Jim Duffy is hoping to roll back the years at Cappielow with Morton, finds Anthony Brown
A YEAR ago, if someone had suggested that Morton would be leaving the Championship at the end of the season, it would have been widely anticipated that, after years of knocking on the door, they were set to finally make it back into the Premiership under the charge of the then-burgeoning Allan Moore. Instead, following a truly calamitous campaign, the Greenock club find themselves languishing in the third tier of Scottish football and in need of some serious rejuvenation. The man charged with sparking them back into life is their esteemed former player, Jim Duffy, who was brought from Clyde just after Kenny Shiels had left in the aftermath of relegation.
There are no grand boasts from the 55-year-old about winning League 1, where Dunfermline, runners-up only to Rangers last season, will start as hot favourites. However, as a man who won the PFA Players’ Player of the Year while playing with Morton in the Premier Division in 1985, Duffy knows that the unforeseen malaise which gripped the club last season must be remedied instantly.
“I wasn’t here last year, so I can’t really compare what’s gone on last season with what’s going to happen this season,” said Duffy, who has overseen a major squad overhaul since taking the reins in May. “All I can do is the best I can with the players at my disposal. Pretty much everybody was away by the time I came in. I think there are only five in total still here from last season.
“By and large, I had a blank canvas. That can be a good thing, but it also means you’ve got to piece a new team together in a very short period of time. All the other teams in the division have been together for a season or two and will have a bit of continuity whereas we’re just learning as we piece things together and we won’t know until the season starts whether we’ve got it right.
“The aim is obviously promotion – that’s my remit. But we’re not carrying a big squad, so we’ll need a bit of luck to go our way in terms of keeping people fit and healthy.”
Duffy is confident that, given the level of comings and goings at the club, there will be no hangover from last season. “There are new players and a new management team, so I can only try to control the atmosphere going forward,” he continued. “I want to create a positive atmosphere but ultimately that will come down to whether or not we’re getting results. That’s the case at any club regardless of whether or not they’ve been relegated the season before.”
Despite their diminished status, Duffy still views Morton as a club with big potential. He insists it was their ambition that lured him back rather than any emotional attachment to a club he last worked for 30 years ago. “The fact I’d played for Morton before didn’t really come into my thinking. That was another lifetime ago really,” he said. “I knew the club and the history, but the biggest draw for me was simply that I want to manage a progressive and ambitious club. They have the potential to be a bigger club and I hope to kick-start that movement forward.
“We are where we are because we deserve to be there, but this is a club with a real good core of supporters and the potential to bring back supporters. There are a lot of supporters who will have become disenchanted so we can only try to gradually improve the team and hopefully bring [them] back. A healthy Morton would bring a good number of supporters home and away.
“Dunfermline are very similar in that regard, so there are two big clubs in this division. There are also a lot of good well-run clubs who will be determined to get up.
“I would think Dunfermline are the favourites. They finished second last year and made it to the play-offs. They’ve signed a couple of good players, particularly Michael Moffat [from Ayr], so they’ll be expecting to go one better this season.
“I can understand why most people would look at them as the team to beat but there’ll be a few teams in this division who will do well. Peterhead will be one of them because any team with Rory McAllister in it is going to be up the top end of the table.”