William Knight 1930-36
It was perhaps appropriate that on Monday, 13th March 1922 William Knight became the first ever manager of Dunfermline Athletic, his family having been prominent in the formation of the club back in 1885. His father David had been the Athletic's first treasurer while Joe, his uncle, played centre-forward in a number of matches during that inaugural season.
A 38 year-old publican from Rumblingwell, Knight was appointed secretary/manager on a full time basis following the resignation of William Whyte, who had held the position of secretary since 1919. Having performed the same role for the Fife Juvenile Association for the previous fifteen years, the experience Willie had gained would stand him in good stead at East EndPark.
In charge of the day-to-day administration of the club, Knight oversaw the work of trainer Eddie Dowie although team selection remained firmly in the hands of the directors. The aftermath of the high-spending days of the Central League together with the purchase of East End meant that Knight had to operate on a very limited budget and the club struggled in the Second Division.
Despite bringing some quality players to Dunfermline, such as Jimmy Dickson, Bobby Skinner and Joe Sutton in 1923/24 and then Andy Herd, Jimmy Stein and Jock Bain the following season, the team failed to find any consistency. Finishing in thirteenth place for the second time in three seasons persuaded Willie to hand in his resignation at the end of 1924/25.His replacement, Sandy Paterson, had guided Cowdenbeath to promotion in 1924 and he worked the same magic at East End, needing only one season to transform Knight's underachievers into title winners.
In 1930, with the club back in the Second Division, Willie Knight returned for a second spell in charge when Paterson resigned following wholesale boardroom changes. His first season resulted in a creditable third place using a blend of Paterson's and his own signings but after that he set about creating his own team and the promotion winning squad of 1933/34 contained only one player that Knight hadn't brought to the club.
Determined not to repeat the mistake made eight years earlier, the club signed a number of players with top flight experience including Alex Thomson from Celtic, Johnny Johnman, (Motherwell), Stewart Chalmers (Manchester United), Bob McGowan (Queen of the South) and Bobby Bolt (Hearts).
Knight was ruthless in dismantling the team that gained promotion with only two of those players surviving to the end of 1934/35 but there could be no doubting the success of this approach as Dunfermline went on to finish fifteenth. The following season saw an improvement by one place, the highest achieved in the club's history until 1960, but this was to prove Knight's swansong.
A financial crisis developed at the end of 1936 that resulted in the directors resigning en masse after failing to win a vote of confidence from the shareholders. The appointment of a new chairman, however, prompted Knight to hand in his notice, a decision that shocked the supporters.
A dedicated and enthusiastic servant of the club, Knight did a very commendable job in difficult circumstances and his two spells at East End make him, at nine years and 77 days, the longest serving Dunfermline manager of all time. He died in 1959, five years after his 91 year-old uncle Joe, the last surviving link to the original Athletic team.