Blast from Jimmy Nicholl still guides new Dunfermline boss Stevie Crawford
The former Pars striker was handed the reins of his hometown team when he stepped up from his reserve manager’s role to become head coach in the wake of Allan Johnston’s sacking last week.
The 45-year-old suffered defeat in his first match in charge at the weekend, when the Fifers lost 1-0 to Dundee United at Tannadice, the goal ironically scored by Nicky Clark, the ex-Dunfermline marksman whose dad Sandy had been axed as Johnston’s assistant only days earlier.
Crawford’s popular appointment, and that of No 2 Greg Shields, who has returned to his old club following nine years in the United States, was never seen as a short-term fix by a Pars board growing increasingly concerned by the team’s lowly seventh place in the Championship table.
However, as he now bids to put his own stamp on the East End Park dugout, Crawford has already set aside the modern-day laptop approach to pass on a valuable lesson learned from Jimmy Nicholl, pictured, his manager as a player at Raith Rovers.
“On Fridays, we usually do some video analysis,” explained Crawford, who also cited Alex Smith as a massive influence. “I came in after training, Shieldsy did his wee bit then I put the laptop down and went to start to show them the clips we had put together.
“But it didn’t feel right at that moment so I slapped the laptop shut and told them a story about Jimmy Nic instead.
“We were playing down at Morton and I wasn’t starting. I’d been in the team for weeks and I’d have been about 19. I had the petted lip. I went home on the Friday telling my parents I wasn’t playing, and all I was thinking about was myself.
“I thought it was rubbish, my head was gone. Ten minutes into the game a boy got injured and I was on. I was absolutely hopeless – mentally weak, physically I wasn’t right. I couldn’t run about.
“Jimmy took me off after about 80 minutes, so I had the embarrassment of that. I was a hindrance to the team.
“When we got back to Fife, he was like ‘car – now!’. He bought me a pint and told me in no uncertain terms he couldn’t wait until Monday and not to ever let that happen again.
“The negativity in me was rubbish and he flipped it so I was embarrassed with myself.
“I probably had a bigger sweat on telling the boys that story. But the passion just came to me, it was off the cuff. They hadn’t seen me like that since I’d come into the role.
“Jimmy was a massive influence in my playing career and he also instilled in me the coaching. He made me a coach as I was playing. The test is now can you use it? I’m not saying it’s going to make me unbelievable, or that I’ll fail. But it’s made me humble to try to put these bits and pieces from my managers and also have my own mark.”
Crawford has built up plenty of coaching experience in recent years with backroom roles at Falkirk, Hearts and MK Dons, but the former Raith, Hibs, Aberdeen and Scotland marksman’s year-long spell in charge of East Fife remains uppermost in his mind.
“My stint at East Fife as player-manager was a great experience,” he added. “But the one thing I didn’t do was speak to anyone. I didn’t speak to experienced guys who had maybe been through the problems I was facing. I was seeing it from a player’s perspective and I became frustrated in it. For about four weeks I wasn’t enjoying it.
“Instead of speaking to someone who could calm me down, I went in after the home defeat by Forfar and emotion overtook me in the manager’s office. I broke down and said I wasn’t enjoying it and I put my hand out to the chairman [and resigned] on the Monday.
“But how my mind is working now compared to then is totally different. That’s because I’ve immersed myself with good, honest football people who have a love of the game and I’ve learned from them.”