JIM JEFFERIES insists he is leaving Dunfermline Athletic in “good hands” after the club confirmed first-team coach John Potter and assistant Neil McCann will take the reins for the remainder of the current campaign.
Jefferies, who quit yesterday morning, was expected to leave the Pars at the end of the season but brought forward his departure after a disappointing run of results left them sitting fourth in League 1 and out of the Scottish Cup.
The former Hearts, Falkirk, Kilmarnock and Bradford City manager helped to steer the Fife club through administration, which ended almost exactly 12 months ago, and was praised in the statement released by directors for his role in saving the club from extinction.
It said: “The board wish to place on record once again their extreme gratitude to Jim Jefferies for everything that he has done for our club over the last couple of seasons.
“There is no doubt that many other managers might have walked away from our club, faced with the difficulties in front of him. Jim’s influence, experience, dignity and leadership were an integral part of the efforts to save our beloved club from insolvency.
“We ask all Pars fans to remember this as Jim’s legacy, and he will, of course, always be welcome at East End Park.”
However, the statement added: “The current season is pivotal to the long-term survival and sustainability of our club as a full-time team, so the board felt action had to be taken to improve our immediate league position, and in turn increase our chances of promotion to the Championship.”
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Jefferies talked yesterday of the time being right for the players to hear a “new voice” in the dressing room and Potter, who led the club’s under-20s to the SFA Youth Cup final 18 months ago, has been groomed for some time for the step up he is now making slightly earlier than anticipated.
However, the departing veteran is convinced his successors can, with the support of the fans, still lead the club back to the second tier.
Jefferies said: “I hope the fans get behind the players and John and Neil, and there might be a wee bit more leeway because there’s been a change.
“They’ve got to be fair and get behind the players because I believe they’re still good enough to win promotion.
“I’ve told the players their season starts on Saturday. They’re playing probably the best game they could get, in Stranraer, and if they beat them they’ll go into at least the top three, depending on results. Let’s make it a clean start on Saturday and get a win. If they can get the win that will give them a wee boost going into the next few games.
“John has experience of playing for a long time. It’s his first managerial role and Neil will assist him, and Neil has played at a high level. They’re in good hands and I just hope they go and do it.”
While Jefferies remains open to remaining in the game that has been his life for nearly 50 years, he is adamant he will not return to the dugout again after a managerial career that began at Gala Fairydean and took him twice to his beloved Hearts. He added: “I’ve had a fantastic run at management and I’ve had good, long spells at football clubs, apart from two short ones at Bradford and at Hearts the second time – although I was one of the longest-serving managers at Hearts at that time.
“This was always going to be my last season – in management, in the dugout. If anything comes up that interests me in any way in football matters I would consider it, but not in management – I’ve had enough.”
Jefferies admitted yesterday that he was disappointed he wasn’t leaving East End Park on a high but said he has loved his last job in management. “I’ve not left because of the reaction to the defeats,” he explained. “Criticism, to me, is like water off a duck’s back, because I’ve had it for that long!
“I’ve not done it for that reason. The fans have been fantastic to me at this club. I think they’ve appreciated what we’ve gone through and sticking with them.
“At times, I could have asked myself ‘what’s going on here?’ and I think that’s what the club and the directors have appreciated. I’ve helped them through a tough time.
“For all the hassle, I’ve enjoyed my time at Dunfermline. Sometimes I could see it far enough and it’s a 24-hour-day job, so you have to deal with that. It’s hard.
“I’ve said to the players, and it’s probably why I’ve stayed, that I’ve had a lot of joy coming into training because of the way they’ve gone about it. They’re enthusiastic and want to do well.”
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