Rarely can the expression 'he knows the club well' apply more than to Stevie Crawford, who today joins Dunfermline for the fourth time in his career. Manager Allan Johnston made that statement when he revealed that Crawford would be a short-term replacement for outgoing coach John Potter, who has accepted the first team coach role at Sunderland. Crawford is certainly no stranger to EEP, having first signed for the club as a youth team player.
His first return was in October 1999, on loan from Hibs. The loan was extended to the end of the 1999/2000 season, in which he helped Dunfermline secure promotion to the Premier League. That summer, he signed a permanent contract and over the next 4 years was instrumental in the club's most successful period since the 1960s. Under manager Jimmy Calderwood, the team rose to fourth place in the top division and also reached the 2004 Scottish Cup Final. Crawford's partnership with Craig Brewster was arguably one of the best in the club's history, with both players complementing the other.
The first signs of financial issues at Dunfermline surfaced in Crawford's final season of his second spell at the club, 2003/04. Wages paid to players such as Crawford, Barry Nicholson and Andrius Skerla were incongruent with the club's income. The full impact of the shocking financial mismanagement implemented by Gavin Masterton and John Yorkston was not fully felt until the start of the next decade, but warning signs were there. Crawford left the Pars to move to Plymouth, then onto Dundee United and Aberdeen.
In 2006, now aged 32, Crawford signed for Dunfermline for a third time. This period would not replicate the success of his previous spell, although he did feature as a substitute in the 2007 Scottish Cup Final, which was lost to Celtic. Crawford was now more of a provider than a goalscorer and while still clearly an intelligent player, he did not make the same impact as he had done in the Calderwood era.
Crawford was released at the end of his contract in the summer of 2008 and played on for 3 more years, for 4 clubs in the lower reaches of the SPFL - East Fife 9which included a few months as player/manager), Cowdenbeath, Brechin and Forfar. He retired in 2011 having scored 177 goals in his professional career. 81 of those goals were scored as a Dunfermline player. He was also capped 25 times for Scotland.
In October 2011 Crawford moved into coaching at Falkirk, becoming assistant manager to Steven Pressley. He then took on the assistant manager role with Hearts, under Robbie Neilson. The pair took the club as far as second in the Premiership before leaving to join MK Dons in League 1 in England. Neilson and Crawford left MK Dons, in January this year, 14 months after being appointed.
Losing John Potter is undoubtedly a blow to Dunfermline but has been softened by securing the services of such a high calibre replacement. As the manager said, the move is short-term until a permanent replacement for Potter is appointed. Everyone at the club would welcome Crawford on a permanent deal but realistically he is likely to join up with Neilson as soon as the former Hearts boss takes on his next management position. Crawford himself may now have managerial ambitions having been an assistant boss for the past 7 years.
However long this fourth period as a Par lasts, this icon of the modern era will be a positive addition to the management team. Maybe one day in the future he will be back for a fifth time, in the manager's chair.