The DAFC directors today made a long overdue decision by sacking manager Allan Johnston and his assistant Sandy Clark. After weeks of tepid performances, the board's loyalty to their manager finally ended following the draw with Alloa, that saw Dunfermline throw away a 2-0 half time lead, changing formation to try to contain our part time opponents in a second half that will go down as Johnston's last, and one of his worst.
Johnston's CV will rightly claim that in all of his full seasons in charge of the club, he improved our League position. From winning League 1 in 2016, to last season's top 4 Championhsip position, on the surface it seemed to be continuous improvement. This season would almost certainly have ended that run, had he been left in charge, with the club currently languishing in seventh place in the Championship, having won just 2 League games at home all season. Anger in the stands had turned to apathy and attendances were beginning to fall. There was no sign from the manager that he had the ability or the personality to turn things round. Instead, he became more stubborn and would never once take personal responsibility for a poor result.
As fans, ultimately we want our club's manager to succeed, for his success is ours. What we also look for is someone to believe in. Johnston was something of an introvert and had no connection with the fans. This meant he had very little goodwill stored up for periods when his team struggled. The board kept faith in him long after most of the supporters lost theirs. I stated in November, after the home defeat from Falkirk, that he should have been released then: we had a 2 week break before our next game, which would have given a new manager time to prepare for games to come and also to assess the squad in advance of the January transfer window. However, we plodded on with Johnston in charge, going nowhere fast.
Stevie Crawford has taken temporary charge but I do not see him as a candidate for the job on a permanent basis. He strikes me as more of an assistant than a manager. Predicting the next boss without being aware of potential candidates' availability means that I can only give a preference, not knowing if certain people are willing to either change clubs or give up a full time job outside football.
I would like to see Lee Bullen be given his first permanent manager's role. Bullen has been a coach at Sheffield Wednesday since 2011, initially with the youth team and then, in 2015, as assistant manager to boss Carlos Carvalhal. Following Carvalhal's departure in 2017, Wednesday's next manager Jos Luhukay kept Bullen on as coach. When Luhukay was sacked last month, Bullen had a 4 game undefeated spell as interim manager, before retained as part of new manager Steve Bruce's coaching team, although Bruce did bring in 2 other coaches as his number 2 and 3.
As a former Par, Bullen would also have a good degree of popularity amongst the Dunfermline fanbase. So too would Stewart Petrie, who has done an excellent job at Montrose but who has a full time job away from football. Alloa manager Jim Goodwin would complete my trio of preferred candidates. He too has a job outside football but may have ambitions to manage full-time.
Thanks to AJ for his efforts over the years. I hope his break from the game allows him to analyse the good and bad from his time with Dunfermline and that he emerges a better all-round manager at his next club.
As for his replacement: it's Bullen for me.
Ben has filmed 2 videos today, with his reaction to AJ's departure and also who might be in line next for the Pars job. You can watch both videos below or by visiting Ben's YouTube channel here: goo.gl/wVbBnL