AFTER months of uncertainty and a summer on the brink, it was really no surprise when Morton’s preparation for the first match of the new season turned into a chaotic shambles yesterday.
Last night, Scottish Football League officials were still involved in frantic efforts to ensure the future of Morton on the eve of the new season, and it will be this morning before the Second Division club can register their players to allow their clash with Stenhousemuir to go ahead this afternoon.
Negotiations were still underway among the club’s administrators, the proposed new owners consortium led by Professor James Picket, and owner Hugh Scott, as the league closed their offices at 5pm last night.
League secretary Peter Donald and his staff stayed on to give all possible help to ensure that the Cappielow club will survive, as all parties worked towards an agreement with the administrator handing out a management contract which would allow the consortium to take charge.
To compound the club’s difficulties, it emerged that assistant manager Dave McPherson might not be able to play today because the club has not received international clearance for his registration from Australia, where he last played with Carlton. That would be a bitter blow for McPherson, who has spent the past fortnight helping manager Peter Cormack put together a team from scratch.
Supporters have also been pitching in at Cappielow, in a bid to get the ground into shape for the big kick-off. If all goes to plan, Morton supporters could be allowed access to their famous "Cowshed" enclosure today, which has been closed for some time because it was in a state of disrepair. Volunteers worked with a construction firm to help build a retaining wall and install a crush barrier.
Supporters who have rallied round since the club was put into the hands of an administrator plan to throw a survival party today, with Professor James Pickett’s consortium hopeful of taking formal charge of the club from Hugh Scott on Monday.
"People thought this game would never come," said 55-year-old former Liverpool and Scotland player Cormack. "It looked as if we were finished and beyond helping. It is the closest Morton has ever been to being lost. But people dug their heels in and here we are."
For Cormack, who yesterday signed former Raith keeper Craig Coyle and striker Sean O’Connor on a month’s loan from Dundee United, the focus has at last returned to football.
Wolverhampton-born O’Connor, 21 on Tuesday, made his debut for United last year. Coyle, 20, has been at Raith for the past few years as understudy to Guido Van De Kamp and Samuel Monin but was released this summer by manager Peter Hetherston.
Today, Cormack’s hastily assembled squad will hope to mark the occasion with a victory.
"We do not just want to survive, we want to win," said Cormack. "We need to have a reasonable side on the pitch."