Dunfermline Athletic squad 2017/18

Transfers in – Summer

RB: Fraser Aird, 22 (Falkirk)
CB: Jean-Yves M’voto, 28 (Raith Rovers)
CM: Aaron Splaine, 20 (Stranraer)
SS: Dean Shiels, 32 (FC Edmonton)
CF: Andy Ryan, 22 (Airdrieonians)
CF: Declan McManus, 22 (Fleetwood Town)

Transfers out – Summer

GK: David Hutton, 33 (Arbroath)
RCB: Callum Fordyce, 24 (Queen of the South)
LCB: Ben Richards-Everton, 25 (Accrington Stanley)
DM: Andy Geggan, 30 (Ayr United)
CM: Lewis Spence, 21 (Dundee)
CM: Rhys McCabe, 24 (Sligo Rovers)

CF: Michael Moffat, 32 (Ayr United)

Loans out – Summer

CB: Stuart Morrison, 18 (Edinburgh City)
CM: Brandon Luke, 18 (Annan Athletic)
CM: Paul Allan, 17 (TBA)

Age as of May 31, 2018

Goalkeeper:
#1 Sean Murdoch, 31 (1.88m)
#20 Cammy Gill, 20 (1.79m)

Defence

Right Back:
#2 Ryan Williamson, 22 (1.86m)
#17 Fraser Aird, 23 (1.73m)

Centre Back:
#4 Jean-Yves M’voto, 29 (1.93m) 
#5 Callum Morris, 28 (1.91m)
#6 Lee Ashcroft, 24 (1.83m)

Left Back:
#3 Lewis Martin, 22 (1.88m)
#14 Jason Talbot, 32 (1.73m)

Midfield

Defensive:
#8 Nat Wedderburn, 26 (1.94m)

Right:
#15 Michael Paton, 29 (1.78m)

Central:
#13 Aaron Splaine, 21 (1.83m)

Left:
#18 Conner Duthie, 21 (1.82m)

Attacking:
#19 Scott Lochhead, 21 (1.73m)

Attack

Secondary Striker:
#12 David Hopkirk, 25 (1.80m)
#27 Dean Shiels, 33 (1.80m)

Right Wing:
#7 Kallum Higginbotham, 28 (1.78m)

Centre Forward:
#9 Declan McManus, 23 (1.81m)
#10 Nicky Clark, 26 (1.76m)
Andy Ryan, 23 (1.77m)
#23 Callum Smith, 18 (1.83m)

Left Winger:
#11 Joe Cardle, 31 (1.78m)

Depth Chart

GK: *Murdoch (vc), *Gill.
RB: *Williamson, Aird.
CB: Morris (c), Ashcroft, M’Voto.
LB: *Martin, Talbot.
DM: Wedderburn.
RM: Paton.

CM: Splaine.
LM: Duthie.
AM: Lochhead.
SS: Shiels, Hopkirk.
RW: Higginbotham.

CF: Clark, McManus, Ryan, *Smith.
LW: Cardle.

*denotes academy graduate.

Nationalties

Scottish: 14
English: 4
Northern Irish: 2
Canadian: 1

French: 1

Players that can multiple positions

RB/RM: Aird.
LCB/DM: Wedderburn.

LB/CB/RB: Martin.
CM/AM: Lochhead.
LW/SS/RW: Higginbotham.
SS/AM: Shiels.

SS/RW: Hopkirk.

Positional Breakdown
GK: 2
DEF: 7
RB: 2 CB: 3 LB: 2
MID: 5
DM: 1 RM: 1 CM: 1 LM: 1 AM: 1
FW: 8
SS: 2 RW: 1 CF: 4 LW: 1
Total: 22

Average Age
GK: 25.50 (51)
DEF: 25.71 (180)
RB: 22.5 CB: 25 LB: 27
MID: 23.60 (118)
DM: 26 RM: 29 CM: 21 LM: 21 AM: 21
ATT: 25.87 (207)
RW: 28 SS: 29 CF: 22.33 LW: 31
Total: 25.27 (556)

30 and over: four
Oldest: Shiels – 33

20 and under: two
Youngest: Smith – 18

Average Height (m)
GK: 1.83 (3.67)
DEF: 1.83 (12.87)
RB: 1.79 CB: 1.89 LB: 1.80
MID: 1.81 (9.07)
DM: 1.94 RM: 1.78 CM: 1.83 LM: 1.82 AM: 1.73
ATT: 1.79 (14.33)
RW: 1.78 SS: 1.80 CF: 1.79 LW: 1.78
Total: 1.81 (39.94)

Smallest: Aird, Lochhead and Talbot (1.73m)
Tallest: Wedderburn (1.94m)

Starting XI

Murdoch;
Williamson, Ashcroft, Morris, Martin;
Higginbotham, Paton, Wedderburn, Cardle;
McManus, Clark.

Average Age: 26.36 (290)
Average Height: 1.83m (20.21m)

Oldest XI

Murdoch;
Aird, Morris, M’Voto, Talbot;
Paton, Shiels, Wedderburn;
Higginbotham, Clark, Cardle.

Average Age: 28.72 (316)
Average Height: 1.82m (20.02m)

Youngest XI

Gill;
Williamson, Ashcroft, Wedderburn, Martin;
Aird, Lochhead, Splaine, Duthie;
Ryan, Smith.

Average Age: 21.90 (241)
Average Height: 1.81m (19.97m)

Contracted for 2018/19

Andy Ryan
Callum Smith
Cammy Gill
Paul Allan
Sean Murdoch
Stuart Morrison


You can follow @MichaelWood_SJ on Twitter.

Match preview: Dunfermline Athletic versus Falkirk

Derbies are always fiercely contested affairs. Yet, this one – which is so early in the season – may have drastic consequences down the stretch.

If the Bairns were to suffer defeat tomorrow, they would be six points behind an intriguing Pars outfit. Likely, even further off the pace of title favourites, Dundee United. It would be a blow to the club that has been runners-up the last two campaigns.

On the opposite side of the park are Athletic, who rode their luck with a draw at Almondvale. A week later, they backed up their playoff credentials with a demolishing of Inverness Caledonian Thistle. A defeat would not be as sickening as it would be for Falkirk, but it would take diminish what has been a very good start in the Championship.

Kickoff time, ticket prices and where to watch

Ticket prices:

SRJ Windows South Stand: Adults £20, Concessions £14
All other stands: Adults £18, Concessions £12
Away Stands: Adults £18, Concessions £12, U12s £5

Match information:

Saturday 19th, 15:00 at East End Park.

Team news

Dunfermline Athletic:

Jean Yves-M’voto (injured).
Nicky Clark (fitness).

Falkirk:

Aaron Muirhead (suspended).

Referee

John Beaton.

Games refereed –

Europa League:
FC Copenhagen 4-1 Vardar (3Y, 1R, 1P)

Premiership:
Rangers 2-3 Hibernian (8Y, 1R)

League Cup:
Ayr United 1-0 Kilmarnock

Inverness Caledonian Thistle 0-2 Falkirk
Partick Thistle 1-0 Stranraer

What Dunfermline Athletic are saying

“They have got good players and it’s going to be a hard game. I do not think there’s much between all the teams in this league. It is going to be a tough test. It is a new season, there is a few new players at both clubs, and at the end of the day it is only one game. But it is certainly one that we want to go and impose ourselves on and win.” (Allan Johnston, manager)

What Falkirk are saying

“I love derby matches, they are fiercely fought but I do not think there is any malice between the fans and that is the way it should be. Dunfermline will come and attack us and I can guarantee that we will go and attack them as well so it could be an end to end game and a totally different game from the Dumbarton game on Saturday.” Peter Houston, manager)

Line ups last time out

Table

Screen Shot 2017-08-16 at 11.55.18

Complete fixture list

Screen Shot 2017-08-16 at 11.57.20

Former Dunfermline Athletic players

Mark Kerr (2012).

Former Falkirk players

Fraser Aird (2017).
Kallum Higginbotham (2010-12).

Last four meetings

Championship:

22/04/17. Dunfermline Athletic 1-2 Falkirk
04/02/17. Falkirk 2-0 Dunfermline Athletic
26/12/16. Dunfermline Athletic 1-1 Falkirk
15/10/16. Falkirk 2-1 Dunfermline Athletic

Keys to the game

Craig Sibbald:

It will be 246 appearances and counting for the versatile footballer playing for his hometown club, three months after he thought he was moving on.

The 22-year-old started 10 or more games in each of the following positions last season: left wing (15), central midfield (15), and attacking midfield (10). It is a real possibility that the loss of him in the interim has affected the Bairns’ form. Sibbald played on average 83 minutes across all their Championship games last season.

While he will not be up to speed in terms of game time as the other members of the squad, but his ability exceeds most of them. For that reason alone Peter Houston may slot Sibbald in the middle of the park in an attempt to lift the supporters and get the result necessary.

Myles Hippolyte:

He will never be liked amongst regular visitors to East End Park for his theatrics in winning his side a penalty in the last meeting between the two. Even so, his ability is exceeding his quality of simulation, and his pace will give whoever plays at right back (likely Ryan Williamson) a miserable time. At this moment in time, he can be the only player in a blue shirt that can be happy with his performances this season.

Luca Gasparotto:

Right back is a problem for both outfits. However, Falkirk are struggling, having had to insert their third choice centre back into the position. Joe Cardle needs to give him a tough time of it, if, Dunfermline want to maximise thier chances of winning. It will be a game that is played at a frantic pace. So, getting it wide to the left winger in one-on-one situations with the Canadian would be a way to exploit the weaknesses in his game.

Prediction

Dunfermline Athletic 2-1 Falkirk

Odds

Dunfermline Athletic: 1.78
Draw: 2.60
Falkirk: 1.63

Best bet

Dunfermline to win and over 2.5 goals: 4.25 


You can follow @MichaelWood_SJ on Twitter.

Available players that may improve Dunfermline Athletic’s midfield

The “pre-season” transfer window closes on the first of September. Thankfully, for many teams in Scotland, there are no restrictions to signing free agents after that date. The Pars are a club scrambling around for at least one player to keep them going until January.
 
Central midfield is the area in which Athletic are undermanned. To highlight the lack of depth in the poistion, Dean Shiels, and Michael Paton, have been stationed there this early in the campaign.
 
The reason for the lack of is depth is that, Andy Geggan, Lewis Spence, and Rhys McCabe left to pastures new. In addition, John Herron, returned to Blackpool as he waited on his contract to expire.
 
Aaron Splaine – who had a season in footballing exile – was the only transfer that came into the first team over the summer. Scott Lochhead, will have to take the step up from the now abolished under 20s and become a role player. The issue with that is he is an attacking midfielder not a conventional number eight in Allan Johnston’s preferred 4-4-2 system.
 
One way to resolve the issue is to re-sign John Herron, who is trialing around Scotland looking for employment. The question remains. If, Johnston wanted him then he would be at the club. He had formed a formidable partnership with Nat Wedderburn in the second half of last season. It was no coincidence when those two were fit, available, and on the park, Dunfermline became difficult to beat. It does seem peculiar not to match those two up again. Especially, as the days pass, and Herron still finds himself unattached.
 
Another option is Nick Ross, formerly of Dundee and Inverness Caledonian Thistle. He has appeared in 199 top flight games – 105 starts – laying on 15 goals and scoring 11 himself. Not a glorious return for a deep-lying playmaker, but not shoddy either. It never worked at Dens for him, but that does not mean it cannot work elsewhere. Particularly, with a change of scenery, and lower level of opposition. It is all about preference, but I am not sure someone who wants to be on the ball is the correct fit for the Pars at present. Most of their attacks are aimed around getting the ball wide to Joe Cardle, and Kallum Higginbotham, then working it into the box.
 
Sean Welsh would seem a sensible fit seeing as he is a ball-winning midfielder that can fit alongside Wedderburn. Many fans bemoaned the departure of Josh Falkingham, and he may fill that void for supporters. His approach to the game is more suited to the Championship than Josh’s was. Injuries have been the former Hibee’s problem. He has had eight of them to be precise. Five of them forcing him to miss anywhere between six and 38 games. In fact, an issue with his foot has seen him out of action since February. It is a massive risk to take. Yet, if, he can find sustained game-time until January, then it should be a viable move as a stop gap for all parties involved.
 
A midfielder has to come into the fray. If, there is an injury, then Johnston will patching together makeshift starting 11s to get to the mid-season transfer window. With two weeks left until the start of September, there is time to pick up someone that may be negotiating their release. Although, that is a crap shoot with many clubs chasing their signature, but that one player may do enough damage, and see Dunfermline finish comfortably in the top four.

You can follow @MichaelWood_SJ on Twitter.

Match preview: Dunfermline Athletic versus Arbroath

Allan Johnston’s reign as manager started with a victory in this competition at Gayfield Park over two years ago.

Less than a year last, under the stewardship of Dick Campbell, the Smokies failed to redeem themselves in the League Cup at East End Park.

Perhaps, it will be third time lucky against the former Hearts winger as the Angus outfit look to get their first win in six against the Pars.

It has been a mixed bag for the recently promoted part-timers having suffered a heavy defeat against Hibernian, they have had respectful performances against Ross County, Montrose, and Alloa Athletic when finishing third in their Betfred Cup group. At present, the Red Lichties are third in League One.

Athletic looked imperious as they finished on top and unbeaten in the League Cup until they faced the might of Rangers who humbled the Fifers. Although, they bounced back impressively against a poor Inverness Caledonian Thistle to remain in the top four of the Championship.

Kickoff time, ticket prices and where to watch

Ticket prices:

SRJ Windows South Stand: Adults £10, Concessions £5

Match information:

Tuesday 15th, 19:45 at East End Park.

Team news

Dunfermline Athletic:

Lee Ashcroft and Lewis Martin (suspended).
Nicky Clark (injured).

Arbroath:

No team news.

Referee

Euan Anderson.

Games refereed –

Premiership:

Aberdeen 2-0 Hamilton Academical (5Y, 1Y/R)

League Cup:

Brechin City 0-3 Falkirk (6Y)
St Johnstone 0-3 Partick Thistle (4Y)

What Dunfermline Athletic are saying

“Everybody hopes to be ahead of schedule for my age but everybody does not get the chance. I am getting the chance just now so I have to keep doing my best to keep in the team. If things do not come my way I will just have to bounce back again.” (Callum Smith, centre forward)

What Arbroath are saying

“I think we have a strong squad, but it does not matter how strong we are if we do not apply ourselves. I do not think we applied ourselves today. You will see the difference with that on Tuesday against Dunfermline.” (Dick Campbell, manager)

Line ups last time out

Complete fixture list

Screen Shot 2017-08-14 at 13.16.52

Former Dunfermline Athletic players

David Hutton (2015-17)
Dick Campbell (1974-75)

Former Arbroath players

Andy Ryan (2015-16)
Cammy Gill (2017)

Last six meetings

Challenge Cup:

25/07/15. Arbroath 1-4 Dunfermline Athletic

League Cup:

19/07/16. Dunfermline Athletic 3-0 Arbroath
26/04/14. Arbroath 1-2 Dunfermline Athletic

League One:

26/04/14. Arbroath 1-2 Dunfermline Athletic
25/02/14. Dunfermline Athletic 3-0 Arbroath
21/12/13. Arbroath 0-3 Dunfermline Athletic
17/08/13. Dunfermline Athletic 2-3 Arbroath

Keys to the game

Games have come thick and fast:

Tonight’s game will be Dunfermline’s eighth in a month. Only, Livingston have played more football during that period with their extra time victory over Falkirk. The Pars have had one Tuesday off since the start of the season on the 14th of July. Rotation will likely be key with Johnston already stating that he will make six or seven changes to the starting 11. As a result, Cammy Gill and Conner Duthie may get game-time. They are the only members of the squad not to appear on the field this season. Declan McManus seems a certainty to start, as he has been unavailable due to suspension for the first couple of league fixtures.

Arbroath have had one less tie than Athletic. Yet, they have come into contact with a couple of the countries top eight sides along with three teams slated to do at least okay in League One. Naturally, the difficulty of being part-time and having to come and play after a shift may play a part for some members of that squad. Nonetheless, they will have the fitness to hang for 90 minutes, whether they can do the damage required to eliminate the homers remains to be seen.

Prediction

Dunfermline Athletic 3-0 Arbroath

Odds

Dunfermline Athletic 1/2
Draw 3/1
Arbroath 4/1

Best bet

Dunfermline to win and over 2.5 goals @ 2/1


You can follow @MichaelWood_SJ on Twitter.

Match preview: Dunfermline Athletic v Inverness Caledonian Thistle

Championship action returns on Halbeath Road as the second match day of the league season takes place.

Athletic will be aiming to bounce back after a poor performance against Rangers; where they took a drubbing. They already have points on the board unlike their opponents who have not responded well from their relegation in May. New manager, John Robertson, failed to progress them in League Cup group stages before being bested –  at home – to Dundee United.

Kickoff time, ticket prices and where to watch

Ticket prices:

SRJ Windows South Stand: Adults £20, Concessions £14
All other stands: Adults £18, Concessions £12
Away Stands: Adults £18, Concessions £12, U12s £5

Match information:

Saturday 12th, 15:00 at East End Park.

Team news

Dunfermline Athletic:

Nicky Clark (injured).
Declan McManus (suspended).

Inverness Caledonian Thistle:

Aaron Doran and Carl Tremarco (injured).

Referee

Gavin Ross.

Games refereed –

League Cup:

East Fife 0(8)-(9)0 Dunfermline Athletic (2Y)
Forfar Athletic 1-3 Stirling Albion (3Y)

What Dunfermline Athletic are saying

“We know Inverness have a strong squad, they have kept the majority of players from last year. They have a bit of pace about their team and we know that it is going to be a tough test. We have to make sure that there is a reaction from everybody. We need to be positive and go and get the reaction that we need.” (Allan Johnston, manager)

What Inverness Caledonian Thistle are saying

“That tells you all the quality you need to know about Dunfermline right now. I know on Saturday they survived a last-minute penalty save but it was still a good point. Any point away from home in this league is excellent. Three points are gold-dust. Dunfermline have scored a lot of goals, so defensively we will have to be up to the mark and improve in terms of our finishing.” (John Robertson, manager)

Line ups last time out

Table

Screen Shot 2017-08-09 at 14.50.01

Complete fixture list

Screen Shot 2017-08-09 at 14.51.30

Former Dunfermline Athletic players

Brad McKay (2016)

Former Inverness Caledonian Thistle players

Nat Wedderburn (2015-16)

Last seven meetings

Premier League:

02/05/12. Inverness Caledonian Thistle 0-0 Dunfermline Athletic
18/02/12. Dunfermline Athletic 1-1 Inverness Caledonian Thistle
22/10/11. Inverness Caledonian Thistle 1-1 Dunfermline Athletic
06/08/11. Dunfermline Athletic 3-3 Inverness Caledonian Thistle

Scottish Cup:

18/01/12. Dunfermline Athletic 1-3 Inverness Caledonian Thistle
07/01/12. Inverness Caledonian Thistle 1-1 Dunfermline Athletic

League Cup:

27/06/16. Dunfermline Athletic 1-5 Inverness Caledonian Thistle

Keys to the game

The loss of Greg Tansey and Ross Draper:

Two lumberjacks in the centre of the park that can control any game have departed the Caledonian Stadium to stay in the Premiership. There is now little to no control in the middle of the park as the Caley Jags with have no recognisable central midfielder. Iain Vigurs is there and out of position as he would prefer to play wide left. Nat Wedderburn should be relishing being able to mark him out the game.

The threat of Iain Vigurs:

The former Staggie netted a hat-trick the last time these two sides met; which was at East End Park. On that day in July he was stationed as an attacking midfielder with himself and Billy King embarrassing the Dunfermline back line that night. Of the players at the club, only Vigurs and centre forward, John Baird, carry any sort of threat that should worry the Pars.

Redemption:

Being thumped 5-1 against a side that would go onto be relegated must have been unpleasant. Yet, this is a much changed side from last. Robertson has them set up in a 4-4-2 as opposed to the 4-2-3-1 that Richie Foran preferred. Eight of the 17 that were available for selection last year are still at the club and two of them are the third and fourth choice goalkeepers.

The changes have not been quite as drastic for Athletic but there has been seven players that departed who were starting or on the bench that evening. However, Joe Cardle, Kallum Higginbotham, Lee Ashcroft and Ryan Williamson will want to prove that Tuesday was a blip in their season and beat up on a team that showed them up in front of their own supporters.

Bouncing back:

Pars were five games unbeaten until they met Rangers at Ibrox, who stopped them going six by scoring six. The most optimistic of fans could only hope that they gave the Govan outfit a game, but that went out the window within 10 minutes. It is how Allan Johnston’s men respond which will be important, not the disappointment of the League Cup exit. A win would at least keep them in the top four; a position which they desire come the end of the campaign. A victory over a fellow playoff contender will solidify a good couple of weeks in the league season.

Being glib, Caley Thistle have not bounced back since winning the Scottish Cup in 2015. The fear for them is “doing a St Mirren” and by continuously going for the cheap and lazy option you end up flirting with another relegation. They need to get a good result somewhere to quell the fear of the supporters. This would be a start, but the longer it drags on, the louder the fans become.

Prediction

Dunfermline Athletic 2-1 Inverness Caledonian Thistle

Odds

Dunfermline Athletic 1.42 Draw 2.5 Inverness Caledonian Thistle 2.1

Best bet

Dunfermline to win and over 2.5 goals @ 4/1


You can follow @MichaelWood_SJ on Twitter.

Who could be the next Hearts head coach

Only, Eugenijus Riabovas had a worse win percentage than Ian Cathro, who was dismissed last week.
 
Of those with 30 plus games, Cathro is the least winning manager in Jam Tart history. With hindsight, it is of little surprise that he was heaved out the club after an embarrassing Betfred Cup showing.

The anger within Tynecastle was televised nationally, as the team participated in a pointless penalty shootout. With Ann Budge leading the helm on the business side, and the fact that the supporters funding the club with their Foundation of Hearts memberships, it is of little surprise he has now gone.

A search for a successor is on for Craig Levein, the Director of Football. The structure will not change at present. It has yielded one success story and one failure. It is possible that if he fails to get the next appointment right, it may be himself that will be seeking other opportunities.
 
Now as the options are discussed, it will not analysis this “can they work with a Director of Football” and “will be they a puppet for that meddling Levein” pish rhetoric that some cannot get past. It will look at their suitability and likelihood of getting the vacancy in Gorgie.

 

Internal appointments

Austin MacPhee

Ian Cathro’s assistant is rated by many within the game; where have we heard that before. Whether he wants to be a manager is one question, but if he did, then he may suffer the similar difficulties that his predecessor did. He was not made interim manager due to his duties with Northern Ireland. Yet, if he did get the job then it would be another cheap option. However, this would be one without the intrinsic link to Levein.
 
It would likely be an appointment with some unease as fans would want a hybrid of experience within management and someone innovative enough to be receptive to the footballing model.
 

Jon Daly

Already part of the coaching set-up, and is aware of how the club operates on a day to day basis. He is currently in his second spell as an interim manager and is keen to take on the responsibilities that come with the permanent job. Yet, this is very early into his staffing days on the sidelines – joined the under 20s coaching staff in November 2015 – and he would not be going into the best of circumstances.
 
Another inexpensive option and would draw the ire of the fans. Not because of him personally, but the feeling that Levein is doubling down on his position of giving the job to someone he has a good relationship with.
 

Likely contenders

Steve McLaren

Left field choice giving that the former England manager had brought Ian Cathro to Newcastle with him
 
He has not excelled in a job since that very impressive Eredivisie title, but that was eight seasons ago. Yet, since then he had very disappointing spells at Wolfsburg and Nottingham Forrest while a return to Twente failed to yield an upturn in fortunes in his career. A run at the Magpies sandwiched between spots at Derby seen them near enough relegated.
 
He does share an agent with Levein and while he is a high profile candidate. He may fall victim to the same issues that Cathro had. He is a wonderful coach, it does not transition well to being a manager.
 

Steven Pressley

A prickly character who has shown little desire to mange in the country anytime soon. Yet, has appeared to change hi stune this time around. His stubbornness along with that of Levein’s would likely cause friction. This is without mentioning his strained relationship with the support. Perhaps bringing him back at this moment in time would be unwise.

Paul Hartley

Another man, who had his some of his best days in a maroon jersey. He has already expressed an interest in the job and shown a willingness that he would be at ease with working within the structure that they have.
 
What goes against him is the last two seasons at Dundee which reflected poorly on what was otherwise an impressive start to his managerial CV.
 
He would likely need to prove that he not only had the spending power to surpass his opponents at Alloa and at the Dees in the Championship. Yet, the question remains whether he can actually build a squad to be competitive, instead of chopping and changing every transfer window. That would likely need to be at a smaller town team rather than a city one.
 

Outsiders

Alan Archibald

Archibald passed his first test in management as he continued the good work that Jackie McNamara had put in place in Maryhill to get Thistle into the Premiership. In the four years since the former defender has taken the club from merely avoiding the drop to an unlikely top six finish, the ceiling for Glasgow’s third biggest side. Unless he wins a cup, he cannot make any progress before his stock would deplete. The move across the country would be a logical step. If, he is looking to collect major accolades rather than just fulsome praise.

The boardroom bosses would likely be agitated if they received a request to speak to their manager, and would not wither in their demands for fair compensation. Yet, there will be unease at Firhill until Hearts fill their vacancy.

Michael O’Neill

The Northern Irish manager lives in Edinburgh and played for city rivals, Hibernian, in the early to mid 90’s. He was turned down for the Hibs job due to a malicious rumour that was spread about him having an alcohol problem, none of which was true. His assistant manager, Austin MacPhee, is already at Tynecastle. So, it would be the perfect appointment.

However, there is an issue that stops this appointment being made. O’Neill is on the cusp of taking his nation to the World Cup on the back of guiding them to the European Championships, last summer. A new contract and the compensation to free him from that deal would in all likelihood be too much for the Jam Tarts to afford. He could back himself to take Norn Iron to Russia next summer and likely have a bigger number of suitors than he already has.

Peter Houston

He was assistant manager to Craig Levein at Dundee United and Scotland. In that sense, a relationship is workable with that chain of command already having been established between the pair.

Would be an underwhelming appointment from some quarters. In the last five years, he has done nothing of note in the Premiership and that was when he took the Tangerines to fourth. He has done a good job at Falkirk in taking them as far as they can go with the company they have had in the Championship. Although, it feels that his chance at another big city club has passed after his peculiar exit from Tannadice.

And…

Craig Levein

There is always the possibility that he could take the dugout. If, he feels there is no better option, and there needs to be an experienced head at the helm. The transition, in theory, should be seamless, but he would undoubtedly be under scrutiny.


You can follow @MichaelWood_SJ on Twitter.

Match preview: Rangers versus Dunfermline Athletic

The conclusion of the Betfred Cup’s last 16 action will commence tonight as eight teams look to take the next step towards November’s final.

Pars have failed to progress to the quarter-finals of the competition since 2008, when they were eliminated by Dundee United. During that time, the Teddy Bears have won the trophy on three occasions as well as making to the semi-finals with the same frequency.

Athletic have had a good start to the season after topping their group to get to this stage. In the Championship, they gained a point via an in-form Livingston at Almondvale on Saturday while playing poorly.

Gers stumbled in Europe against Luxembourgish opposition. Although, they started well at Fir Park in the Premiership, but were fortunate to hold on to win 2-1.

This game has been overshadowed by Rangers’ EBT case with Dunfermline’s chairman, Ross McArthur posting a statement regarding the issue yesterday. An announcement he would have preferred not to make as he was not eager to pass comment about the SFA investigation in the first place.

Kickoff time, ticket prices and where to watch

Ticket prices:

Adult – £18

Concession – £12 (over 65’s & 16/17 year olds)
Junior – £5 (under 16’s)
Wheelchair disabled – adult £12, concession £5 & £3 juniors with companion free of charge.

Match information:

Wednesday 8 August, 19:45pm at Ibrox.

Team news

Rangers:

Carlos Peña (match fitness).

Dunfermline:

Nicky Clark (injured).

Referee

Don Robertson.

Games reffed:

Europa League qualifiers

Suduva 2-1 Soligorsk (2Y = 1R)

Scottish League Cup

Queen’s Park 5-1 Motherwell
Annan Athletic 0-2 Kilmarnock (2Y)
Airdrieonians 1-2 Stranraer

Scottish Championship

St Mirren 3-1 Falkirk (4Y, 1R)

What Rangers are saying

“I know everything about Dunfermline; I don’t leave my homework for others to do. I know they are a good side from the Championship with a good manager and good quality and experienced players. It is important for you to scout the opponent in a specific contest which is similar to the one you will face. I think for Dunfermline that would be their game against Hearts. That let us understand what we should expect.”(Pedro Caixinha, manager)

What Dunfermline are saying

“It can be a hard place, especially if you do not score early. They are maybe not getting things their own way. When teams are passing the ball and creating chances then it can quickly turn. They are under pressure to win, people expect them to win quite comfortably. We have just got to make sure that we approach the game in the same manner as we did the Hearts game. We are looking for the same result but we will need a similar type of performance to win games like that. Everybody has to have a really good game, everybody has to be at their best.” (Allan Johnston, manager)

Line ups last time out

Complete fixture list

Screen Shot 2017-08-09 at 11.56.26

Former Rangers players

Fraser Aird (2011-17)
Nicky Clark (2003-06, 2013-16)

Last five meetings

League One:

03/05/14. Dunfermline 1-1 Rangers
15/03/14. Rangers 2-0 Dunfermline
30/12/13. Dunfermline 0-4 Rangers
06/11/13. Rangers 3-1 Dunfermline

Scottish Cup:

07/02/14. Rangers 4-0 Dunfermline

Keys to the game

No win at Ibrox since 1972

37 visits have come and gone since Dunfermline last left Govan as victors. An enthralling 4-3 scoreline in front of 5,000 people. The highest selling song of that year, “Amazing Grace” by the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards was number one in the UK charts. Pars fans will be awaiting that sweet sound of the final whistle if they are in the lead.

Former players in the team and on the sidelines

Nicky Clark will be watching from the sidelines, as he is expected to not take the field until next month. New acquisitions, Dean Shiels and Fraser Aird were actually in the Rangers squad, the last time these sides met. The manager scored a hat-trick against his future employers at Ibrox for Hearts in 1996. His assistant – and Nicky’s dad – Sandy also had a spell at the Light Blues. They will all be able to pass on knowledge of what it is like to play in one of the biggest stadium’s in the country and how to rattle the crowd and as a result the players, early on.

Graham Dorrans v Nat Wedderburn

“Doorans” looked magnificent against Motherwell scoring a brace on his debut for his boyhood club. He looks a cut above any player that they have had in the middle of the park since Steven Davies. The fringe Scottish internationalist is the footballer than Andy Halliday wishes he was and will likely be the conduit for most of the activity with or without the ball. Wedderburn will have to step up and man mark Dorrans in an effort to keep the former Premier League midfielder quiet. Hopefully, Aaron Splaine partners him then he can be busy pestering Ryan Jack, who has started well at his new club.

Lee Wallace v Ryan Williamson

Both full-backs like to get forward as much as possible. So, they will undoubtedly come in contact with one another on many an occasion this evening. Wallace is the captain of the club, but his performances have been waning recently with uncharacteristic errors sneaking into his game. Williamson has impressed as of late and has not been suspect of leaving a vacant spot at right-back when the opposition are in possession and on the counter.

That flank is strong for both sides when going forward. Josh Windass and Kallum Higginbotham can be potent in transition and link the play from the defence to the attack. It will be an intriguing watch all night to see who utilises and exposes the other weaknesses throughout the scheduled 90 minutes.

Super Joey Cardle

The winger uncharacteristically netted a header from a corner in League Cup competition at Ibrox and scored in top flight league action in the only other time he has played at the stadium. He is fond of the big occasion, and he may need to step up again in what should be a closely fought fixture.

Prediction

Rangers 2-1 Dunfermline

Odds

Rangers 5/11 Draw 4/1 Dunfermline Athletic 13/2

Best bet

Both teams to score @ evens.

 

 


You can follow @MichaelWood_SJ on Twitter.

Del the Don

Derek McInnes returned to management 85 days after he was dismissed from his role at Bristol City when he became Aberdeen manager on April 7, 2013.

He will have been disappointed with how his managerial career panned out in England. Yet, it did start as well as it could have in Bristol, securing their second division status with an unbeaten run of eight games. Although, in contrast, during the following season, he oversaw City suffer a club record of seven consecutive defeats. That streak saw him leave the Robins in the position he started with them; bottom of the Championship table.

Before the move to England, the former midfielder had returned to Scottish football to play for Owen Coyle’s St Johnstone. In November 2007, Coyle departed for Burnley, and the then 36-year-old became player/manager for the Perthshire outfit. He would go on to achieve promotion to the top flight; an accolade the previous three men could not achieve over the last seven seasons.

He kept the Saints in the Premier League the season after; with an eighth place finish. He left in October 2011, and what remained was a squad remained that could repeat the feat then be improved upon by Steve Lomas and Tommy Wright.

McInnes is the best manager the Dons have had since Alex Fergusson. He has rebuilt his reputation to the extent that Sunderland had been looking to secure his services in the off-season. The widely held belief was that he would take the job for a number of reasons. Including, taking Aberdeen as far as they could likely go with the strength of Celtic.

They earned the runners-up treble as Brendan Rodgers’ men took all the trophies on offer. The Reds had attained their highest ever points tally, 76. He had lost key players: Scottish Cup final scoring, Johnny Hayes to Celtic and Niall McGinn, who took his services to the K-League. The other salient aspect to look at was the age of the squad. As it stands, Aberdeen have the second oldest squad behind Hibernian, in comparison, Celtic are the second youngest. It had all the sensibilities of an end of an era feeling. Alas, even with the financial rewards and the profile that English football gets, the former Ger decided that it was not for him, not now anyway.

It should not be forgotten at how low an ebb he was taken over the only team in Scotland to win two European trophies. There are many ways to measure the size of a club. The general consensus is that Aberdeen are the third biggest club in the country. But, they were not living up to expectations. It was near enough half a decade of languishing in the bottom quarter of the division since the halcyon days of Jimmy Calderwood. Three consecutive ninth placed finishes followed then an improvement in eight due to – in part – McInnes’ involvement post split. Before the 2013/14 season, the side hailing from the Granite City had not made the final of a competition in 26 attempts. Their last being the first League and Scottish Cup finals of the millennium. In his tenure, McInnes has not only took them to three finals but attained silverware for the first time in 18 years.

Now that he reiterated his intention to stay, it was up to Stewart Milne to make sure he was be rewarded for his decision. This started with a new contract for himself and his assistant, Tony Docherty, until 2020. Joe Lewis and Shay Logan renewed their contracts until the start of the next decade. Both are the second best players in their respective positions in the league.

He has also been backed in the transfer market. There was a five figure fee paid to Omonoia Nicosia for the return of Kári Arnason. Nicky Maynard – who previously played for McInnes at Ashton Gate – joined to strengthen the depth at centre forward. Gary Mackay-Steven made the move up from Celtic Park, and Ryan Christie returned for another spell on loan. Greg Stewart made a temporary return to Scotland after a similar deal to Christie’s was sorted out with Birmingham City. And Greg Tansey’s inevitable move to Pittodrie took 18 months to complete. He offers a threat from set-pieces, which they have not had since James Maddison’s short but sweet cameo a year ago.

The off-season transfer window has provided a way for the Dandies to paper over the cracks. Ash Taylor, Peter Pawlett, Ryan Jack and the duo of Hayes and McGinn departed. All of them are top 14 first-team players. The short term fixes may be enough for a fourth successive runners-up spot. Especially, when Celtic’s old firm rivals may be in stasis, and Hearts are still an uncertainty. “Del’s” old side, St Johnstone may once break up the status quo, and Hibernian look ready to barge into the top six. If, it were possible in the next summer to make the loan deals of Christie and Stewart permanent. That would make the attacking midfield duo with Mackay-Steven, on average, three years younger than Hayes, McGinn, and Pawlett. The debate could also be had that as a unit, it would be an upgrade on the past.

In Europe is where McInnes has somewhat shone. It is the first time they have qualified for the preliminaries in the Europa League four seasons in a row since the 70s; when it was called the UEFA Cup.

Although, fans can feel a little aggrieved that they never went further. There are a few arguments that can be made to downplay what Aberdeen have achieved in recent years. Such as the fact that they have only won four in 11 at Pittodrie. Yet, the only defeat was against their hardest opposition, Real Sociedad. This was after the Dons had been chasing the game for two more goals in the last half hour. Another debate that can be had is the quality of opponent that they have been eliminated by. For example, there is no shame in bettering FC Groningen then being knocked out by a decent Spanish side. Yet, Kairat – ranked 242nd in the UEFA rankings – and Maribor – – who sit inside the top 100 – are still sore results for the Dons. This is not to denigrate the level or standard of the game in Kazakhstan and Slovenia. But, there is no denying there were enough chances in both of those ties that should have seen them into the fourth qualifying round.

Unfortunately, it was another exit at the third round of Europa League qualification. This time at the hands of Apollon Limassol. Christie’s performances throughout the early stages of the season will come as some solace as they look to offer some sort of challenge to the champions. And maybe they can be the ones to stop Celtic gaining another likely treble. It would propel McInnes into an untouchable category of manager at Pittodrie.


You can follow @MichaelWood_SJ on Twitter.