Manager on ThursdayThursday, 14th Apr 2016
14/04/16: AJ - "Hopefully we manage to keep the nucleus of the squad, if not then that is part and parcel of football."
Allan Johnston is preparing his team for the journey to Stranraer and in anticipating a sizeable travelling support promised to try and get a result and performance for the devoted Pars fans who face a 260 mile round trip. Like the novelty of visiting Cliftonhill, there are some of course willing to take the near three hour each way trip in the hope that this might be the last opportunity for some time to have such an away day and see their team at such venues.
"It is obviously great to be moving up a league next year and I think it will be a massive difference when you see all the teams who will be close by. There should be good crowds no matter who we are playing with good atmospheres to play in.
"We still have games to finish this season and we must make sure that we turn out performances and keep getting results even though we are going to have a look at some of the other players as well."
AJ admitted it was difficult keeping a focus on games especially when there is so many contract talks going on.
"A few of the players have been attracting interest from even Premier League clubs so it makes it really difficult to get them signed up. Guys like Andy Geggan are attracting interest from Partick Thistle so it shows you that it is going to be difficult to keep guys like that. They want to keep their options open; that is fair enough but there comes a limit when we have to move on and look at other players as well."
Every club is interested in strikers who are scoring lots of goals and with 30 goals to his credit in 40 appearances this season Faissal El Bakhtaoui has definitely put himself in the shop window. The manager continued:-
"We are trying our very hardest to try and keep him as we are with a number of players. A lot of them want to keep their options open which makes it really difficult. We will probably need to wait until near the time and there will be loads of players available. We just have to make sure that we pick the right players."
Allan Johnston was in the same situation when he won the Second Division title in March 2013 with six matches still to play. He said:-
"I was quite fortunate that I was able to sign the whole team up again. It was slightly different and a wee bit luckier then. It is difficult here because Dunfermline is a big club and probably paying good money for the league we were in this year. Everybody expects a lot more money going up to the Championship and that is just not the position we are in.
"We would love to keep the boys together but we have to be realistic as well. We will be in the Championship, not in the Premier League. We are not going to be able to pay Premier League wages, it is Championship wages that we are going to be paying. Hopefully we manage to keep the nucleus of the squad, if not then that is part and parcel of football."
Some success has come for the manager with Lewis Martin signing a new two year deal.
"That is a bonus because at the start of the season he was one of the players who were doing really well and he can play different positions. Especially for his age he has played a lot of first team games. He is at a great age and desperate to play.
"He has had a couple of setbacks this season with a car crash and illness as well. Before that he was flying and he was back to himself at the weekend there."
Contracts run until the end of May and the gaffer claimed that makes things tricky.
"They have time to wait and see what options are available. There are still more or less six or seven weeks to go. They have plenty of time to assess their options but it works both ways, we have plenty time to assess our options as well. The contracts won't always be there.
"For the last few months we have been looking at other players. We knew what was going to happen, everybody was going to have the chance to move on especially when you are successful. We have always been thinking about that happening and if so who could we get in."
Returning to discuss Saturday's opponents, the manager commended fourth placed Stranraer on their recent form:-
"They have only got beat twice in the last thirteen games. It is a totally different team from the beginning of the season. They have got some good players and a lot of guys who were here before.
"Guys like Willie Gibson I have worked with before, he is a talented player and scores some great goals. He scored from a free kick last week. We are going to be in for a really tough test and it is always a hard place to go at the best of times but they are fighting to make sure that they are in the play offs."
Other former Pars players at Stranraer include Andy Stirling, Ryan Thomson and Steven Bell. The manager acknowledged that there was plenty to fire Stranraer up for the visit of the title winners.
"Every team is fired up when they play us anyway. That is just because we are a big club in this league. You can see how hard it is when they come here; they get a big lift from playing here. I am sure that Stranraer will be well up for the game but so will we because we have a lot of boys who want to be here next year playing for contracts. Hopefully we can get a performance and a result."
The manager is expecting to have the full squad except Callum Fordyce available for the match at Stair Park.