26 Oct 1996
- Written by Michael McColl (The Independent)
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To most people outside Scotland, and to many inside, Scottish football consists of Celtic and Rangers. The rest are unimportant.When people look at attendance figures for lower division Scottish League matches, they must shake their heads in disbelief. How can these clubs survive? The key is promotion - both on and off the field.
One of last season's master exponents of this philosophy in the Scottish game was East Fife, who achieved promotion, had a high-profile manager, obtained maximum publicity from Caribbean players and had a new all-seater stadium to look forward to. Sadly, East Fife's "new Bayview" became a nightmare, beset by problems, and building work has still not started, and the team are languishing in the relegation area in a competitive First Division.
A close season consisting of one piece of bad news after another for East Fife fans, dubbed the "Summer of Discontent", has continued into this season, culminating in September's bombshell that they were dispensing with the services of their manager, Steve Archibald.
The sacking of a man regarded as one of the country's best young managers was met with widespread shock from followers of the Scottish game. A personality clash with East Fife's managing director, local solicitor Julian Danskin, was the official reason given for the sacking, but there were rumours of a deeper rift and financial problems. The news disgusted the faithful fans, who revered Archibald as a god and their saviour for getting them out of the quagmire of the Second Division. As a result, attendance, performances and morale have dropped.
With all this going on, it's not easy to promote East Fife as a watchable item to the fickle, critical Levenmouth public. The publicity weapon the club has managed to hold on to is the trio of Trinidad and Tobago internationals, all brought to Bayview by Archibald.
Arnold Dwarika, Craig Demmin and Gavin Lewis are cult figures, who attract publicity to East Fife during a season in which it seems nothing else positive will. They're mobbed in local nightspots and East Fife's fanzine, Away From The Numbers, has had a Trinidad and Tobago flag made up for match days.
Dwarika has been the most successful. Signed from the wonderfully named Superstar Rangers towards the end of the 1994/95 season, he has been a regular in the startling line-up and on the scoresheet, having adjusted to the ferocity of the Scottish game very quickly. The 23-year-old has recently returned from trials with the Swiss club FC Zurich and Blackpool. Demmin is a 6ft 5in tall, 25-year-old defender, who has found himself playing in midfield and even up front since joining from Trinity Pros in December 1995. Lewis, an Under-23 rather than full international, is the latest acquisition of the three, having joined at the start of the season from the not so exotic Barnsley. A Nottingham native, he has been with Notts County and Chesterfield.
These three show how countries previously regarded as the poorer relations of world football have dramatically improved and now supply players who shape teams in supposedly richer football nations, which are themselves standing still.
This T & T connection could be the make-or-break factor in East Fife remaining a First Division side, attracting more fans through the turnstiles and getting on a firmer financial footing. Only time will tell.