As summer breaks go...Author: Oz Par Date: Saturday, 24th Jul 2004
... let`s face it, this one has been a belter if you are a Pars fan.
While supporters of teams like Killie, Hibs and Motherwell have been struggling to find snippets of news in the papers and websites, the Pars have hardly been out of the headlines all summer long.
The Scottish Cup Final, although ultimately lost, was for 60 minutes the stuff of dreams - big dreams - and the sight of 17,000 fans in black and white, those chequered flags, that Skerla goal... will live with us forever.
Then suddenly, it all went sour.
The departure of Calderwood and Nicholl was a nasty blow below the belt, given the underhand nature of its execution. But there`s a lingering suspicion that while Calderwood was happy to tell all and sundry that he had taken the Pars as far as they could go, the reverse may in fact be true - he had gone as far with the Pars as his talent would take him.
It remains to be seen if the Aberdeen board are as flexible and cooperative with the dosh as ours was - ultimately, of course, to its cost. I think not and this season he may well be found out as he struggles to turn round a ship that is overloaded with dross.
That said, Pars fans should be grateful for the four years of progress that was achieved under Calderwood and Nicholl. They inherited an "Aberdeen" of a team back at the tail end of `99 that was going nowhere. But the question remains, who really was responsible for the turnaround? Would it have been possible without the overly-generous support of Yorkston and Masterton?
Certainly, Calderwood brought fresh thinking to training and on-field tactics and Pars fans have got used to seeing the side string together some elegant passing movements that have produced results. Balanced against that have been some appalling 5, 6 and 7 goal drubbings from the Old Firm, Killie and Hearts as hopelessly naive tactics were employed by JC and exploited to the full by grateful oppositions.
And so we said farewell to the twa Jimmies, assuming of course that would be the last of the tardy affair. We were wrong.
No sooner were they out the door than the papers had reports of the Pars being courted by the former coach of Spain, Javier Clemente. The news had us rubbing our eyes in astonishment and for a few days, we actually began to believe that it would happen! All of a sudden, we had forgotten the treachery of the Pittodrie pair.
Eventually, the "sensible choice" was made and Davie Hay, a man with an excellent pedigree in football management and a taste for success came through the doors at East End Park. We breathed a sigh of relief that the speculation was finally over and the Pars could get down to business for the coming season.
With the determination and gusto of a man fresh up to the exciting challenge of getting into a new job, Davie Hay immediately... went on holiday!
And so we all sat back and watched the European Championships in Portugal. We cheered as David Beckham blasted that penalty into row z, we gasped as Larsson scored that glorious header and we laughed as the underdogs Greece knocked the favourites off their perches one-by-one and brought home to Athens the silver trophy.
Meanwhile, the Pars said a sad farewell to faithful servant Lee Bullen who was bound for Sheffield Wednesday. It needn`t have been so and we all know why. The striking saviour for these past few seasons, Stevie Crawford, took the train south to Plymouth. But, for a few days, we held our breath as Calderwood came back to haunt us and tried to pinch Crawf, but eventually the delights of Devon won out. Thank heavens!
Better news arrived soon afterwards with the confirmation that Derek Stillie had re-signed for the club. There had been talk of a Spanish goalie coming to EEP, but it didn`t happen, for the money is not flowing out of the boardroom so easily these days. Again, thank heavens!
Davie Hay`s first fresh signing was Simon Donnelly from St Johnstone. A 10-cap internationalist, Donnelly had been a star at Celtic before losing his way down in England. He had put in a good shift last season up in Perth and we all must hope that his recovery in form continues.
Day after day, a few column inches of the Scottish sports pages were occupied with reports of player after player rejecting moves to the Dons. Pars fans smiled knowingly.
Then suddenly, our little Pars world was turned upside down as Dunfermline Athletic FC went GLOBAL!
Newspapers, TV and radio stations as well as a thousand websites from Bangladesh to Brunei started chattering about the Pars new signing target... Maradona Jnr!
Turnhouse became a turnstyle as a shy young Italian was rushed away from the biggest media pack seen in Scotland since Mo Johnston became a turncoat all those years ago.
The gates of East End Park were opened to the public for the first time to witness a training session. The scene was shown at length on telly in Australia!
It was not to be and the young lad went back home with his pack of minders to an uncertain future and we were left with lingering thoughts of what might have been.
But the summer is not yet over and there are further stirrings from our nemesis in Pittodrie. Increasingly desperate, he`s trying to wrest from our control the player who has been the talisman, the engine room, call him what you like... the aging genius, that is Craig Brewster.
Surely it won`t happen. Of course it won`t. At least we hope it won`t!
There was a tinge of sadness amongst older Pars fans as they noted the passing of George Farm, the last manager to bring a major trophy back to East End Park. Those who were at Hampden that day back in April 1968 will always be grateful to him. We do not forget that he very nearly led us to a European final. With a little bit of luck on a cold evening back in `69 we could and should have seen off Slovan Bratislava in the first leg of the semi final. So farewell, George and thanks for the memories.
Meanwhile, we can look ahead this year to our first foray into Europe in three decades. Will young lads like Dempsey or Nicholson or Hunt or Burne grasp the nettle in Europe and become Pars legends like Barry or Callaghan or Edwards or Lunn?
We can but hope, but we should be thankful that we have this opportunity to dream big dreams once again.
There`s a few weeks to go yet before the new season starts and while there may yet be some twists and turns to be negotiated on the transfer front, we eagerly await our beloved Pars getting down to business and providing the media with the sort of reports we all like to read.
In the meantime, let`s just reflect on an unforgettable summer break!
G`day from Oz