Johnny Russell was one of the brightest talents in the Scottish game when he burst…
News that Paul Hartley and Falkirk had come to a ‘mutual agreement’ to terminate his managerial contract with the club came as no real surprise. The Bairns remain pointless after three weeks of action in the Championship and appear bereft of any idea of how to get points on the board.
Hartley took over in October 2017 with the club sat in 8th position and it took him no less than nine matches to record his first victory whilst in charge. That came in the form of a 3-0 win over Queen of the South on December 30.
Hartley was well aware that his team needed overhauling and set about building his own squad in the January transfer window. During this time, a number of first-team players were released from their contracts including experienced heads such as Lee Miller and Mark Kerr – who he allegedly fell out with.
The former Dundee manager’s decision to get rid of some of the more experienced and ‘better’ players paid off as he would lead the Bairns to a further 10 victories in the second half of the season and finished well clear of the relegation play-off zone. In the end, 17 points separated themselves and Dumbarton. All was seemingly good, and it appeared as if Hartley had got Falkirk moving in the right direction.
The likes of Peter Grant and Tom Taiwo left on free transfers at the end of the season while Craig Sibbald, who at just 23 had made 274 appearances for the Bairns, upped sticks and joined Livingston upon their unlikely return to the Premiership.
Hartley wanted to further strengthen his squad at the Falkirk Stadium and build on last season. He wasn’t playing about and brought in no fewer than 16 new faces. Many of these signings, nine to be precise, had one thing in common; they were arriving from the lower leagues of England or youth systems of Premier League clubs and therefore had zero experience of playing in Scotland.
There is always a great risk attached to tearing a squad up completely and doing a complete re-build rather than re-tool. Unfortunately for Hartley, the team he assembled appear at this stage to be a motley crew rather than a side capable of returning to fight for promotion like Falkirk sides of the recent past.
The graph above highlights just how poor Hartley’s record was in the end. Out of 41 games, he only managed to win 17 of them which works out at 41%. Moreover, he drew eight and lost sixteen means he finished with an average of 1.44 points per game.
Hartley’s now former assistant Gordon Young has been placed in temporary charge of first team affairs. A tough few weeks will ensue as not only must a new manager be found but Falkirk are to take on pre-season title favourites Ross County, high flying Ayr United and then Dundee United in their next three league encounters.
Jim McIntyre is the odds-on favourite to succeed Hartley at the helm at the Falkirk stadium. The 46-year-old has been out of work since being sacked by Ross County in September 2017 and has previous experience of managing in the Championship.
He most recently led Queen of the South to a fourth-placed finish in the 2013/14 season. The ex-striker also knows what it takes to build a winning team having won the Scottish First Division, as it was back then, with Dunfermline Athletic in 2010/11.
With his proverbial managerial stock higher than ever, having led Livingston to the unlikeliest of promotions to the top flight, Hopkin opted not to renew his contract at the end of last season.
It seemed like he had obvious intentions of moving on to bigger and better things. Conversely, despite alleged interest from south of the border, nothing transpired, and Hopkin could well be the ideal fit for Falkirk give that he managed to guide a team of misfits to success last season.
Jim Duffy is a former Championship manager of the year, who has been out of work since being sacked by Morton at the end of last season following a 7th placed finish. Duffy led the ‘Ton to the play-offs in the 2016/17 season; the same year he was awarded with the manager of the year accolade. He was also a candidate for SPFL manager.
Unlike the other two mentioned above, Duffy has experience at Falkirk having served as manager in the late 1980s where he very nearly led Falkirk to promotion from the first division, falling just two points short of the mark in the end.