It is somewhat ironic that I am writing this Morton report straight after the Falkirk one. This season will always have a Ray McKinnon shaped cloud hanging over it and for Morton supporters the manner in which he departed the club will never be forgotten. It is also now official that the SPFL will not forget about it with the ruling that Falkirk have been found guilty with regards to their approach for Ray McKinnon and Darren Taylor. It is unclear what punishment might be on the cards…
It was in May this year that the former Dundee United manager was appointed as head coach at Morton. He spent the summer carrying out, on paper, some fairly solid transfer business and in the early part of the season the form was decent enough that it looked like he was building his own team and legacy at Morton after a number of years under Jim Duffy. The performances weren’t exactly exhilarating (McKinnon’s football never is) but it was a steady enough start.
What followed cannot really be summed up by an outsider like me but it was a shambles and one that leaves Morton in limbo. Football is a unique business and for someone to make a decision like that at such an early stage in their contract is never going to be one that goes down well. Much has been written about the McKinnon saga and the precise details of the move may never be made public but it has left Greenock Morton in a state of flux and has been a real blow to their hopes this season.
The Morton board turned to Jonatan Johansson as the man to lead them but regardless of who took over the difficulties in working with someone else’s squad were always going to mean they were starting on the back foot. In this sense Johansson will be given time to build his own team and although performances under him have ranged from pretty average to not very good he and his assistant Peter Houston will at least have time on their side.
For the remainder of the season it is really all about Johansson being given the chance to bring in his own players and his own style. He has experimented with a number of different formations but the trial and error approach only works for so long before you have to make a final call on your system but also on players who you may want to let go.
January Wishlist – Morton join the list of clubs who will look at a mini-rebuild in January and they will face the same issues as the others as they try and convince players to come to Cappielow. What they do have in their favour is a young and enthusiastic manager who probably has a large number of decent contacts within the game (Houston may also be a big help in this area). It might be that as a stop-gap they look at a few short-term deals initially but they do need to address the imbalance in the team. They desperately need more attacking options and some energy in the side.
Player of the Season (so far) – One issue with Morton this season is that both managers have yet to consistently get the best out of the players at their disposal. I still hold Michael Tidser as their best player but he has been used in different roles and as such has been underutilised. I’m also a big fan of what Chris Millar brings to the team and he is still showing his qualities despite his age.
Predicted Finish – 6th.
Manager Grade – Ray McKinnon – F. Not necessarily for his actual management. This is more for what unfolded in late August and the manner in which he left.
Manager Grade – Jonatan Johansson – C. Despite being able to claim that he has inherited a squad that isn’t his the fact is that performances under Johansson haven’t been great. They have struggled in games and the systems used by the manager have shown his own weaknesses. Will he last? He will certainly be given the rest of this season and probably the start of next but it will all depend on signings and his ability to adapt and make positive decisions.
Overall Grade – C. This is a difficult one really. Again I am an outsider so don’t know day-to-day how things are at Cappielow but my own view is that this season will become a bit of a nothing year and one that might be a write-off. No danger of relegation but no danger of promotion. They are operating under the old manager’s squad with a new manager in place. They need another rebuild and that might take two transfer windows at least. The priority this year might simply be to stay in touch in the league and maybe use the remaining time as an opportunity to plug some holes and try a few different tactical things that might click.