THIS YEAR'S MODEL
After two comprehensive thumpings the Betfred Cup group phase continues on Tuesday night with the visit of Falkirk to Shielfield. As Berwick fans another game we face with large degree of trepidation, hoping we can keep the score down and maybe even sneak a goal ourselves. But we have to keep going and hope that the players just forget these results immediately the game ends.
There is little succour to be found in our head to head record against the Bairns. They are one of those teams we actually haven't played that much over the years - only 30 times in total and we have have managed to win just once and that was back on the 19th August 1959 when a side managed by Danny McLennan had a 2-1 victory. A season that saw Falkirk finish two points above us in 8th place in the old Second Division. Of the other 29 games we have drawn seven and lost the other 22. With the 50th anniversary of the moon landings taken place over the past weekend perhaps tomorrow night would be the right time to celebrate the 60th anniversary of that victory, albeit it a wee bit early. The last time we met was on 6 January 2007 in the Scottish Cup Third Round when Falkirk left Shielfield with a 2-0 victory. Goals from Alan Gow (9m) and Liam Craig (51m) seeing them through in front of 1,900.
On a personal notes one of my early memories of Shielfield is Falkirk in the Cup on 3 February 1973. A game I remember specifically as the first time my Dad didn't take me to the Ducket as it was full of Bairns fans.
Falkirk visit on the back of their own traumatic season, having been relegated from the Championship in bottom place despite a desperate charge by Queen Of The South to grab the position from them. Having spent all bar one of the first 26 weeks of the season in the bottom two, an escape looked as though it might be on when they rose to the giddy heights of eighth for five weeks only to drop back to the bottom for four of the last five weeks. A last day 3-2 win over champions Ross County proving too little, too late despite Queen Of The South losing 3-0 at home to Partick. Both teams finishing on 38 points but Falkirk having a worse goal difference by five. Worse for the Bairns Alloa's one all draw at Ayr was enough to ensure they finished on 39 points, had they lost Falkirk would at least have had a second chance in the play-offs to retain their championship status.
They started last season under the charge of Paul Hartley but he was to leave at the end of August after only three wins ineight matches. Ray McKinnon took over at the beginning of September and was to get off to a less than auspicious start losing at home 1-0 in the Challenge Cup to Connah's Quay Nomads - though after last week's European results that may not have been as bad a result as it appeared at the time.
Relegation has proved a bitter pill for Falkirk with a lot of animosity and ill-feeling around the club (sound familiar?). Immediately after seven players returned to their parent clubs at the end of loan spells and seven left. Five remained under contract and of those Paul Paton would leave.
McKinnon has gone on a major signing spree with 13 new signings in the summer. He seems to gone for players he knows to a large degree signing midfielders Charlie Telfer and Michael Tidser as well as defender Gregor Buchanan, who has been made captain, from Morton where McKinnon started last season as manager (he only June and July in the Cappielow hotseat). Of the other players signed many have a Dundee United connection. Deep breath for the rest of the summer signings - winger Aidan Connolly from Dunfermline (after a spell at York City under the disastrous, club destroying tenure of Jackie McNamara, who coincidentally is now involved at the Pars) along with defender Mark Durnan from the same place; midfielder Margaro Gomis of numerous clubs from Cowdenbeath up with three spells at Dundee United, defender Michael Doyle from Queen of the South; an extension to defender Paul Dixon's contract; international goalkeeper Cammy Bell (well he came on as sub in a friendly against the Faroe Islands); Republic of Ireland international striker Connor Sammon (no really, he has nine caps - I checked); forward Robbie Leitch (son of Scott) from NK Novigrad in Croatia (it truly is a global game) and defender Lewis Toshney both on six month contracts and finally forward Declan McManus on a season long loan from Ross County.
As if all that hasn't been enough there has been major turmoil of the pitch with a blizzard of club statements. The chairman stood down straight after relegation - it's for Falkirk to explain why they feel they didn't want Margaret Lang to be called Chairwoman or even Chairperson. The Chief Exec resigning citing abuse from fans and threats as part of the reason for going. Just today they have issued a statement apologising to a fan following a case against them being dismissed at Falkirk Sheriff Court on Friday, the club had accused their own supporters of racism during a cup game at Stenhousemuir. At the same time on Friday an EGM was being held where a vote of no confidence in the board was put forward with the board surviving on a 64% vote. Meanwhile they are still looking for new investors.
There is of course one major connection between Berwick and Falkirk - that of the Deans Family, Hamish and George. That, however, is a whole other story and one which take a long time. Linked in with that is the managerial career of Jim Jeffries who spent five years at Falkirk after his two with us.
On the playing front the most obvious connection is John Hughes who worked his way to Falkirk via Swansea after a season at Shielfield and after five years in his initial spell would return seven years later for a further two years partly as player manager at the start of a six year management spell at the club. A period in which Hughes took the club to the SPL and kept them their for four years before he departed. Falkirk having one more season in the top league which was ti be their last to date (2009/10).
So far in the BetFred Falkirk have drawn at home with Livvy (48% possession, 6 shots, 3 on target), Sammon getting a last minute equaliser, before losing the shoot out; beat Stranraer with an early goal from McManus (61% possession, 22 shots, 10 on target) and lost 2-1 at Ayr on Saturday with McManus getting his second goal and Durnan being sent off in what was a pretty even match in terms of possession and shots (Falkirk having 12 shots, 6 on target to go with 52% possession). None of which bodes particularly well.