Scottish Championship 2019/20 Preview – Greenock Morton

2018/19 was the very definition of ‘meh’ for Greenock Morton. In the history of the club it will go down as a pretty forgetful footballing campaign but it did end with the Cappielow side fishing in 5th (possibly more to do with others being rubbish than Morton being good).

Thankfully the club decided to part with Jonaton Johansson (it was never going to work) but they did so in very bizarre circumstances. Although I did mention that last year was forgetful, that is only for matters on the pitch. Off the pitch Cappielow was the scene for two of the weirdest managerial changes in recent history. First we had Ray ‘Snake’ McKinnon jumping ship just a few weeks into his new job and then at the end of the season, and as a nice bookmark, we had Johansson leaving over issues to do with Charlie Telfer and the bonus clause he had regarding appearances for Morton.

I’ve tried to read various explanations for what happened before, during and after Johansson’s departure but it really doesn’t make a huge amount of sense. He’s gone though and everyone has moved on…

Morton as a club moved on by bringing on David Hopkin, the miracle worker. After a poor time with Bradford, can Hopkin bring in some Livingston-esque magic to a club he holds very dear to his heart?

Transfers In – Aidan Nesbitt (Dundee United), Kalvin Orsi (Brechin City), Sam Ramsbottom (Alfreton Town), Cameron Salkeld (Gateshead), Henk Van Schaik (Livingston), Cameron Blues (Livingston, loan), Nicky Cadden (Livingston), Peter Grant (Carlisle United), Kyle Jacobs (Queen of the South), Brian McLean (Dumbarton), Robbie Muirhead (Dunfermline)

Transfers Out – Ben Armour (Peterhead), Gregor Buchanan (Falkirk), Derek Gaston (Arbroath), Jack Iredale (Carlisle United), Denny Johnstone (Falkirk), Lee Kilday (Queen of the South), Gary Oliver (Queen of the South), Jack Purdue (Queen’s Park), Charlie Telfer (Falkirk), Robert Thomson (Alloa Athletic), Michael Tidser (Falkirk), Dylan Dykes (Stenhousemuir, loan), Andrew Dallas (Rangers, end of loan), Greg Kiltie (Kilmarnock, end of loan), Robby McCrorie (Rangers, end of loan), Keelan O’Connell (Bournemouth, end of loan), Kerr Waddell (Dundee, end of loan), Rory McKeown

Transfer Window Success? – Huge changes this summer at Cappielow and with a reduced budget it looks like all eyes will be on the manager to do what he did with such success at Livi. There is no doubt that this squad is still a little thin so it will be up to Hopkin to squeeze every ounce of energy and quality out of his players.

I think that in the forward areas there are still big question marks over players who have a lot to prove. Add to that concern there is still a very patchwork defence and some inexperience in the goal. You have to say that this season will be huge test for Hopkin.

The Manager – Talking of Hopkin you would imagine that in the scenario Morton find themselves in you really couldn’t have picked a better manager. Despite a pretty forgetful spell down in England it is the case that his last spell in Scotland was a huge success. By taking Livingston to the Premiership (via double promotions), Hopkin worked wonders on a tight budget and a small squad.

Can he lift Morton to similar levels? I think we are miles off being able to look at possible promotion but he should be able to navigate his squad to a reasonable finish in the Championship if he is allowed to stretch the budget just a little further to add one or two more.

The Hope – I’m not really sure what Morton fans want out of this season. You would argue that stability is important but with some aspects at the club still being a bit unclear (and I might be wrong about that) it is not the case that the words ‘Greenock Morton’ and ‘stable’ can be put together at the moment.

I suppose what would constitute a successful season would be the ability to compete with the others out-with the three or four in the league who are operating with much larger budgets. They have had a very mixed pre-season so far so there isn’t really an indication yet as to how the year might pan out.

Look Out For – Of all the new signings and changes at Cappielow it is maybe difficult to pick out one or two who could make a real difference. Much will depend on the ability for Hopkin to elevate players who might not be stand-out names (and help people like Robbie Muirhead finally discover some form).

In terms of younger players I have seen Lewis Strapp and Reece Lyon being mentioned as potentially having good seasons but again (and I know I’ve gone on about this a lot), the manager is the key in all of this. A team is always as good or as bad as their manager but in some cases quality will always allow you to perform at a slightly higher level (or lower if you lack it).

If it was a purely squad based league I would say Morton, at the moment, probably have the 7th best set of players in the division, but they do have Hopkin and with him in charge that squad could be lifted towards the ‘best of the rest’ spot in the table IF he can get it right.

Transfer and club information correct as of 30th July 2019