AFTER five months of "testing challenges" to begin his reign as Athletic head coach, Stevie Crawford says he is out to change the "culture" within the club.

And that means putting together a squad that supporters not only can "identify" with, but one which will forge a togetherness between the pitch and the terraces, and who are arriving "wanting to play for Dunfermline".

Speaking at a recent Supporters Council meeting at East End, chairman Ross McArthur told those gathered that they "would not believe the stuff Stevie has had to put up with from certain players in that dressing room" last season, and that there was a "lot going on in there that staff couldn't believe".

A legend with the Pars as a player, Crawford took over from the axed Allan Johnston in January and, after securing a first win at the sixth attempt, led the club into the final promotion play-off place with four further victories in a row.

But, in a dramatic slump in form, they picked up just one point from their final eight games as they finished seventh in the Championship, just three points above the bottom two.

Fourteen players have subsequently left the club and, when asked about McArthur's comments, Crawford told Press Sport: "There's things that I could say but managers have to deal with certain issues. It's like any line of work.

"There were testing challenges and it's not fair to mention individual names, or to then turn round and say this happened and that happened. It's happened for a reason and it was difficult.

"That's the responsibility of being a manager. What I will say is that when I'm identifying players to play for this club, they've got to come here wanting to play for Dunfermline. There has to be that feeling that you want to go there.

"It's not until you face a difficult period that you find out who's going to stand up and fight for the cause. What I said at the supporters meeting is that the one thing I won't hide from is that the run in the last eight games isn't good enough for a club like Dunfermline.

"I won't hide from that and the responsibility that came with that, but then I want players that will replicate me in terms of how I feel. I want players that will replicate Ross, as the chairman of this football club, and people that have worked here for a number of years that when they go out, they actually take pride in their performance because they know what it means to people round about."

Crawford continued: "I'm not a man for blame culture. Could I have done things differently? Yes I could have. Have I made every decision because I want what's best for Dunfermline? Yes I have.

"People can really start judging me now. If I, or us as a coaching staff, are bringing in players now, judge the way they see their behaviour on Saturdays now. That's not making excuses for that last eight games, but I'm now starting to put a shape to the team and the reality is that, if you don't work hard enough, you get punished for it in football.

"As much as I want to try and bring a different type of football next year, I need to make sure that the people coming here want to work hard.

"I think in terms of the culture at the club, there needs to be a change in mindset to get this bond between the supporters, players and the coaching staff to try and bring this togetherness, and the thing that gets that up and running is boys getting out on the pitch and giving their lot. I've always said that I think Dunfermline fans will always buy into that.

"Results are obviously important at first-team level, and that's what I will be judged on, but I think if we can get that togetherness, and then that work ethic and playing to the final whistle, it becomes a two-way thing with the fans backing the players. The players then get that vibe and a confidence from that."

He added: "I remember the Leishman days, I remember Bert Paton and Dick Campbell's days, Jimmy Calderwood's reign. It's not just because they were successful periods in the club's history; they were also times where, although each manager had different ways of playing football, supporters would identify with those groups of players and say they gave their lot to the club.

"That's the culture we'll try to create here."