After a dismal few years of joyless football under Ian Munro and Jocky Scott, the thrill of matchdays being gradually eroded, a rebirth took place at East End Park in the summer of 1993 when a new management team was appointed. Former Pars players Bert Paton and Dick Campbell were appointed by the board, with promotion back to the Premier League their target after the previous season's miserable failure under the morose Scott. The contrast between the previous and new manager could hardly have been greater. In some ways it was reminiscent of the appointment of Jim Leishman a decade earlier, when the club was at a low ebb and in the basement of Scottish professional football, managed by Pat Stanton and then Tom Forsyth, two miserable characters who failed to transfer their ability to lead teams as players into the field of management, and who were replaced by the larger-than-life Leishman. Bert Paton had the same positive impact on the club as Leishman had 10 years before, bringing his down-to-earth Fife working class approach to the club, which had lost its way after removing Leishman from the manager's job, then appointing his first team coach Ian Munro, who was eventually sacked. The choice of manager to succeed Munro was even more misguided. Jocky Scott's time at the club was characterised by his tendancy to lean, emotionless, on one side of the dugout during games, with his assistant Gordon Wallace leaning on the other side, leading to them being named "the bookends".
Scott oversaw a relegation from the Premier Division, having taken over when the team was bottom of the division, and unable to improve on that position. Although his attempt to win an instant promotion back to the top division seemed to be on track for most of season 1992/93, the team failed to win any of the last 6 home games (losing the final 3), including a humiliating defeat to already-relegated Cowdenbeath. This resulted in the uninspiring manager being fired. Many thought his end should have arrived 3 weeks earlier whne he made an obscene hand gesture at the travelling Dunfermline fans at an away game at Meadowbank. A dire first half led to one supporter shouting "come on Scott, get them going" as the manager trudged down the touchline. Scott's response was to make a well-known hand gesture to the crowd, which he was later forced to apologise for. The writing was on the wall for Scott from that moment onwards.
Paton's arrival, together with his equally outgoing assistant Campbell, saw the club regain a sense of optimism. Fun replaced misery, with new additions to the squad including future Pars legends Andy Tod and Stewart Petrie, with Paton utilising his knowledge of Scottish lower league and junior football to identify players who would fit into his brand of attacking football. Paton was well known to older Pars fans as part of the supremely talented Pars teams of the 1960s - indeed, he held the record as Dunfermline's top scorer in European competitions, and scored 86 goals in 218 games in total for the club. His post-playing career had seen him manage Cowdenbeath and Raith Rovers, and work as assistant manager at St Johnstone. When he was appointed Dunfermline manager, he had been in charge of junior side Rosyth Recreation.
Dick Campbell had played for the Pars for one season (1974/75) and had been a coach at Raith, Brechin and East Stirling, and had a short spell as boss of Cowdenbeath. He was assistant to Paton at Rosyth when the pair were made the new management team at East End Park that summer, 24 years ago.
There was a sense of optimism as the 1993/94 season started but to the shock and disappointment of everyone involved, the team lost their opening 3 League games (suffering 5 defeats in the first 7 games). Eventually, they found form and went on a 17 game unbeaten run, which included high scoring games such as a 6-1 win over Ayr, then scoring 5 against Dumbarton and netting 4 goals in games against Morton, Dumbarton (again), Brechin, Clyde, Hamilton and St Mirren. With only the First Division champions promoted to the Premier Division - and no play-offs for the runners-up - the season was to end in heartache when a 1-0 defeat at Airdrie in the second last game allowed Falkirk to regain top spot by a single point, which they held onto in the final week, despite Dunfermline thrashing Clyde 5-0 at East End Park. Dunfermline's tally of 93 League goals made them the top scoring team in UK professional football that season.
The all-out attacking style of the Paton era saw the Pars finish second again in the manager's second season in charge (once again, missing out by 1 point, this time to Raith Rovers), before winning the division in 1995/96, despite the tragedy of Norrie McCathie's death midway through that season.
On the return to the Premier Division, Paton guided the team to a very creditable fifth place finish. The next season, 1997/98, was more of a struggle, but the club regained its place in the top division. Paton resigned during the following season, with Campbell taking over, but the team finished last and were relegated.
Mnay Pars fans look back on those mid-1990s years with huge affection. Rarely has there been a more enjoyable period to be a Dunfermline fan, with a team featuring the above mentioned McCathie, Petrie and Tod, plus Ivo Den Biemen, Ian Westwater, Jackie McNamara, Derek Fleming, Paul Smith, Craig Robertson, Kenny Ward, Andy Smith, Hamish French and others. Great days.
Photo of Jason Talbot in edited image taken by Pars Review.