The new Dunfermline Athletic coaching team will be in the dugout for the first time tomorrow at a familiar venue, as we travel to Tannadice to take on a Dundee United side whose revival under Robbie Neilson has faltered in recent weeks but who are still very much in the hunt for promotion.
Here is the current Championship table:
A long overdue decision was made by the Pars board this week when they ended Allan Johnston and Sandy Clark's time as management duo, swiftly replaced by Stevie Crawford and Greg Shields. A new management structure is now in place - Crawford being referred to as head coach as opposed to manager, and while that may only be a change in terminology to some, the hiring of Jackie McNamara's football consultancy company to oversee ''football matters'' at the club would suggest that the traditional manager role will now be replaced by a set up that gives Crawford more time to concentrate on coaching while others will deal with other aspects of a manager's duties.
Of course, what this week's events have given us all - supporters too - is a chance to make a fresh start and feel better about going to games, which lately had become a slog. This has to become enjoyable again. I am behind Crawford and Shields (plus whoever comes in as a third coach) 100% - having lost all faith with Allan Johnston, I am glad we seem to have taken on an innovative approach to how the club will be managed and have not resorted to hiring a tired old face from the managerial merry-go-round.
Team, formation etc
Stevie Crawford will, at the time of writing this, have the same squad available to him as Allan Johnston did last week. No new faces, but changes are likely. My preferred lineup would see Ryan Williamson brought back in, with an injection of confidence to be the player we all know he can be. I would also bring back Mark Durnan - on the bench recently after recovering from an operation - to replace a faltering Danny Devine in central defence. Up front, where we need at least one new signing to add to the existing goal threat of Aidan Keena, I cannot justify selecting Myles Hippolyte after his performance against Alloa. So Faissal comes back in, with the same formation as last week, 4-3-3.
Here is my preferred lineup:
Robbie Neilson enjoyed an excellent first few weeks as United boss after taking over from Csaba Laszlo in October last year. A 5 game unbeaten run was ended dramatically with a 5-0 defeat at home to Ayr United at the end of November. Since then, United have won just 1 of their next 4 League games. Currently third in the division, they cannot afford to miss out on promotion for yet another season.
Yesterday, United signed attacker Cammy Smith following his release from St Mirren. Smith is Neilson's second signing in the January transfer window, after Aidan Nesbitt's move from MK Dons last week.
United were recently bought over by American Mark Ogren and this week 2 changes were made off the park, with a new managing director and a sporting director being appointed. The new United owner could be in attendance for the first time this weekend, having not yet visited Dundee since buying the club. Robbie Neilson had this to say to local media ahead of the game and the new owner's rumoured visit:
“It’s good for anybody when you’re winning, whether the owners are there or not but it would be great for them to come over and get the result that we want, start pushing up the league and get the players we want.
“I’m hoping they will be over at some point this weekend, possibly. They’ve got a long-term strategy for the club but they understand short-term football is what everybody looks at.''