AN EMOTIONAL Jim Leishman yesterday hailed Dunfermline’s escape from liquidation as “a new era” for the Fife club.
While not denying that more testing times lie ahead, the honorary director was relieved that a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) had been reached, and expressed his thanks to all those who had worked to keep Dunfermline alive.
“When I’m asked about today I can feel the tears welling up,” Leishman said on hearing the news that administrators BDO had had a CVA approved by the club’s creditors. “It is a new era and quite emotional actually. It has been tough when you know the people involved – the staff become your friends and the supporters become your friends.
“From Marvin Stewart in the club shop raising over £10,000 to the young boy who went on the park recently and said: ‘Sorry I can’t give more, but my dad has just lost his job’, before handing over two £5 notes from his paper round. You read the letters from people saying they wish they could donate more – but all those pennies added up to thousands of pounds. They deserve all the credit.
“The boys on the strategy board – now the interim board – have been incredible. They have not missed a meeting. They have gone to all the fund-raising events and, when the backs were against the wall, the true character of people has come out.”
Leishman will continue with a place on the new interim board at the club, having been invited to do so by prospective new owners Pars United.
“I am on the interim board, but, first and foremost, I just want to go and support the team I love,” he said. “That was the objective. Jim Leishman is not important in all of this. I have had my time as a player and as a manager – great times. I have had my time as a supporter – great times. I have enjoyed all the great times at Dunfermline, played with some of the greatest players like Alex Edwards, Roy Barry, Bert Paton – I have had the privilege of being on the park with these men.
“But if I am asked [to be part of the board] then I am here. No matter what, there is a future for Jim Leishman at this football club as a supporter. We have a club to support and that is the most important thing. The young fans, who have missed out on the Sixties, the European games and the young fans who have not seen us win a cup final – they are the most important thing.
“This has been the most emotional time – I’m not talking about playing games or scoring goals – of my career as a Dunfermline player, supporter or manager. I have never experienced the club in this position. It will be a hard time. Football-wise it is going to be very difficult. We have an experienced manager, but it could be three or four years before we are back where we belong.”
Although characteristically upbeat, during the past weeks and months Leishman admitted to experiencing a sense of trepidation regarding the club’s future. However, he expressed the conviction that those now charged with returning the club to an even keel would learn from the mistakes that led to the current situation.
“There were loads of times I faced up to the fact there may be no Dunfermline. There were times we said: ‘Where is this money coming from? How can we get there?’
“Initially that was to just get the football club, then it was for the stadium too. There has been so much emotion. There are folk who haven’t been home! People have done fund-raising every single day. I hope we are never here again. That is what the new interim board need to make sure never happens.
“It is a challenge going forward, but I cannot emphasise how good the supporters have been. The fans have been fantastic. It has been a privilege to be part of this. We are delighted to be able to take this forward – but the hard work is ahead.”
Dunfermline manager Jim Jefferies has also pledged to remain at the club for as long as needed.
“I’m more motivated for this challenge than any other in my career,” the 62-year-old said. “It’s a massive cloud lifted. As today got nearer and nearer, everyone was hearing different things. Liquidation was mentioned as a distinct possibility if this didn’t go ahead. But they were always hopeful. It will be a long, hard struggle and we’ll try and do that in the right way and learn lessons from years when too much money was spent for short-term gain.”
With the club’s future now more secure, the former Hearts and Bradford City manager is looking forward to working with the club’s young players. He is under no illusions as to the uphill nature of the task facing him – the club are restricted to signing only players under the age of 21 – but believes he has the necessary tools with which to succeed.
“We want to get a foundation here,” he added. “We started it last season with the youngsters so hopefully now we can go forward. If the fans see the team fighting for the cause as well as they have off the pitch, we’ll all pull together. I think when you bring a lot of young players through it would have been wrong to walk away. I’m looking forward to it. It’s great to come in here. It’s one of the best jobs I’ve had in terms of people at a club. There’s no interference here – and as long as I’m able to run the team there’s an opportunity for the club to move forward.
“Now we don’t have this thing hanging over us – will we be here or not? The restrictions are still on us until the end of the year. We’ll try and get there still in with a shout. I think there are great times ahead for Dunfermline. Now this day is over, I think everyone will be buzzing.”