D-Day for Bairns

Falkirk gear up for league fight

AFTER one false dawn in March, next Thursday will finally be D-Day in the Falkirk's battle to gain promotion.

Falkirk officials will provide the last bits of information on the bid to the league on Tuesday. Then Bairns chairman Campbell Christie, vice-chairman Colin Liddell and finance director Martin Ritchie will have their one and only chance to personally plead for admission from the Premierleague chairmen .

Falkirk's board, which met yesterday (Wednesday), believe a decision will be made straight after they've presented what they see as a watertight case.

Mr Christie said last night: "I'm extremely optimistic that the bid will be successful. What we are proposing fulfils the criteria and there's absolutely no reason why is shouldn't be accepted. We haven't made a decision about what will happen if we are unsuccessful or what steps we'll take."

For weeks now rumours and reports have suggested Falkirk's rejection is a done deal. Either way, the top 12 will still have to vote on the proposal, and find a basis for denial if that's their decision.

Tomorrow, planning permission for 10,000 seats at Westfield will be rubber stamped. Excelsior Stadium in Airdrie, safety certificates and all, is ready and waiting. Mowlem began working on the construction of The Falkirk Stadium this week. Where's the problem?

Well, in the past few months there have no doubt been favours called in and promises made in the cartel that is the Scottish Premierleague. Four opponents are known (Livingston, Partick Thistle, Motherwell and Dundee United) but which of their friends will throw the first stone against them? That infamous four need only two backers and Falkirk are done for.

Legal action has been raised as an option in some quarters. However, the expense, delay and disruption it would cause in the small world of Scottish football probably makes NO mean NO.

Managers

The board also took the opportunity to advance negotiations with co-coaches John Hughes and Owen Coyle to take the jobs permanently. Mr Christie said: "We're still in negotiations with John and Owen and hope to conclude them by the end of the week. We've made offers to them and hope to be able to sign them up on a longer term basis."

The duo were contemplating the deal last night. While the bartering at Brockville may drag out a little longer, I believe the partnership will continue next season.

As Yogi said after Saturday's match: "The two of us are desperate to get into it. We get on really well together and the two of us feel it's a natural progression for us and up to now we've done not bad."

Planning ahead for next season is being frustrated by the state of limbo Falkirk finds itself in, neither up nor down.

Owen Coyle said this week: "We're keeping tabs on everything and there's obviously people representing players that have been speaking to us. It's just a matter of everything being sorted and we can move on from there. Even the players coming out of contract's deals run until the end of May. The sooner we can tell them one way or the other the better it is for everybody."

Falkirk travel to take on St Mirren on Saturday intent on correcting their slip-up there earlier in the season. Leading 3-0 at half-time the Bairns came away with a 4-4 draw. It's a result that still grates with the team. Coyle said: "It was the same on Saturday as we'd lost down at Ayr. Equally, we want to finish the season with 84 points. We want to show how clear we are as champions."

There's no doubt Coyle would love to finish as the league's top scorer for the second year in a row too. But, despite that and other side issues, no-one can disguise the fact that the anti-climax of being denied promotion would be hard to bear.

Yogi and Allan Ferguson are major doubts for Saturday. Andy Lawrie and Kevin Christie played for the reserves in a 1-0 win over St Mirren on Tuesday. Andy Rodgers scored with a cracking lob, but Falkirk ended the match with 10 men after Ian MacSween, Ryan McStay and Stuart Cringean all went off with knee knocks, and Christie had to leave the field with a stomach bug.

FOR years Falkirk fans have been saying they would only believe a new stadium was on it way when the work began. Well, start believing.

Joint managers Owen Coyle and John Hughes joined Mowlem director Alex Miller on site on Tuesday as construction work began to build The Falkirk Stadium.

Mr Miller said: "We are very pleased to have been awarded this prestigious contract which will result in the construction of one of Scotland's finest football stadiums."

Colin McLean, chairman of The Falkirk Community Stadium Limited and BP Grangemouth Complex Director, said: "Everyone involved in the future of the Falkirk district is delighted that the construction of the stadium is underway."

Falkirk FC chairman Campbell Christie added: "This is a momentous time in the history of the club. We have worked for many years through challenging circumstances to create a new stadium which will enable us to meet the criteria set down by the Scottish Premier League."

MEN AT WORK: pictured donning the hard hats at Westfield on Tuesday were, back, from left, John Hughes, Jamie McQuilken, Scott MacKenzie, John Henry and Craig McPherson. Front, from left, Mowlem Mole, Alex Miller and Owen Coyle