The club hit a nadir last year with a well meaning but ultimately disastrous board and management Q&A. There were meant to be answers but the session increased agitation. The only moment of levity brought about by MC for the night Dave McIntosh who advised those in attendance to “run like hell, basically” if they heard the fire alarm. You could understand if supporters took that advice with regards to their football club in general.
Since finishing runners-up to Hibs in the Championship the club have placed 8th, 10th (relegated), 2nd, 5th and 7th. This is their fourth season in the third tier. Yet, despite all their suffering, they continue to show up in numbers. More than 5,000 home fans turned up for the clash with rivals Dunfermline, while they regularly attract around 3,800. It's not lost on manager John McGlynn.
“The fans have been fantastic," he said. “Large, large numbers turning up. We have given them something they are quite excited about in terms of the way we play. They want to get Falkirk into the Championship asap. When they have disappointing times they are not happy which is understandable. We are all very, very keen to get out of this league and we want to do that this season. The players have enjoyed playing in front of the crowd. I think it is different to last season. I don't think it was a happy place to play but it's not the case right now.”
On the field there is no question Falkirk are in a better place now than they were last season when they were managed by three different coaches and finished seven points outside of the play-off places. The appointment of McGlynn was a coup. He has won the league twice, while he has a desire to play an expansive style of play. Still, it has not been an overnight success with the team seven points off league leaders Dunfermline Athletic.
The manager admitted to frustration with “opportunities to gain points” on the Pars missed. But a win over Hibs in the League Cup and an excellent performance against Partick Thistle in the SPFL Trust Trophy, the “most complete” of his tenure, to set up Thursday night’s encounter with Dundee has shown the levels the team are capable of reaching. At the same time, making the inconsistency in the league all the more frustrating to fans.
Inconsistent but attacking style
“A little bit inconsistent for our aims,” McGlyn said. We’ve been playing some really good football, the inconsistency means we’ve had some average performances as well, maybe not been as clinical in front of goal as we would have liked. Albeit we are second top goal scorers, we’ve had the most shots in the league, most shots on target so we’re ticking a lot of boxes. Our aim, albeit it was quite a high target, to win the league in the first year, it is still very much there. We obviously need to try and improve in the second half of the season. There is room for improvement and there is time to improve.
“We like to play in an open and attacking game. If you lose the ball then you leave yourself open at times so it does lend itself to that. We need to get that balance right. I think it is just a matter of playing more often and getting used to what we are trying to do. The chances we create, someone could have got themselves 15, 16 goals by now. That is not being unrealistic, that's being completely realistic with the opportunities we have created. As a team I am really pleased with how quickly they have grasped the style of football we wanted to produce, free-flowing, very quick football, passing, moving. What I want to see in a football team. At the same time we need to win football matches so it needs to be something that’s effective as well.”
Off the park concerns
The club have set the target of being back in the Premiership by 2026-27, a target they feel is “eminently achievable” but the importance of promotion this campaign was there to see in a statement updating fans on “the financial challenges facing the club”. Revenue has to be grown by around £600,000 and costs controlled “tightly”. That would still mean the club incurring “an operating loss of c. £400k which needs to be covered, ideally via investment”. The work the fans have been doing via the likes of the Falkirk Supporters’ Society and Patrons’ Group hasn’t gone unnoticed even if the launch of ten-year season tickets at £5,000 a pop with 25 available raising eyebrows.
McGlynn’s focus will be on the pitch. The team have displayed the quality to be able to blow away most teams in the league, both individual and collective. Dundee at home on presents another opportunity to show that against opposition of a higher quality that they face on a weekly basis. But it is against their League One rivals where they will be truly judged and the ability to get out of third tier purgatory.
"Absolutely," McGlynn said when asked if there is more to come from his side. “It’s probably been the toughest League One in a long, long time. It's not an easy league to get out of, you have to have a lot of different characteristics, attributes within your team. We've maybe not hit the heights we have wanted to but it is important you finish the season well. If you do that you've got a right good chance of winning that league. We still have that in front of us to do.”