2003/04 Season Review
A serialised account of our season by our man who has been at almost every match home and away - Ewan Lithgow
Part One - The Summer
This is my third chance to write a Queen of the South season review and still nothing in the way of gloom to report. It was another fine season, successful beyond all expectations again, though this time with no silverware in the trophy cabinet. Sadly it also saw a change to the manager towards the final few weeks with John Connolly's tenure ended by a lucrative offer from St Johnstone. Happily though the rest of the backroom staff remains at the club and hopefully we will move on from strength to strength under Ian Scott.
John Connolly's first task of the summer was to finalise the new deals for the existing squad. Unfortunately fans favourites John O'Neill and Brian McLaughlin departed the club for St Mirren and St Johnstone respectively, turning down the offers on the table for them. Eric Paton though accepted a new deal after Connolly told him he planned to make him right back for the season ahead. JC also moved quickly to secure the first two new signings for next season with the capture of goalkeeper John Dodds, released by Ayr, and the surprising re-signing of Sandy Hodge from Stranraer. The latter was a strange move on the manager's part having released Hodge previously after deciding he wasn't good enough in the second division.

The other big news of the close season was the resignation of Chairman Ronnie Bradford due to continuing ill health. Ronnie and wife Shirley also resigned as directors in mid-June and his role in the recovery of the club and moving it forward from the sound base provided by Norman Blount cannot be understated. Vice-chairman Tommy Harkness assumed the mantle of Acting Chairman on a temporary basis until the club AGM in December when David Rae would take over.
Meanwhile, as the club began selling the new Nike kit in the summer, pre-season training commenced at the tail end of June with Alex Burke (Berwick Rangers), Ian Nicholson (Ayr United) and Ryan Davidson (Hearts) among the more well known names in attendance looking for contracts. There was also huge controversy as star striker Peter Weatherson was sold to Morton for a sum reported as 30,000. Some fans were irate at the perceived lack of ambition in selling a top player to a team in a division below and for a value below their valuation of the player. John Connolly though talked of the potential of losing the player for nothing in a year's time and of Peter's desire to go full-time even a division down. Peter himself talked about it being a step backward to move forwards and of being back in the first division in a year's time. He would end up very wrong on that score!

Treading Water
There was general unrest among much of the support at this time, mourning the loss of three important goalscorers and unimpressed by Connolly's assurances of the long-term aim being on track. In time the fans would come to see what he was saying though, as proved by results on the park. In the meantime Connolly moved quickly to snap up Alex Burke on a one-year deal as Peter's immediate replacement. Within the week Paul Talbot (Burton Albion) and Emilio Jaconelli (Kilmarnock) would also be signed up, though Ian Nicholson moved on to Alloa after failing to impress in his trial spell.

Ewan Lithgow
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