Crawford out to fill Potts’s bootsFriday, 29th Jun 2018
“When you look at it from afar it took a club like Sunderland to take John away from Dunfermline
Stevie Crawford is delighted to be back at East End Park, he doesn’t know how long he is there for now he will put all his efforts into filling the place caused by John Potter’s sudden departure. Speaking exclusively to this website Stevie said:-
“It came to a head towards the end of last week when it became clear that Potts had accepted the opportunity to go to Sunderland. I spoke to the Chairman on Friday and had a good lengthy chat. It was my first time meeting Ross.
“I was out of work and he asked me if I could come in to replace John, whether it is short term or longer term I don’t know. I was delighted to be given the opportunity to come in. He needed somebody in on Monday to help Allan and Sandy and I said definitely I would come in and try and fill John’s shoes.
“I know John personally, I know him as a friend as we played together at Dunfermline. I regard him as a close friend and I have watched him at other clubs that I have been with - his manner, the way he goes about his job, the way he treats the kids and the players.
“He can handle a first team environment as well. John knows what makes people tick and has a good eye for knowing when somebody is going through a hard time and that they are human beings at the end of the day.
“Yes, they are paid to play football, young boys are here to try and progress into the first team, break in and try to get a full time contract, but I just think the way he goes about his job deserved him a move.
“I don’t think anybody who knows him would begrudge him the chance of going to a club the size of Sunderland. When you look at it from afar it took a club like Sunderland to take John away from Dunfermline. That shows how much he feels about the club.
“I know from the conversation that I had once I had agreed with Ross that I was going to come in, one of John’s biggest concerns was that he was leaving the younger boys. I am not joking, he has text me every night to ask how they are doing.
“That is just him but life goes on. I have spoken to the boys since I came in. We will see how long I am here for but as long as I’m here it is my responsibility now to try and take over from John and progress you as players to give you the opportunity to break into Dunfermline’s first team.”
Stevie has now been coaching for nine or ten years, considering himself lucky to work under experienced mentors like Alex Smith and Craig Levein. He added:-
“Sometimes coaching is not just about picking a team on a Saturday. It is when you are the manager because at the end of the day your results are dependent on it. But in other roles when I was at Hearts and Falkirk, for all my sins, the enjoyment came from the young squad. That meant that players who were getting an opportunity were sixteen or seventeen.
“You have to look out for their well being because if a sixteen or seventeen year old boy is getting picked, and it will be the same here, you are expected to win games of football or you are expected to win more games than you lose.
“When that pressure goes on kids and young men, you have to keep and eye on that during the working week and see that they are not getting down and not enjoying life.
“Hopefully now I can bring my experience gained from the likes of Alex and Craig to my coaching especially in this type of role. It is going to be a reserve league next year and I have to get them to understand that when you get to that first team, three points are the most important thing. Sometimes it is not just about your performance, it is about finding a way to win a game of football.
“I need to educate them on the way that Allan wants his team to play. Speaking to Allan already there could be a freedom for me to try different formations out but then my responsibility is to try and mirror image how Allan is playing.
“If Allan’s formation changes through the season then likewise I will do that because if these kids are realistically going to have a chance I want to be asking them similar things to how Allan and Sandy are wanting of them if they go into the first team.
“It is a responsible role, different from when I played where I liked to have a laugh at times but also when you cross the white line the serious head comes on. I always remember the two Jimmies when I played here, that was their motto - enjoy your time off the park but also when you step on you have a responsibility to the club.”
Stevie described the young boys that he has worked with this week as “different class”. He recognises that the departure of John Potter will come as a shock to them and their families. Potts will have discussed what Dunfermline can offer but then due to circumstances, he ends up moving on. Stevie identified that his first job is to get their trust and then start developing on the football side.
Pars assistant manager Sandy Clark was Stevie’s coach at Dunfermline and Aberdeen. He commented:-
“What you see is what you get with Sandy. He was great with me when I played here so it is not as though I am coming into an unknown environment.
“Allan and I played together in the under 21 squad, I have also played against Allan and it is not as if I am coming in to work alongside guys that I don’t know. I think that looking from the outside looking in Sandy and Allan will take the first team and it’s my responsibility to look after the younger players.”
Preparation for first day at training involved a Sunday appointment with kitman Mo Hutton, someone who was around when Stevie was a player. Then when donning the coaching gear to start on Monday, Stevie said:-
“Even though it was coaches’ colours it felt right. It is weird to say that, I’m not saying it is coming home but it makes you think how fortunate I was to play for the club. It is still a bit of a bugbear that we never actually won anything in that spell and although we got close a couple of times it was good memories.
“What you are now trying to create is those times when we were in the Premier and challenging for third or fourth place. It is not about me. I am a Dunfermline boy and I got released so I understand what it means but these kids coming in will be excited, they will be nervous.
“You are responsible because it is somebody’s boy that you are looking after. I will be hard on them but I will be fair on them as well.”
Stevie has said before in other interviews that when he was a player he would also keep an eye out for young players who were getting released. Good players but without a pathway at that club and he has tried to incorporate that into his coaching.
“Time will tell, if they are not progressing then I will be out the door I suppose!”
Saturday’s warm up at East Fife will give Stevie a look at some of the young players that will no doubt provide the backbone of the reserve team this season. He continued:-
“It is not a case of making excuses right away but if it’s a young reserve squad it makes it difficult to just purely get results but the result might be that they are getting an understanding of the game at a younger age so then by the time they hit eighteen they might be a season ahead of boys at other clubs.
“You have to look at the positives that way. It is not to say that they can’t compete but they will learn and progress rapidly.”
Stevie is impressed by how far the club has come since being relegated to League One and struggling to get out of that league but he now sees connections at the club again.
“There are businesses wanting to get involved because there is trust in the chairman, trust in the board. There are a lot of good people at the club and a feel good factor behind the scenes.
“There is always an expectation when you play with Dunfermline that they would love to be in the Premiership. They have to watch that they don’t try and get there by doing it in the wrong way. I think they are in very good hands.
“It will be a competitive league this year but there is no reason why they won’t be challenging up at the top end of the league.
“I am looking forward to it and in a strange kind of way, having been at East Fife as player manager, then at Falkirk working with the first team and taking the 20s and since then having worked with Robbie at Hearts and then down at MK, to be responsible for actually just taking a team again. I am looking forward to that side so when the chairman put it to me I had no hesitation about coming in.”