Where to start? Two years ago when you thought of Falkirk you pictured a decent side with Premiership potential and a fantastic youth setup. Fast forward to December 2018 and we are currently looking at a club in real danger of losing all sense of who they are. Terrible decision making at the top has seen them flirt dangerously close with relegation and the fear of the drop is still very much there as we approach the January window.
The season started with Paul Hartley doing his level best to assemble the worst squad in Falkirk’s history. Taking risks with unproven English ‘talent’ he brought in an entire squad of players. It became obvious, very quickly, that this was a failed experiment and Hartley had to go.
What followed was one of the season’s more intriguing stories as Falkirk moved quickly to secure Ray McKinnon and Darren Taylor as their new management team. The fact that McKinnon had only joined Greenock Morton a few months previous resulted in legal challenges, online drama and a large number of rubber snakes.
Were Falkirk at fault? Was McKinnon at fault? The answer isn’t a simple one but the decision by McKinnon to move was a very brave one considering the complications of the deal but also because of how genuinely awful the squad he has inherited actually is. To his credit he was worked really hard in making his team a bit more solid and a bit more ‘basic’ (that is a compliment in these circumstances).
The truth is that this season is purely about survivial. What happens next May depends on where Falkirk will be playing their football the following year and if there are to be any changes at board level. Moves have been made on that front and from an outsiders view it is clear that something needs to change at Falkirk at an operational level.
January Wishlist – The problem Falkirk have is that for yet another transfer window the manager is looking at a potential rebuild that covers every aspect of the team. This type of squad building is not only high risk, it is unsustainable. Ray McKinnon will have little choice but to bring in a large quantity of players but he will have to compete with others in the division and that will mean he loses out on some of his priority targets. What is the absolute number one priority? For me is has to be a decent goalkeeper. Currently Leo Fasan is costing them points almost on a weekly basis.
Player of the Season (so far) – Come on, you don’t expect me to actually nominate anyone here do you? This is possibly the worst set of players to ever play for Falkirk and there are only a handful of decent individual performances that have peppered a largely dreadful season. At a push you could argue that on-loan Zak Rudden has shown more fight than most and it is crucial Falkirk hold on to him.
Predicted Finish – 9th.
Manager Grade – Paul Hartley – F. A shambles of a tenure. He played a risky, risky game this pre-season and it ended up being a total disaster and one that has potentially set the club back years. Rumours of his terrible man-management and training means that it may be a while before someone else takes a risk on Hartley.
Manager Grade – Ray McKinnon – B. Trying to save a sinking ship requires basic management and basic tactics. McKinnon will give you that and already it seems like he is beginning to slowly pick up points that would have been lost under Hartley. It won’t be pretty and their will still be questions over the long-term suitability of McKinnon but he should be able to steady the ship enough to see Falkirk through this season.
Overall Grade – F. From a club that, from the outside, seemed like it was getting everything right on and off the pitch it is a totally different Falkirk that we are now seeing. In the space of just a couple of seasons the entire landscape has changed and huge questions still need to be asked of those in charge. There is still a very real danger of this club being relegated and not that should ever be a possibility but the hard, hard end optimists might suggest that Falkirk being relegated would at least allow for a total clear-out and a potential fresh start. That is an absolute worst-case scenario but the truth is that things cannot continue like this.