Dunfermline Athletic

Coll confident he can be in contention

Tuesday, 4th Jan 2022

“The gaffer is very straight-talking and I like that. He is infectious. He is all-action and wears his heart on his sleeve. He has a good outlook on the game, bags of experience and played in the same position as me.

The opportunity to link up again with John Hughes was a major factor in attracting Coll Donaldson to come and try to resurrect Dunfermline’s season. Coll was a member of Hughes’ Ross County side that won the final three matches of the last Premiership season to ensure the Dingwall side’s continued status in the country’s top league. Speaking for the first time since being signed on loan for Dunfermline, Coll said that he was delighted to be here and to get the chance to work with the manager again.

“I worked with him for six months last season and we finished on a really good note. I’m just really looking forward to getting back to work again. It’s been a long season so far and I can’t wait to help the group.

“I spoke to the gaffer throughout December and he was keen to get something done. The gaffer is very straight-talking and I like that. He is infectious. He is all-action and wears his heart on his sleeve. He has a good outlook on the game, bags of experience and played in the same position as me.

“I’m always looking to improve. You never stop learning. Nobody in Scotland is at a level where they don’t need to improve. He fills you with confidence and, if you do well for him, he’ll back you to the hilt. I want to work for people like that. Everyone who has worked with the gaffer will say that, he knows how to win football matches. At the end of the day that is all that really matters.”

Coll Donaldson and John Hughes go back a long way. Hughes first worked with him as a youth at Livingston but despite having a good rapport with each other, lost track until Coll happened to be at Ross County when Hughes was appointed Staggies’ manager in December 2020. While the player can take a large slice of confidence in being signed for the Pars by the gaffer, John Hughes feels that Coll needs a manager like him:-

“There were times when he wasn’t even in the squad and he thought that I didn’t fancy him but that was not the case. I just needed to get him doing the stuff that I wanted. Even today when he walked in the first thing that I shouted was ‘my eyes are on you Donaldson.’

“I will be watching him, pushing him, testing him, driving him forward because at 26 he still has his best years in front of him. He comes with a wealth of experience, SPL experience. Most of the time when I lost track of him he was playing centre half for Inverness in the Championship and he was strolling it.

“This is a wholly different environment and ball game but if he can get up to that level of consistency and confidence there is a real player in there. It is my job to get him believing in it. He has attributes too, great on the ball, good passing and he is another one who needs to become a leader and set a standard on the training pitch. He needs to know how to become a leader, be different and be the best professional that you can be.

“He has got that in him and I’m just delighted that we have got him because he brings experience and physicality to the game. He is one that I can relate to. Like everybody else there will be times when it doesn’t go his way but in the job as a manager you have to pick them up.”

John Hughes recognises that Coll he has overcome adversity and in showing his determination to do it that demonstrates a great deal about the defender’s character. Coll’s 34 appearances last season included 31 starts and his ever presence in the final three crucial matches. This season however he has only made four appearances, all of them in July and August. Coll explained the circumstances leading to his limited appearances:-

“There was the Covid outbreak we had at Ross County at the start of the season and that affected everyone at Ross County in different ways. I felt it for a few weeks but I’ve been fit and available for selection so it wasn’t an injury.

“I had a little groin problem that kept me out for two or three weeks but the gaffer up there brought his own players in and that’s how football works. There’s no loyalty with players and no loyalty with clubs. That’s just the way it is, it’s a tough, tough business to work in.

“I kept myself fit, made myself available for selection every week. It would have been easy for me to put the tools away and feel sorry for myself, but I never.”

That dedication ensured that Coll is now in a position where he feels confident that he is able to come to Dunfermline and help the club.

“If I hadn’t been training and putting in the fitness work over all that time, then I wouldn’t be able to come in and be in contention to play games straightaway. I’ve not played a competitive football match in several months and I’m really looking forward to getting my teeth into that challenge.”

Training from a Monday to Friday in full knowledge you won’t play on a Saturday is hard and Coll described that as like having the best part of your job taken away every week. He continued:-

“I can wait to know I’ve got that carrot at the end of the week. It was very very tough and, mentally challenging, I’ve gone through it. I’m sure my girlfriend will attest to what a crabbit so and so I’ve been for the last few months!

Abve: Coll Donaldson in action against Dunfermline in December 2019

“I’m experienced enough to know that there will be ups and downs. The career of a footballer doesn’t just go up, you have the dips. People don’t really see that side of it, when you aren’t in contention.”

Coll’s experience has been forged over 223 appearances while at Livingston, Queens Park Rangers, Dundee United, Inverness Caley Thistle and Ross County. His moved to Dunfermline caused one of his mates to message him on Monday saying, ‘more clubs than Tiger Woods! While Coll laughed that off, Dunfermline now hope to cash in on that experience:-

“I’ve experienced a lot so far but it’s all stood me in good stead. I try to draw on all my experiences from different clubs — but, ultimately, I always want to look ahead and I’m really excited by the challenge that this is providing.

“I’ve played in this division. I played in it for a year at Dundee United and two-and-half years with Inverness. I know the bottom side can beat the top side. It’s about being consistent. The team that goes up - or stays up - will be the team that gets that consistency.

“A couple of months ago, Dunfermline were 1-0 down at half-time to top of the league Inverness. They won 2-1, without a manager! That’s just the nature of this league and, if we can get consistency, then we’ll be alright. But it’s easy for me to say, ‘we’ll be alright’. It’s about putting that into practice and doing what the gaffer is asking us.”

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