But first, I’m sure you’re asking, who are the ‘Ton?
A brief history
Greenock Morton Football Club were founded in 1874 and are based in the Scottish west coast town of Greenock, just along the River Clyde from Glasgow. There won’t be many people still alive that witnessed the clubs greatest success, winning the Scottish Cup back in 1922 against Rangers. That being the clubs greatest success probably tells you all you need to know about them already, and the club last competed in the top tier of Scottish football back in 1988. Some notable former players that you might have heard of include current Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes, David Hopkin and Derek Lilley both played in England after starting their careers at Morton, and Robert Earnshaw had a very short, but memorable loan spell at the club. The clubs most famous son is Andy Ritchie though, who played with Morton for 7 years between the 70s and 80s, scored over 100 goals and is regarded as one of the finest players never to win a Scotland cap.
The club holds the record for the most number of promotions and relegations into the top flight of Scottish football, and if you were to look back at their history from the 90s onwards, they can definitely be given the ‘yo-yo club’ tag.
The club actually went into administration in the early 2000s and suffered back to back relegations, starting the 2002-03 season in the Scottish Third Division (now League 2). Douglas Rae saved the club and is chairman to this day. Rae is a lifelong Morton fan, and his company, Golden Casket (the makers of Million’s sweets, Morton’s main sponsor) is based in the area. Promotion was secured at the first time of asking, and an unheard of crowd of over 8,000 watched the 1-0 win over Peterhead to confirm it. The following season, a second successive promotion looked on the cards with the club 12 points clear after the first half of the season. Form plummeted however, with rumours that some of the players had placed bets on their rivals, Airdrie, gaining promotion. They eventually did, and Morton finished outside of the promotion places.
Fast forward quite a few years to the 2012-13 season and Morton and Partick Thistle were head to head in the second tier of Scottish football, vying for promotion to the then SPL. It all came down to a crunch match, again over 8,000 fans attended, this time at Thistle’s Firhill ground, on a Wednesday night. It wasn’t to be however, Morton fell to a 1-0 defeat. Thistle have been in the top tier of Scottish football ever since, and Morton slid from the second tier into League 1 the season after.
Morton on Football Manager
Former player, Jim Duffy, was hired to oversee the League 1 campaign and rebuild the club after relegation. He did just that, securing Morton’s 10th league title overall which puts them third behind Rangers and Celtic as the club with the most league wins in Scottish football!
Despite winning the league, the fans weren’t happy with the football on show. Duffy has been replaced by a promising, young manager (me) and this is where you join the journey, just ahead of the 2015-16 season, and the clubs return to the Scottish Championship.
Morton play at Cappielow Park, in Greenock. The stadium has a capacity just over 11,500, of which just under 6,000 is seated. It’s widely thought of as one of the classic grounds in Scottish football, away fans seem to love visiting it, probably because it sits right between the argument of whether it needs updating to become more modern, or whether it should be kept as it is. The stands might be pretty historic, but one thing that is of quality at Cappielow is the pitch and that’s in no part down to groundsman Mark Farrell. He’s won groundsman of the year on three occasions since his arrival and both the Celtic youth teams and Scotland have used Cappielow to play and train on in recent seasons.
Off the Pitch
Off the pitch the club is like any other Scottish football club, funds are tight. Attendances are low, and until the club starts winning matches, and fans start coming back, expectations will be low too. The Scottish Championship is a competitive league. Rangers and Hibs start out as the favourites to win the league and gain automatic promotion. One of them will have to negotiate the playoffs however, alongside 2 other teams. Our fierce rivals, St Mirren are also in the league after being relegated from the Scottish Premiership the season prior. We start the season as predicted to finish 8th, and expected to battle bravely against relegation.
The primary aim for the season is to do just that, stay in the league. Aside from that, fingers crossed that both Rangers and Hibs get promoted, and we can kick on from season 2. A secondary aim would be to draw one of either Rangers or Celtic away from home in a cup. The cash windfall from a tie like that would give the club a huge boost finance-wise.
The club benefits from the chairman being an underwriter. What that means is that if the club is in the red at the end of the season, he’ll pump funds in to keep it going. There’s also debt to contend with, but that’s only applicable if, and when, Rae leaves the club.
On the Pitch
If we’re going to stand any chance of having a successful season, Denny Johnstone and Alex Samuel will be integral to it. Both players are on loan from Birmingham and Swansea, respectively.
Loan moves, I believe, are absolutely vital in Scottish football. Clubs don’t have the finances to attract these types of players to the club permanently, and bringing in the right player, across any position on the pitch, can make a huge difference as to what kind of season a club has, and where you finish in the league table. At the other end of the pitch, shoring up the back line, we have Rangers centre back, Luca Gasparotto.
Relying on three loan players to make the difference might not be a long term strategy, but long term strategies aren’t for Scottish football. It’s impossible to look 2, 3, 4 seasons down the line and try and predict where the club will be. All you can do is look to next Saturday, and go after the 3 points.
And that’s what I’ll be doing.