Aitken knows all about per­ils of rel­e­ga­tion

Evening Times - - LADBROKES PREMIERSHI­P - NEIL CAMERON

AL­LOA, Mor­ton, Queen of the South, Falkirk and Partick This­tle. In that or­der. This is how the Cham­pi­onship looks from sixth to 10th po­si­tion. With time run­ning out. Every one of these teams could finish safe, in the play-off place or last which means au­to­matic rel­e­ga­tion to League One. Al­loa are the only part-time team in the league and be­fore a ball was kicked the rest would have had hopes, an ex­pec­ta­tion even, of fin­ish­ing in the pro­mo­tion play-off places. It is go­ing to be nervous enough over the fi­nal two weeks of the sea­son. If only it was just about foot­ball. Ste­vie Aitken kept Dum­bar­ton in the Cham­pi­onship for two sea­sons be­fore fi­nally go­ing down a year ago. His club cut costs, the team started slowly and a good man­ager lost his job. Re­al­ity can hurt. “All you can do is fo­cus on your­self, win your games and hope re­sults else­where go your way,” said Aitken. “It’s ter­ri­ble for the nerves. I can imag­ine what is go­ing through the minds of ev­ery­one in­volved. “When Dum­bar­ton went down, we had to cut back by 25 per cent – and we were part time. We didn’t have the over­heads a full-time club has, which means who­ever does get rel­e­gated are go­ing to have to cut their bud­get by 50 per cent – maybe more. “Play­ers will move on, peo­ple will lose their jobs, and get­ting out of League One right away is no gimme. Just ask Raith Rovers. “And these are big clubs. I don’t think any of them would have ex­pected to be in so much dan­ger.” Queen of the South are at home to Dunfermlin­e to­day, ri­vals Falkirk and Mor­ton face-off, while the big­gest game is at Firhill where Al­loa, on 38 points, take on This­tle with 34 and a game in hand. “For me, This­tle need to win that,” said Aitken. “Al­loa will be fine if they win and that would leave This­tle with three games to win or that might be them. What I would say is that when you get down to three and four games left, momentum is ev­ery­thing. “Mor­ton, my old club, and Queen of the South have gone back­wards. Find­ing form dur­ing such a bad run isn’t easy. Mor­ton haven’t won in their last 15 games. That’s rel­e­ga­tion form.” Aitken did su­perbly to keep Dum­bar­ton in that league for so long. He’s full of ad­mi­ra­tion for the job Jim Good­win has done at the only part-time club in Scot­tish foot­ball’s sec­ond tier. “I know how chal­leng­ing it is to go up against full-time clubs when your lads have done 10-hour shifts all week and you get them for two training ses­sions,” said Aitken. “Jim has done a mar­vel­lous job and I do hope they stay up.” It would be a dis­as­ter for the likes of This­tle or Queen of the South to be rel­e­gated, es­pe­cially the Glas­gow club which three sea­sons ago fin­ished in the top six of the Pre­mier League. “I look at the play­ers This­tle have and how they are where they are is a mys­tery,” ad­mit­ted Aitken. “I thought it was just a slow start they had, which can hap­pen, but they haven’t got go­ing at all.”

Gary Caldwell’s This­tle face prospect of rel­e­ga­tion to League One

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