic.
The former Dumbarton central midfielder’s passage back to Somerset Park comes as the Honest Men are becoming full-time, even with their relegation to League One.
Geggan had started his professional career with the Sons in the lowest tier of the game in Scotland at that time (Division Three). He was a regular first team member and spent half a decade at the Rock, helping them with promotion and stability in Division Two before Brian Reid brought him to South Ayrshire.
After a season, he swapped the west coast for the east as Ayr tumbled out of their respective division; as did the Pars who entered the second tier with a thud because of a dismal campaign in the Premier League.
At the age of 25, Geggan took his first foray into full-time football at the most trying time for the club. After witnessing the highs of promotion at the expense of Raith Rovers to the lows of immediate relegation with a whimper at Easter Road. Those two seasons were nothing compared to the emotional roller coaster that was to come during his tenure at the club.
Murmurs of financial issues hung in the air from the start of the season. Yet, nothing manifested until October when the staff’s pay was late, and while excuses were made it became a severe issue when next to nothing was paid to the players at the end of December. Administration looked an inevitability at that point, and so it came to be near the end of March.
The Pars had been showing promise in making a swift return to the SPL. Yet, the title aspirations fell away as Partick Thistle got the better of the head-to-head matchup, and results took a dive from mid-January onwards due to – in part – the off-field issues; Dunfermline were top after match day 19.
Dunfermline’s historical status lies below the city teams and those of Kilmarnock and Motherwell. They have the infrastructure and fan base to be a team that shuffles around the bottom half of the Premiership on a regular basis. So, while falling away from a return was disappointing and may have meant lingering in the second tier for a few seasons, what was unthinkable – even in the midst of administration in March – was the steep decline that would show no signs of stopping until May 2015.
Andrew Barrowman, Andy Dowie, Andy Kirk, Joe Cardle, Jordan McMillan, Paul Gallagher, and Stephen Jordan were all made redundant after the 0-2 defeat to Falkirk on March 27.
  • Barrowman was the team’s top goalscorer. 
  • Dowie was the mainstay of the backline.
  • Gallagher was the first choice goalkeeper.
  • McMillan was club captain.
The others that were made redundant had been credible first team members, whether it was for their experience (Kirk and Jordan) or their fan favourite status (Cardle).
If the penalty (15 points) for entering administration was not deducted, the Pars would have finished sixth; two points better than Raith Rovers. Alas, – as it should have and was handed down – it meant Jim Jefferies’ men ended the season in the Division One play-offs; a couple points worse off than Cowdenbeath. The coaching and playing staff only have themselves to blame in the end, seeing as they only needed to defeat long relegated Airdrie United at home to finish eighth on the last day of the season.
While that depleted squad was good enough to stay afloat, it would have been delaying the inevitable bottoming out that was required for the club to rebound. The loss of those experienced heads that were made redundant, and the bad feeling around the club saw them relegated at the expense of a vibrant and confident Alloa Athletic that deserved promotion on the performance of that first leg.
The signings were a sign of not having little money as the club was still in the depths of administration. Players like James Washburn and Jamie Wilson were not known then, and have drifted out the game since. Robert Thomson, was a youngster from Dundee United and was away to Brechin City come the mid-season transfer window. Danny Grainger was not the player he once was. Jonathan Page was passing through on his way to being a capable part-time footballer. Then there was Ross Forbes, who was ineffective due to Jim Jefferies’ infuriating tactics as he was shunted out at right midfield.
There was mixed fortunes in the loan market: Ryan Scully became a figurehead of hope in his two seasons at East End Park, while Jordan Moore and Lawrence Shankland looked prospects as they combined for 12 goals in 29 appearances. Although, Luke Johnson and Ryan Ferguson fell into the anonymous category.
Before a ball was kicked, Dunfermline’s lowest position all season was fifth, due to alphabetical order. Once the action got under way, the Pars never lay outside of the top four, and were comfortable in second after a dozen games. Although, the team finished the campaign with two wins from 10 after going the previous 15 with three defeats. The playoffs were the aim as with Rangers in the division with a budget that dwarfed everyone, they were going to demolish foes on their way to lifting the title. The 1.9375 points per game in matches outside of Rangers would have been enough to win the title the following season. So, it was a good points tally accumulated.
As with the year previous, the playoffs once again began with a ropey away performance to the underdogs. Stranraer edged out the Pars 2-1 with thanks to a late Stevie Bell strike to give it that bit more of a sour taste in the mouth. Yet, they composed themselves at home, and as they did to Forfar, they strolled past them after extra time. Rivals Cowdenbeath awaited the victors in the final as they looked once again to consign misery upon their derby partners. They did that. Dunfermline born, Thomas O’Brien, canceled out Andy Geggan’s effort to leave it poised in the second-leg in his home town. Disappointment did not even cut it as the Blue Brazil were up within a minute as Kane Hemmings capitalised on an unorganised shambles to net within 60 seconds. The misery did not end there as O’Brien scored – as he did in the first-leg – and Greg Stewart would end put the tie beyond doubt to confine Athletic to another season in League One. If Callum Morris was playing instead of being shafted by Jefferies it may have turned out with a different outcome.
Geggan was the Centenary Club Lifeline Player of the Year, and deservingly so, as he finished second to Ryan Wallace in the goalscoring charts.
Having come out of administration in December, and being thankful to still have a club to support. It was expected that the club would be in League One for two seasons. Although, the manner in which the first one ended was dissatisfying. Yet, they had still not hit rock bottom, yet.
Everything was promising going into the season. Greenock Morton had come down, due to being ravaged most weeks in the Championship. The signings looked good such as PFA Scotland (League One) Team of the Year members, Andy Stirling and Michael Moffat. A pair of promising defenders in Gregor Buchanan and Stuart Urquhart. Also, there was an exciting centre forward called Gozie Ugwu. In addition, Ryan Scully, stayed on for another go at promotion as the number one goalkeeper.
Thorough dismantlements of reigning Challenge Cup holders Raith Rovers, and fourth tier, Annan Athletic, in the League Cup continued those good vibes going into the league campaign. Yet, it started with a microcosm of what the whole season would turn out to be, a damp squib. A scoreless draw at home against Brechin was not the outcome nigh on everybody expected when they visited East End Park on August 9, and three defeats in four unsettled the momentum. Although, they recovered to finish out the first quarter of the season at the top of the division. Nevertheless, three wins from the next 10 seen them drift down the table into fourth, and out of the Scottish Cup which would have been lucrative with a fifth round tie against Dundee United. As a result, on December 16, Jim Jefferies, left his post as manager and John Potter took the helm.
It was a sensible move. Potter had taken the U20s to the Youth Cup final and quarter final in successive seasons, and had been viewed for some time as the club’s next manager. Yet, like everything that looked sweet that season, it turned sour.
The signings that came in during his reign were questionable. Jim Patterson could not compete at the level Dunfermline aspired to be at. Swapping Andy Barrowman for Ross Forbes looks a poor bit of business in hindsight, and even the retired centre forward said he was struggling to be as effective as he once was. Forbes has went on to be an influential player for Greenock Morton.
Kyle McAusland looked raw and nervy which was the last two attributes that the Pars defence needed. There was also Paul George, who was as unmemorable a player there has been. David Hopkirk is the last player signed before the Allan Johnston era to still be at the club. The winger was the only shining light in an otherwise dark abyss of mid-season transfers.
Potter failed to win any of his first five games as Dunfermline fell out of the promotion playoffs into the chasing pack. They only briefly recovered before stumbling back into fourth with two wins in three. This was in the lead up to collapsing completely with only three victories in the last 11 matches. This left the Pars in a dismal seventh, 11 points from the playoffs, and 21 points from the desired top spot. The Ton did what the Pars could not: rebound back into the Championship.
Ryan Scully was the player of the season while Andy Geggan could not be accused of not doing his best for the cause. He chipped in with seven goals – tied for second in the team’s scoring charts –showing one aspect of why they failed.
May 8, 2015, will go down as one of the most memorable days in history for the writer. The Tories had won the general election with a majority (not that it would last long), TN10Y had its first podcast, and there was something to discuss with the appointment of Allan Johnston as manager.
Clearing the decks would be putting it lightly, as within a week of taking up the post he made the bold but correct decision of not re-signing a single player that was due to be out of contract. That meant 13 bodies shifting out across England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The key aspect being that every player was leaving to a team in a position that was in a worse off position than Dunfermline to start off with or at least came to be at the end of the following May.
The signings were slow to come in. Around the time of pre-season ending only Jason Talbot, Callum Fordyce, and Ben Richards-Everton had come in. The worry was that there was only one goalkeeper at the club: Cammy Gill, who was 17. Two weeks out from the opening game against Arbroath and the goalkeeper position had not been resolved. Only Michael Paton was added to the ranks.
Alas, the next week would fulfill the fanbase with the confidence and zeal that had been torn asunder over nearly the last half-decade. David Hutton and Sean Murdoch would come vying for the number one shirt. Although, that was small fry until the coup de grâce to any bad feeling around the club. The fan favourite, Joe Cardle, returned to East End Park.
From the off, it was to be an entertaining season as Dunfermline won 4-1, 5-1, 6-1 and 7-1 in succession. This seen them progress through the first round of both the challenge and League Cup. Yet, it came to an aburpt end with a 2-1 defeat at Balmoor. The Pars rebounded to what was their shining moment, and really the pivotal point for the fan base in which direction the club was going. That way was up.
Dundee visited the Kingdom of Fife in buoyant mood. A few months previous, Paul Hartley, had led them to the top half of the Premiership in their first outing back in the top-flight. They were not to have it their own way though, as Faissal El Bakhtaoui opened the scoring before the end of the first third of the half. Three minutes into the final period, the scourge of Kane Hemmings bore through once again, on the ground that he hurt Dunfermline a couple of seasons previous. Both he and Greg Stewart were not to have the last laugh once again, as the valiant defence stifled the Dee, and while they pushed they were picked off twice on the break late on through the French-Morrocan, and Cardle to progress the Fifers into the third round of the League Cup.
Dunfermline would bow out to Dundee United after extra time at Tannadice a month later, but it showed that the squad was on the right track when they were able to go toe-to-toe with Premiership opposition and not look out of place. This point is exemplified when they had Ross County on the ropes in their Scottish Cup encounter, but failed to down them with some lackadaisical finishing.
The Pars seemed to galvanize around Callum Fordyce’s horrific injury in the Ayr United defeat as they went 15 league games unbeaten before succumbing to Airdrieonians.
Ian McCal’s men had started tremendously well and never forfeited the top spot until the end of November. After that Johnston’s side breezed towards the title, and became the first team in either Scotland or England to win their division when it was sealed on March 26, against Brechin. It was a relief to all to return to the second tier after three stressful seasons milling about against part-time outfits.
Geggan, in a role that was familiar to him, had to take over the captaincy after Fordyce’s leg break which ruled him out of the season. He thrived as he was also to pitch in at right back until the arrival of Craig Reid in February due to Ryan Williamson’s lower leg injury, and Shaun Rooney’s distinct lack of form at full back. He also proved a goal threat, especially from set pieces. For the third consecutive season, he had in excessive of four league goals. He was rewarded by his peers as one of the best players in the division in the team of the year. Along with Richards-Everton and Cardle.
The last comment needs to go to El Bakhtaoui as he thrived as the season went on. 30 goals and every single award was bestowed on him for his efforts in what was a real coming out party for the attacker. While it would have been ideal to have played a campaign in the Championship before moving on to pastures new. It is hard to begrudge him his move to Dundee, especially now they are under Neil McCann who knows the ability of the player oh so well.
Lee Ashcroft and Nat Wedderburn came in before pre-season training to replace the outgoing Brad McKay and Josh Falkingham. Long term players such as Ryan Wallace and Shaun Byrne stayed in the division they had gained promotion from.
In the loan market: Gavin Reilly (Hearts), John Herron (Blackpool) and Paul McMullan (Celtic) joined with some excitement, but flattered to deceive, especially in the guise of the Jambo loanee to much disappointment.
After much deliberation and speculation, Faissal El Bakhtaoui, moved to Dundee with Paul Hartley impressed of what he seen first-hand. His replacement came late in the transfer window in the form of Nicky Clark who had moved to Bury earlier in the summer.
The pick of the bunch though was Kallum Higginbotham. In terms of ability he was above the rest of the squad with the ball at his feet.
It started off well with an untidy 4-3 win against Dumbarton that was more convincing than the scoreline suggests. That result may have made the fanbase believe that fourth spot should be a relative doddle. How wrong we were.
Five defeats on the spin ended any chance of the playoffs as the manner of the defeats kept getting worse and worse. Two self-inflicted wounds against Hibernian gifted them the win at Easter Road. Next was Raith Rovers at Stark’s where the Pars failed to trouble a hobbling goalkeeper and were beaten by a couple of goals. A defence cock up allowed Derek Lyle to net the only goal for Queen of the South. There was also having Cammy Bell saving three penalties in a half which will forever live in infamy as Athletic lost 3-1. Finally, was an average Greenock Morton side snatching all three points late at Cappielow.
What followed was another 4-3 win at home. On this occasion versus a St Mirren side that was keeping the bottom spot warm, and the only reason that Dunfermline was not in real trouble. Their first clean sheet resulted because of a draw with Ayr United. A deserved 2-1 defeat to Falkirk rounded out the first quarter of the league.
The problem in the opening nine games was losing too many games and the arse ache in the reverse fixtures was an plenty of draws, five to be precise. Although, there was movement away from the drop, and into the least acceptable position to Pars fans, seventh.
From there on out the Pars lost four in the second half of the campaign (they actually had more defeats in the first 10 matchdays (seven) than they had the rest of the way (five).
Athletic finished in fifth, four points away from the Ton in that last promotion playoff spot. As a result, they ended on a high rather than the downer of likely being eliminated in the quarter-final as Jim Duffy’s men were.
Geggan left at the end of the season on a more lucrative contract on a longer term deal. He had played, and scored the fewest times since his debut outing with the club. Regardless, he helped return Dunfermline to the level of competition that is acceptable, and he should be heralded for his efforts.

You can follow @MichaelWood_SJ on Twitter.


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