Greg Shields is adamant St Johnstone must be the benchmark for Dunfermline Athletic as he welcomed the dawning of a new era at East End Park.
The Pars first-team coach has hailed the news that German investors DAFC Fussball GmbH have agreed an ‘in principle deal’ to purchase a majority shareholding in the Fife club.
The impending injection of capital and expertise will allow Dunfermline to build their own training ground, create an academy pathway for young players and improve the recruitment process.
As such, Shields — who was part of Stevie Crawford’s backroom team last season — had no hesitation when new manager Peter Grant asked him to remain with the club to assist him.
And he reckons, in the fullness of time, Dunfermline can replicate the sustained success of sides such as the double-winning Perth Saints, who are managed by former Pars coach Callum Davidson.
“You just need to look at how well St Johnstone have done,” said Shields.
“They’ve maintained their Premiership status for a lot of years now.
“Callum (Davidson) has gone in there, they’ve played to a structure, a style and a system and done brilliantly.
“The players have bought into that and they’ve won two trophies.
“Dunfermline are as big a club as St Johnstone — well, I think they’re bigger than St Johnstone.
“It’s about getting on a roll, getting the players believing in a system and a style, and being a bit lucky at times as well.
“I see the direction this club is going in and it’s clear it has big plans. A new training ground has been a long time coming and I hope that happens pretty soon.
“The academy structure below that is key, too, in terms of getting players into the first-team, making them part of a successful side and then selling them on. Those are really important factors.
“The ambition we have shown and the manner of the reconstruction has been really positive.”
Hampden heartbreak treble
Such lofty aspirations do not seem like a pipe dream for Shields.
He was a stalwart of the Dunfermline squad that reached three Hampden finals in three years — losing to Celtic in the Scottish Cup twice (2004 and 2007) and once in the League Cup (2006) — and believes the Pars can return to that stage.
“The first priority is to win the Championship but, having been part of that success in the past and going to cup finals, with 19,000, 20,000 fans at Hampden; those are the moments we want to get back.
“It’s small steps but with a little bit of belief, trust and confidence in how we coach, you’ll probably see a different Dunfermline next season.”
That self-assurance stems from a pre-existing admiration for Grant, allied with a bombastic first official meeting with the new Pars boss.
“When Peter got the job and Ross (McArthur, chairman) called me up to meet him, I was probably in there for three hours talking to him,” laughed Shields. “And after 90 minutes, I wanted to put my boots on and play for him!
“Coaching against him when he was at Alloa, he showed passion and enthusiasm, and his sides never struggled to play exciting football, so I’m really looking forward to that aspect of things.”
Meanwhile, Shields has urged supporters not to be concerned by the club’s lack of activity in the transfer market — they are yet to make a signing this summer — and believes this is indicative of the quality already under contract on the Halbeath Road.
“We played a lot of good stuff last season so the pieces are there,” he added. “It’s just about getting the consistency levels.
“Yes, we need to add but it’s adding the right players into the system that the manager want to play.”