The appointment of Peter Grant as Dunfermline boss has raised a few eyebrows.
Recency bias ensures his grim 2020/21 with Alloa Athletic burns bright in the mind of the Pars faithful, finishing bottom of the pile and seven points adrift of safety before leaving the Wasps earlier this month.
‘A team seeking to win promotion from the Championship should not be hiring the man who just got a team relegated from it’ is the tone and tenor of the reaction from many fans, albeit some messages more forcefully worded than that.
However, the Dunfermline hierarchy have no desire to see their team fail and, contrary to suggestions that Grant’s arrival belies a lack of ambition, within the corridors of East End Park they firmly believe he is the man to realise their Premiership aspirations.
Whether that comes to fruition? Time will tell.
Every single managerial appointment is caked in risk from the outset and this one is no different — yet, there is cause for optimism and several compelling reasons why Grant is well placed to win over the naysayers.
Perhaps the most common stick used to beat former manager Stevie Crawford was the perceived lack of style.
The Pars failed to find the net in nine of their final 16 games of last season, while no side in the Championship won fewer matches away from home — a fact largely attributed to an over-cautious tactical approach.
Grant is a complete 180-turn in that regard. For better or worse, he instructs his teams to get the ball down, zip passes to feet and play with an intense, attacking mentality.
That should go down a treat at East End Park.
He is a hands-on coach who likes to get his boots on the grass, so expect him to convey his philosophies quickly.
Of course, playing silky soccer while slipping down the standings will not be accepted, and Grant is acutely aware that he must blend craft with graft, creating a balance of attacking impetus and defensive solidity.
Pedigree and support structure
Alloa aside, Grant’s managerial stints are limited to Norwich City, Scotland under-21s and an interim spell in charge of Fulham — but his overall coaching pedigree is head and shoulders above any other candidate Dunfermline could have reasonably approached.
Although not in the top job, he has been employed by Celtic, West Brom, Bournemouth and West Ham. With that CV, anyone who believes his work on the training ground is anything other than exemplary is negative to a fault.
He will be afforded vital support from Thomas Meggle — part of the club’s German investors DAFC Fussball GmbH — who was formerly sporting director at St Pauli and also managed that club twice on a caretaker basis.
While Meggle is not expected to take that title at Dunfermline, he sits on the board and his input will be key, allowing Grant to manage his time and his priorities.
Force of personality
Anyone who had the pleasure of speaking to Stevie Crawford regularly knows he was fiercely passionate about Dunfermline and the quest to take them back to the Premiership.
However, he was a reserved character and never the most expressive on the touchline.
Peter Grant oozes charisma and has a certain aura when you listen to him talk about football.
He is impossible to ignore on the touchline (just ask SPFL referees) and visibly kicks every ball and leaps for every header as if he were still in the heart of the Celtic midfield.
‘Shouting and balling’ is not the be-all and end-all, but if there is an extra 10 per cent to be gleaned based on pure force of personality, Grant will get it.
Dunfermline will not be a one-man team but the way Grant revitalised O’Hara’s career at Alloa, following forgettable spells at East Fife and Stenhousemuir, was astonishing.
The speedy front-man scored 14 goals in 35 game for the Wasps during the 2019/20 campaign, ultimately proving to be his ticket back to full-time football with the Pars last summer. A career ignited.
Not only can supporters look forward to that partnership being rekindled next term, but it underlines the level of personal improvement Grant’s coaching and man management can spark in a talented youngster.