Q & A Night

The following questions and answers are not reproduced word for word but are very close to, or are summaries of, what was originally said.

The panel was (from left to right as you look at the stage): Derek Collins, Crawford Rae, Douglas Rae, Davie Irons, Jim McColl and Gillian Donaldson.

The night was held in the Port Glasgow Town hall and the crowd wasn't the best, there were plenty of empty seats.

1) Unfortunately I missed the first question but I think it referred to Chris Millar and his move to St. Johnstone. *A post by Chrissboi on the Morton messageboard says that this question asked if there had been attempts to convince Chris Millar to stay at Cappielow. Douglas Rae said we have matched St. Johnstone's offer but Millar might want a new challenge. There was also a question prior to this in which someone asked why the previous manager was allowed to let strikers like Linn and Templeman go. Rae replied that he gives his managers total control over team affairs.*

2) Toby: You made a remark in the matchday programme suggesting that Celtic fans were the best supporters In Britain (ie better than Morton fans) This is the biggest insult a chairman could aim at his own fans. To my knowledge Morton fans have not: sung songs in support of terrorist organisations; attacked an opposing player after a late goal; thrown bottles at opposing players or had a plane diverted. You have never to my knowledge retracted these comments.

Douglas Rae (flustered by the question): You've said it all ... on the matter of Celtic fans I do think they know how to support their club. I do concede I aimed a comment at the fans when I meant to aim it at a small minority of fans. I apologise unreservedly for that. I'm not going to dwell on this matter tonight. (He then went on to talk about supporters not getting on the players backs etc). I accept the comments that you make but I think my comments were quite apt [regarding the Celtic support being supportive] and I will not be withdrawing any of them.

3) Unknown: What does the manager think the current strengths and weaknesses of the squad are, as I don't think the last manager actually knew (lots of laughs and nods)?

Davie Irons: I think the squad is unbalanced. We have too many midfielders and not enough defenders or attackers.

4) Chrissiboi: Can we have assuarances about the direction of the youth policy.

Jim McColl: We have three teams this season [u-13s, 15s, 17s]. We do not have plans in place with the new management team but these will discussed at our next board meeting.

Davie Irons: I have ambition to take Morton to the SPL and to get there the youth system must meet certain criteria. The youth set up will be improved accordingly, this will include the introduction of an under 19s team which is the pro-youth level.

Douglas Rae: ...begins to talk about Joe McLaughlin, implying that they did take the youth set up seriously because they had one person who was employed as head of the youth development but Chrissiboi cuts in to say McLaughlin didn't receive adequate backing. He then goes on criticising the current youth set up on various levels (they don't play enough games, the under 17s team that won their league were released rather than playing as an under 19s team and being allowed to make the progression into first team standard players, the club don't try to find sponsorship etc)... Rae quite flustered [again] hands over to Crawford Rae

Crawford Rae: Rangers have invested heavily in Murray Park but have no return from it[Nonsense - they recently sold Alan Hutton for £9 million]. These are recessionary times, it's hard to find sponsorship. (Basically implying that youth set ups are very expensive to run and that the returns are not good enough to justify the outlay).

5) Toby: Would it not be more beneficial for the youth teams to be coached by experienced ex-pros rather than current players?

Davie Irons: I'm all for current players coaching as it can be inspirational for young kids to be coached by players they can see on a Saturday. This can also attract kids to sign up at the club. However this should only be up to Under 13 level. Above that I think they need a higher level of coaching. But in saying that the boys who are doing the coaching (Peter, Jamie etc) do have some coaching badges, it's not as if they just turn up for the sake of it. I'd ask fans to be patient, we will get this right.

6) John Gisbey: I have concerns with our current tactics. I don't like to play with one up front at home and don't think 3 at the back suits us - particularly as it nullifies the threat of Jim McAlister - who I think is our most creative player - as he spends most of his time at left back.

Davie Irons (looking really interested in a tactical discussion): First I'd just like to say I agree about Jim [McAlister]. I think he is an absolute star in the making and will play at a very high level, although I can't take any credit for that. Quite simply I play 3 at the back because we have no natural full-backs (applause from the crowd). I'm not big fan of one up front but sometimes it's the best way to go, away at Hamilton for example. When I choose my system I try to get the best 11 players on the park and fit my team around that. There will be a new system on Saturday and I hope it will excite everyone.

7) Unknown: Are we interested in any Gretna players. If so will the funds be available to sign them?

Davie Irons: We are keeping a close eye on the situation with Gretna but FIFA have to sanction any release of players from their contract, until then we wont know anything. So we don't know if we will be able to get them but we are monitoring the situation.

8) Unknown: This is for Derek (guy proceeds to flatter Collins about still being able to play etc)How big a factor in player performances is criticism from the terraces?

Derek Collins: The support can play a massive part in driving the club forward. We need a collective togetherness to do this and I will be very pro-active in meeting with supporters club to help bring them together to achieve this.

at this point Douglas re-addresses the question saying the man wanted to know if criticism influenced player performances [obviously because it suited his agenda regarding his comments criticising fans for our home record and comparing us unfavourably with Celtic]

Collins (non-committal, probably because he knows about Rae's comments and the fall out it caused): We have a fragile group, mostly young boys and encouragement and positivity will help us avoid relegation. Players don't respond to criticism, we need your support.

9) Unknown: I've noticed the high admission prices some teams charge when we travel to away games. Is there a standard price that clubs are recommended?

Gillian Donaldson: No. Recently relegated clubs (like Livingston) have costs that are the same as when they were in the SPL. This explains why their prices are higher.

Davie Irons: Can I just say it's great to turn up at away grounds and see a big support rather than one man and his dog (everyone laughs).

10) Unknown: What is our scouting network like? Do we have a named person in charge who goes out and looks at players and talks to youth clubs? There's one player, I'm not going to name names, but he has 3 goals in 23 games for his last club (obviously Brian Wake) - who's actually watching these players before we buy them.

Jim McColl: No we dont have one named person in charge. Jim McInally would have meetings with scouts and managers of juvenile clubs at Cappielow. We would also give trials to any players who were recommended to us.

Davie Irons: We will be looking at scouting closely [I took that he meant that he didn't think what we had previously was good enough and that we would be improving our scouting network but that didn't want to criticise what had gone on in the past]. Keep sending us letters and phoning us about players though as we wont ignore them, we are willing to give any young players a chance. If we dont we could miss that diamond in the rough.

During this question there was also mention of Hamilton youth system. Crawford Rae and Jim McColl both suggested that Hamilton's youth system was significantly aided by their artificial pitch, and financial help from their local council - who also rent offices at New Douglas Park.

11) Toby: Looking at the current situation with Gretna, I'd like to know if there are provisions in place to safeguard Morton's future when you are no longer with us.

Douglas Rae: Yes there are. I'm speaking for him here but Crawford will take over.

12) The Ocean Floor: Will we be bringing in any emergency loans?

Davie Irons: We have looked into it but it us proving difficult to get anyone. However I do think we have enough about the current squad to stay up.

Dougie Rae[not really getting that the question asked bringing in loan players]: Bringing in new players is a very expensive business. Three new players means a cost of £100,000 for the club over a year in wages. [He then goes on to talk about Inverclyde supporting an SPL club. The crowds aren't high enough and that people will turn out to support a winning team even in a lower division - using Carlisle to illustrate his point].

13) Unknown: Are there plans in place to redevelop Cappielow should we challenge for a place in the SPL?

Crawford Rae: Yes, we have a 2,3 maybe 4 year plan in place. We need to: increase the power of the floodlights, bring up the standard of half of the pitch, put floodlight towers on the cowshed roofand seat and cover the Wee Dublin End. This will all be expensive and up until now we have spent in excess of £1 million on stadium renovations.

Douglas Rae: We hope any renovations can be made in conjuction with the regeneration of the Riverside.

14) Unknown: I have two questions. Are the council willing to help the club [financially]? What's happening with Davie Nicholls and the trialists mentioned in todays Tele'?

Douglas Rae: No! The council are not inclined to help Morton financially, they don't have the money. If they owned the club, maybe they would.

Davie Irons: Davie Nicholl's has been training with us for the past 2 weeks. We are assessing him and one or two others closely. However there will not be many changes between now and the end of the season. [Irons also identified the need for more experienced players].

15) Unknown: Are there any plans to introduce free tickets for schools / clubs or reduced prices for children / the parent and child gate in an attempt to draw in the supporters of the future?

Gillian Donaldson: Our prices are very competitive - £4 for kids - and are designed to make football accessable to as many people as possible. We couldn't really drop the prices any lower.

16) Unknown: Why do we keep losing out on players like McMenamin, Mensing and the lad we had on trial [Jani Sturm] to less fashionable and less well supported clubs?

Douglas Rae: They went to Dundee and Hamilton because they felt they had better chance of playing in the SPL. Mensing is on £1000 per week at Hamilton. The Czechoslovakian, sorry Yugoslavian boy [Slovenian Dougie] we had, and who we put up in a hotel was supposed to sign for us . His agent then contacted us just before he was due to arrive to sign his contract to say he was signing for Dundee.

Davie Irons: Very often agents are behind these deals and influence the players. I was offered Jani Sturm [for Gretna] the night before he signed for Dundee. I also know that the lad McMenamin is on more than £1000 a week at Dundee.

17) Unknown: The turnstyles at Cappielow are very old. Do the club trust the integrity of the turnstyles [are they open to exploitation by dishonest memebers of staff]? Are there any plans to have them replaced?

Crawford Rae: We have had operators sacked on the spot. We know there are operators who have let youngsters jump over the turnstyle and that sort of thing. We know it goes on and do rely on supporters tipping us off to it. We looked into the full height turnstyles but the prices are exorbitant - these wont be getting installed in the forseeable future.

18) Unknown: Have the problems with the current home strip been sorted and what are the plans for strips next season, will there be another new home top?

Gillian Donaldson: The problems with the kits have been rectified after we went back to Bukta with the complaints. As far as I know there haven't been any further problems. [ My brother was in Smiths the other day and says all the tops still have faded blue hoops]. There will be a new home strip next season and a new third kit some time this year. [No mention if it will be with Bukta but I presume so].

19) Toby: Could we, if possible, announce the dates and destination of the pre-season tours as early as possible so that fans can book the time off work and organise accomodation?

Douglas Rae: Yes.

20) Emailed question: What was the criteria used to pick the new management team?

Douglas Rae: A proven track record, experience and good coaching skills. Dave had all of these.

For another take on the questions read Chrissiboi's post (#61) on this thread on the unofficial messageboard (his post also includes the first two questions I missed): http://www.greenockmorton.org/forum/index.php?showtopic=19893&st=50&gopid=422363&#entry422363

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