DUNFERMLINE manager Jim Jefferies admits his side will go into tonight’s derby with Falkirk with their minds “scrambled” by the news that an administrator had been appointed.
But he believes it is “amazing” the club even has a first-team squad willing to turn out following months of financial problems that have left some unable to pay for the petrol needed to drive to training.
Jefferies emerged from yesterday’s meeting with club figurehead Jim Leishman and PFA Scotland trio Fraser Wishart, Jack Ross and Stuart Lovell wearing the stunned look of someone still trying to contemplate the possible repercussions of the last-ditch move to avoid almost certain liquidation. The uncertainty that has surrounded the Fifers’ future since wages went unpaid in October has now been replaced by the unpredictability of administrator Bryan Jackson and the cost-cutting measures he will now have to employ.
“I can’t answer that,” admitted Jefferies when asked whether he was more optimistic following yesterday’s turn of events. “I don’t think anyone can until the administrator comes in. “We’ve heard he is a decent guy but he still has a job to do. And people have to accept that he may be ruthless. Right now we’re all in the dark.
“How do you know how the players will feel? They won’t do anything intentionally but their minds are totally scrambled right now.
“We’re going into a game and it might be better if we didn’t have one. But that’s what we have to deal with.”
The players will at least go into this evening’s match on the back of a financial boost of sorts after it was revealed that £9,000 raised in bucket collections at the recent matches against Raith Rovers and Dumbarton, and at under-20 matches, had been distributed yesterday to make up for part of the shortfall in February’s salaries.
Jefferies insisted the fans’ support was massively appreciated by players whose professionalism through some dark days had shown them in a good light.
Reflecting on months of reduced wagesd, Jefferies added: “The players were struggling financially, they were struggling to get in for training... struggling to meet their costs. It’s amazing they’re still here, it’s amazing they’re still in that dressing-room, sticking together, because a lot of them could have taken legal advice from the PFA and probably had a good case for the club breaching their contract and they could have walked.
“But they’ve stuck together and the fans have appreciated that, and rallied round.What came in on Saturday from donations from supporters and that sort of thing has been divided up on a percentage basis. That’s a fantastic thing for the supporters to do and well appreciated by the boys.
“That’s why I’ve said to the players to go out and do their best for them, because if they’re prepared to do that they deserve some sort of reward.”
Jordan McMillan vividly recalls the trauma endured by his former Rangers team-mates as the Ibrox club suffered a harrowing descent into administration just 13 months ago.
Now the Dunfermline captain is living that very nightmare as the stricken East End Park outfit face up to a battle for survival which is likely to include swathing cutbacks and a host of redundancies.
McMillan could have been forgiven for feeling he had dodged the bullet after leaving Rangers, his boyhood heroes, just a fortnight before the club entered administration.
“I still have a lot of friends there,” said the defender. “I know how difficult those weeks and months were for the boys.
“Ross Perry, Kyle Hutton, even the experienced boys like Lee McCulloch and Lee Wallace who played ahead of me and I looked up to, were all there at that time and had to fight through this situation.
“I made a point of not asking the lads all the details of what was going on because you could tell how tough a time it was and, in the end, it is a personal thing for the boys, when they are talking about deferring wages and the survival of the football club.
“As a friend, it was more my place to tell them that I was there for them and that I hope they got through it all OK. Now it looks like I am in the same position.”
With redundancies possible, it has been mooted that the players have taken the idea of wage deferrals under consideration in a bid to keep the group together
“Redundancies are the hardest part, boys are possibly going to be laid off and that is horrible in any walk of life,” said McMillan, captaining the club in a hugely testing situation at just 24.
“We will do everything we can to stave that off and we will be looking to speak to the administrators. I don’t know the ins and outs of it, but if there is anything we can do to avoid redundancies we will do that.
“It’s a terrible waiting game until we get the chance to talk to administrators.”
McMillan concedes, with some “embarrassment”, that after five successive months of wage delays, crisis situations have become the norm at the Fife club – albeit yesterday’s announcement was a new zenith.
“After four or five months it is as if I am used to it,” continued the former Rangers youth. “That is really embarrassing to say. I just want an end to it, as do the rest of the boys in this group.
“The hope needs to be, whatever happens in the next few weeks, that the club will survive in some form. Nobody wants liquidation but, if there is going to be any similarities with Rangers, then hopefully it will be that a club the size of Dunfermline can never really go to the wall. It will always come back.”