Survival secret smells like team spirit to Smith
DUNFERMLINE Athletic can’t afford to be picky when it comes to choosing their heroes and it may be that, in the fraught, final days of their relegation fight, they look to a man whose job it was to send them down the last time they finished bottom of the Clydesdale Bank Premier League.
In 2007, St Mirren were where Hibernian now stand, the target for a Dunfermline team struggling for a foothold in the top flight. Then, Chris Smith celebrated their demotion, part of the St Mirren squad that achieved safety on the penultimate weekend of the season. Now, the goalkeeper will attempt to anchor the rescue mission designed by Jim Jefferies, the manager parachuted in following the sacking of Jim Mcintyre.
Smith credits St Mirren’s success five years ago to a team spirit that he believes can be replicated at his current club. Their chances will be greatly improved if they can find a way past his former team today.
“In St Mirren’s first season back in the SPL we managed to survive with a win at Motherwell on the secondlast day of the season,” recalled Smith. “We were 2-0 down at half-time and, five minutes into the second half, Dunfermline were 1-0 up at Caley Thistle. Fortunately, we ended up winning 3-2 and Dunfermline lost the game.
“It is a team thing. It is about having that togetherness on the park and pulling together. Team spirit got us through. We might not have played the greatest football in the world, but it was about digging in. We were scrapping for every point and it came down to that. We grafted away throughout the season and we got our breaks at the right time. We were never bottom for the whole season, but we were within touching distance and we could feel Dunfermline chasing us. We were happy to be 11th.
“St Mirren had strong characters at that point – Kirk Broadfoot, Simon Lappin, Hugh Murray and John Potter – that was a big part of our season. We did everything we could to survive and that day there were a lot of mixed emotions after being two goals down and then winning. At the end of the game, it was more relief than anything else when we found out we were staying in the league. It was what we had in that dressing room which helped us. I have no doubt the Dunfermline boys can do it.”
Jefferies spoke of the challenge that faces him, ahead of the first of the eight games he has to save Dunfermline.
He said: “We’ve not got a lot of time, but you just have to make the best of it. Every session you have with them you will soon be making your mark on them. They’re a hard-working bunch, I’ll say that. Maybe sometimes they cause that because they do things that make them have to work hard, by giving the ball away easily and things like that. These are things that you could always stop and brush up on and keep at them, and hope they improve.”
If there is much at stake for Dunfermline, Steven Thompson, the St Mirren striker, insists that they, too, will be motivated, even after their hopes of a top six place and a Scottish Cup semi-final were ended in their last two games. “We’ve got our own agenda, we need to start picking up points,” he said.
“You might think that is our season over but it’s really not. It can still be a successful season for us and by finishing above ninth would be a successful season. It would be the highest St Mirren have finished in the last 25 years. We can build on that for next year, because next year, and I know we said it this year, we really do want to be a top-six team.”