THE last Morton manager to win a league now stands between the Greenock side and their first title success since 2007. Jim McInally guided the Cappielow men to the Second Division title eight years ago and today his Peterhead side could deny two old friends some glory.
McInally is determined that his team end their season on a win even though it will disappoint his one-time Celtic colleague Jim Duffy and Morton chairman Douglas Rae. However, he is just as determined to put the record straight about Rae, who was recently heavily criticised by McInally’s replacement David Irons.
They will know that they cannot just turn up and win as Jim will not let them think that.Jim McInally
The Balmoor boss said: “I watched the coverage of Morton’s game at Stranraer last Saturday and there were a lot of nerves.
“There will be a lot of nerves at this game as well as there is an element of expectation in the Morton support about winning the title being the only thing that is acceptable.”
“Eight years ago we actually won the league despite losing 2-0 at Raith Rovers. We did it with a couple of games to spare but this is different. It has the feel of a much more one-off situation.”
Knowing Duffy as he does McInally is sure the Morton players will be fully focused on getting the win that will keep them ahead of Forfar and Stranraer. He explained: “They will know that they cannot just turn up and win as Jim will not let them think that.
“When I heard Declan McManus say after the Stranraer game that Peterhead are a hard team, who will get our full respect, I knew that Jim has got his message through.”
“I was a kid at Celtic when Jim was there and he was someone that I looked up to. We have remained friendly and he has done well in rebuilding the Morton team. Also Peterhead won League 2 at Clyde last season when Jim was there so he will be out to even the scores.”
As well as potentially disappointing Duffy, McInally knows that a win could upset the 83-year-old chairman of Morton, to whom he has remained close since he left just ten months after his title success.
McInally paints a different picture of Rae to the one portrayed by Irons, who criticised him recently claiming that Morton “wasn’t an enjoyable club to work for” and “I didn’t want him picking my team”.
“I have a lot of time for Douglas as he is just steeped in the club,” said McInally before adding: “He has had a couple of disappointing years and deserves a break but he didn’t pick my team.
“I cannot remember Allan Moore and Kenny Shiels complaining about that either. If I had allowed him to interfere I would have been making half a dozen changes every week.
“Some people think that it is strange that he comes into the dressing room but he has put a lot into the club and is entitled to his say. The criticism from David was unfair and not true in my experience.”
There was not always harmony either, with McInally advising: “I was not long there and we had drawn 1-1 at Stirling Albion. The chairman came in and told the players it was the worst performance he had seen from a Morton team.
“I went after him and reminded him of the 4-1 home defeat a promotion-chasing Morton team had suffered from a bottom-of-the-table Stenhousemuir side at the end of the previous season. I don’t know if he liked my doing that or not but it cleared the air. There was never a negative comment like that again.”
There were other disagreements but they were healthy ones. McInally added: “I had decided to move on Alex Williams and the Maisano brothers, John and Marco.
“Douglas was certainly up for the debate about letting John go as he thought he was a wizard. I told him that I thought we could do better and he eventually accepted it.
“We went into the boardroom and the late and great Arthur Montford said: ‘Mr Chairman, you cannot allow John to leave’ and Douglas just said to him ‘Jim is the manager and if that is what he believes to be for the best I support him’.
“He would argue in a one-to-one situation and then back you in a group environment.
“Working with Douglas was great for me and he was a friend when I was there and remains a friend now.”
There will be no weakened effort by Peterhead today for old times’ sake. McInally said: “The only ideal scenario I am looking at is a Peterhead win. I only have their interests at heart and a couple of weeks ago we scuppered Forfar at the top of the league and now we could scupper Morton.”