MORTON chairman Douglas Rae has slated former Hibernian and Scotland player Garry O’Connor for his lack of fitness and has branded the striker’s role in the Greenock side’s relegation battle as “hopeless”.
O’Connor joined Morton in January after being out of football for a year. As well as two prolific spells with Hibs, he played in the English Premier League with Birmingham City and also scored the winner for Lokomotiv Moscow in the 2007 Russian Cup final.
The centre-forward has scored once in 11 appearances since joining Morton, who will be relegated tomorrow if they fail to beat Livingston.
Rae said: “Our previous manager Allan Moore brought in ten new players at the start of the season and Kenny Shiels brought in a similar number when he started halfway through the season. When you do that you have got a job to make them gel.
“During the transfer window in January you have only got the players no-one else wants or the ones who are creeping back into the game from injury. There is only one window that is worthy of being called a window for signings and that is in the month of July. It is the only one that counts.
“No club is going to give away good players. Unless you are paying money for players, you are only going to get the dregs, as a journalist put it in a magazine I was reading.”
Rae turned his sights on 30- year-old O’Connor by saying: “Have I been disappointed with Garry? Yes, he has been hopeless.
“My view is he has been totally unsatisfactory. He has not been able to get himself back mobile enough to play in the Championship.”
“Garry is only 30 and he has just left himself go. In the time he’s been here he should have been able to get himself back to a level of fitness that, in my view, he doesn’t have.
“He’s been disappointing, he really has. I think he has lost interest in football and if I had been the manager I would have dropped him before he actually was.”
Rae would handle things differently in the future as he explained: “I would have told him if he doesn’t get fit, he doesn’t play. The worst thing you can do to a footballer is to keep him from playing.
“It’s a financial commitment to bring players like Garry to Morton – it is – and that is the sad thing. Players get paid irrespective of how they play.
“That’s something I am addressing. In future what I will be doing is getting a fitness company to take a player and judge him at the beginning.”
“Then if I wasn’t satisfied after say four or five weeks I would send him back to this place to see if his fitness levels had measurably improved. If they hadn’t, then he could be freed.”
After having his fingers burned by big-name signings such as O’Connor and Nacho Novo who was at Cappielow briefly under Moore, Rae insists he will not throw money at trying to get out of League 1 at the first time of asking once the inevitable happens and Morton go down.
Rae added: “We’ll be trying to get back the Championship by the end of next season. I cannot promise that we will but we will certainly be doing everything in our power to get back.
“The one thing I will not be doing is throwing a lot of extra money at it. I’ll be setting a realistic budget based on how many I think we’ll get through the gates and that’s the truth.”
Speaking after he signed in January, O’Connor agreed he needed to work on his fitness but insisted he could play on for another three or four years. “I’ve missed football massively,” O’Connor said in an interview with Scotland on Sunday. “I’ve had a year of moping and getting on the nerves of my missus, a year of trying to get my head right and facing up to the mistakes I’ve made in my life.
“I’m only 30 and I’ve got a good three or four years in me. Look, I need to be fitter but that’s only going to come with playing games. I can get into double figures in the second half of the season, I’m sure I can. But we’ll see. I’ve shown Kenny that I’m hungry to play and that my life has changed and I intend to keep it that way.”