NEW Morton manager Jim Duffy knows he isn’t returning to the same club he left 30 years ago — but says he is aiming to recreate some of the success achieved in his time as a player at Cappielow.
Initially signed on a month’s loan from Celtic in January 1982 as a replacement for departing star Neil Orr, tough tackling centre-half Duffy soon made the move permanent in a £25,000 transfer.
In total he spent three-and-a-half eventful seasons in Greenock, in which time he played in three Premier League campaigns and experienced two relegations and one promotion.
Yet it is the second demotion in 1984-85 — his final season before moving to Dundee in a deal which earned Morton £65,000 — that he is perhaps most remembered for. Despite being a defender who had played in a team that was relegated after conceding 100 goals in 36 matches, Duffy’s impressive displays saw him recognised as the SPFA’s Players’ Player of the Year.
The 55-year-old looks back on his spell at the Ton as a positive time and hopes he will be celebrating another promotion next season in his capacity as manager, just as he did as a player in 1983-84.
Speaking exclusively to the Tele last night, Duffy, who has signed a two-year deal, said: “I feel this was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down. Morton approached Clyde and asked for permission to speak to me and the Clyde chairman then contacted me. It went from there.
“I don’t know who else was interviewed — it’s not my business — but once I spoke to the club I was offered the post and it was something I was absolutely thrilled to accept.
“There’s obviously a connection with the club which I’m very proud of. Benny Rooney and Mick Jackson were an unbelievable influence in my career. If Benny and Mick didn’t sign me and give me the chance to play, I wouldn’t have had a career in senior football, so I owe everything to them and Morton Football Club. They had the belief in me that I could play at the top level and they gave me the platform to do that. I could not underestimate or overstate how important they were to my career.
“Regardless of the fact I’ve now been appointed manager, I would still tell you that I owe a huge part of my career to the club and the belief the management team had in me.
“And that was in the Fergie [Sir Alex Ferguson] era at Aberdeen, the Jim McLean era at Dundee United: we were up against great teams and top class players.
“We were involved in some real tough league campaigns. But up until a few players were sold we did very well. When I came here we stayed in the Premier League for the first 18 months then we were relegated.
“Once you sell too many of your good players, you’re weakened and that’s what happened — we were relegated. But we managed to bounce straight back again, winning promotion from the First [Division] back into the Premier League on the last day of the season the year I was captain.
“So you can look at it either way: the glass is half empty or half full. You have the disappointments of relegation and the elation of promotion.
“My glass was half full and I remember my time here fondly — and I hope we will be experiencing that elation of promotion again at the end of this year.” While Duffy doesn’t mind reminiscing about his playing days at Cappielow, he is fully focused on the job at hand and says he is aiming to take the Ton back to the Championship.
The former Falkirk, Dundee, Hibs and Brechin boss added: “It’s about where we are now and not where we were 30 years ago. I’m looking at where we are now and how we can take the club forward.
“Speaking with the chairman, I understand the demands and expectations of this job, and I’m looking forward to the challenge. I’m determined to do the best job I can. I’m under no illusions about how tough it’s going to be and I’m also fully aware that people expect Morton to be up there challenging at the top end of the table. There are high demands, but I’ve never shied away from a job or a challenge in my life in footbal. I’m sure if we can get a team showing real commitment, and playing for the jersey, the fans will get behind us and that’s my initial target.
“In reality, it’s not about what you say in newspapers or what you put on a tactics board — it’s about what you do on the pitch on a Saturday, and that will be the test for the players this season.” Meanwhile, the Tele understands that, although a deal has not yet been finalised, another former Morton player will be installed as Duffy’s assistant.
Midfielder Craig ‘Hagi’ McPherson, 43, made 118 starts and 67 sub appearances for the Cappielow club between 1994 and 2000 and looks set to leave his position as Falkirk’s head of youth.