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Others will gain from Morton's loss

Updated: Sep 10, 2022

On 10 December 2020, Greenock Morton announced that their manager and former player, David Hopkin, had resigned that morning, “in a selfless act to help safeguard the playing squad and assist the Club as it deals with the serious financial issues resulting from the pandemic”.

Club chairman Crawford Rae paid fulsome praise to the outgoing manager: “Hoppy has been an inspiration since he joined the Club and has worked tirelessly to try and regain the success that has evaded us for so long. I spoke to Hoppy on numerous occasions about coming to the Club as our Manager, and he said it was the one Club that he wanted to get to the top flight. Unfortunately, the vision and plans we discussed changed dramatically due to the Covid pandemic and we found ourselves having to deal with a completely different football landscape. This was very difficult for me, Hoppy and everyone involved with the Club, but we had to adapt to the situation we found ourselves in.” “I discussed budgets with Hoppy this morning and we looked at possible ways to improve our financial position. In a selfless act he said he would resign if that would help the Club financially. We talked about this at some length and I eventually, and reluctantly, accepted his resignation. The simple fact is that Greenock Morton, like other football clubs, has generated little to no income as the pandemic has raged across the country and we have had to contend with empty terraces week after week. The furlough scheme has partially helped and the Scottish Government announcement about funding is welcome, if very late, but like so many other businesses at the moment we need to generate considerably more revenue if we are to survive.”

It was also confirmed that David Hopkin’s assistant, Anton McElhone, would be taking over as Interim Manager, with support from three players, Chris Millar, Jim McAlister and Brian McLean.

In a subsequent interview with BBC Radio Scotland's Sportsound programme, David Hopkin provided listeners with some behind-the-scene details which would not be unique to the Cappielow club: "There were a few things going on. I was trying to get four quality players signed for January and was sure they would have pushed us on to the play-off spots. I was told by the chairman that the club had had a board meeting and didn't want any more players to come in and wanted to me reduce the playing staff by five or six, which I felt was difficult. We probably had the lowest budget in the Championship. I reckon, throughout the whole squad I had, the average wage was around £300 per week. Then Crawford said the board had started to name players to go and that was the final straw for me. I left the meeting, went to training, and told the players I was going to resign that day. Hopefully, the money the club saved on my salary safeguarded the players who were maybe going to lose their job.”

In the same interview, the former Livingston and Bradford City manager admitted he knew of the club's cost-cutting regime when he took the role, the former Livingston and Bradford manager also stated again that he had been digging into his own pocket to cover outgoings: “That was something I decided to do myself. It was just a couple of things with certain players we had to get in, it was some appearance money short and I agreed to pay it. There was also the food, where we were £100 short a week and me and [goalkeeping coach] Dave Timmins and sometimes Dave McKinnon made sure we paid that, so the players got their meals.”

Morton’s interim manager Anton McElhone later contributed more details of Hopkin’s generosity: “People don’t realise just what David did for this club, the money he spent and the things that he did for the players. There was appearance money, players’ wages and giving players who aren’t signed travel expenses. He also bought food in. We have breakfast and lunch at Cappielow but he was paying the shortfall for that every week. He did so many things selflessly and that’s something I want to make sure people know about because he did so much for us. Not only was he managing a football club, he was managing people and all the ins and outs going on at the club.”

David Hopkin’s achievements at Livingston bordered on the miraculous and at Valley Parade he soon discovered why the average tenure of Bradford City managers is so short. Anton McElhone felt the situation surrounding Hopkin's time with Morton was very unfortunate: “If the gaffer had come to the club maybe four years ago, then it would have been a totally different scenario, with where the club was financially. What he did in the eighteen months he was here, it beggars belief.” Scottish internationalist Hopkin had a very successful playing career with Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Leeds United and Bradford City and he still has plenty of time to build on his Livi accomplishments and become an equally successful manager. That's for the future, and it's not guaranteed. What’s not in doubt at the moment, and never been, is that David Hopkin is a good man. Morton's unfortunate loss will be another club's undoubted gain.

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