Dunfermline Athletic Squad 2017/18

Transfers in – Summer

CB: Jean-Yves M’voto, 28 (Raith Rovers)
CM: Aaron Splaine, 20 (Stranraer)
CF: Declan McManus, 22 (Fleetwood Town)

Transfers out – Summer

GK: David Hutton, 33 (End of contract)
RCB: Callum Fordyce, 24 (Queen of the South)
LCB: Ben Richards-Everton, 25 (End of contract)
DM: Andy Geggan, 30 (Ayr United)
RM: Michael Paton, 28 (End of contract)
CM: Lewis Spence, 21 (Dundee)
CM: Rhys McCabe, 24 (Sligo Rovers)

CF: Michael Moffat, 32 (Ayr United)

Out of contract at the end of the season

Aaron Splaine
Brandon Luke

Callum Morris
Conner Duthie
David Hopkirk
Declan McManus

Jason Talbot
Jean-Yves M’voto
Joe Cardle
Lee Ashcroft
Lewis Martin
Kallum Higginbotham
Nat Wedderburn
Nicky Clark
Rhys McCabe
Ryan Williamson
Scott Lochhead

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)

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)

Central:
#13 Aaron Splaine, 21 (1.83m)
#21 Brandon Luke, 19 (1.84m)

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

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

Attack

Secondary Striker:
#12 David Hopkirk, 25 (1.80m)

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

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

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

Depth Chart

GK: *Murdoch (c), *Gill.
RB: *Williamson.
CB: Morris, Ashcroft, M’Voto.
LB: Talbot, *Martin.
DM: Wedderburn.
CM: Splaine, *Luke.
LM: Duthie.
AM: Lochhead.
SS: Hopkirk.
RW: Higginbotham.

CF: Clark, McManus, *Smith.
LW: Cardle (vc).

*denotes academy graduate.

Nationalties

Scottish: 13
English: 4
French: 1
Northern Irish: 1

Players that can multiple positions

LCB/DM: Wedderburn
LB/CB/RB: Martin.
CM/AM: Lochhead.
LW/SS/RW: Higginbotham.
SS/RW: Hopkirk.

Positional Breakdown
GK: 2
DEF: 6
RB: 1 RCB: 3 LB: 2
MID: 5
DM: 1 CM: 2 LM: 1 AM: 1
FW: 6
SS: 1 RW: 1 CF: 3 LW: 1
Total: 19

Average Age
GK: 25.5
DEF: 26.16
RB: 22 RCB: 27 LB: 27
MID: 21.4
DM: 26 CM: 20 LM: 21 AM: 21
ATT: 26.6
RW: 28 SS: 25 CF: 22.33 LW: 31
Total: 24.57 (467)

30 and over: Three
Oldest: Talbot – 32

20 and under: Three.
Youngest: Smith – 18

Average Height (m)
GK: 1.83 (3.67)
DEF: 1.85 (11.14)
RB: 1.86 CB: 1.89 LB: 1.80
MID: 1.83 (9.16)
DM: 1.94 CM: 1.83 LM: 1.82 AM: 1.73
ATT: 1.79 (10.76)
RW: 1.78 SS: 1.80 CF: 1.80 LW: 1.78
Total: 1.82 (34.73)

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

Starting XI

Murdoch;
Ashcroft, Morris, Talbot;
Wedderburn, Higginbotham;
Clark.

Average Age:
Average Height:

Oldest XI

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

Average Age:
Average Height:

Youngest XI

Gill;
Williamson, Ashcroft, Wedderburn, Martin;
Hopkirk, Luke, Splaine, Duthie;
McManus, Smith.

Average Age: 21.90 (241)
Average Height:


You can follow @MichaelWood_SJ on Twitter.

End of an era

Andy Geggan returned to Ayr United on a two-year contract after a five-season stint at Dunfermline Athletic.
 
The former Dumbarton central midfielder’s passage back to Somerset Park comes as the Honest Men are becoming full-time, even with their relegation to League One.
 
Geggan had started his professional career with the Sons in the lowest tier of the game in Scotland at that time (Division Three). He was a regular first team member and spent half a decade at the Rock, helping them with promotion and stability in Division Two before Brian Reid brought him to South Ayrshire.
 
After a season, he swapped the west coast for the east as Ayr tumbled out of their respective division; as did the Pars who entered the second tier with a thud because of a dismal campaign in the Premier League.
 
2012-13
 
At the age of 25, Geggan took his first foray into full-time football at the most trying time for the club. After witnessing the highs of promotion at the expense of Raith Rovers to the lows of immediate relegation with a whimper at Easter Road. Those two seasons were nothing compared to the emotional roller coaster that was to come during his tenure at the club.
 
Murmurs of financial issues hung in the air from the start of the season. Yet, nothing manifested until October when the staff’s pay was late, and while excuses were made it became a severe issue when next to nothing was paid to the players at the end of December. Administration looked an inevitability at that point, and so it came to be near the end of March.
 
The Pars had been showing promise in making a swift return to the SPL. Yet, the title aspirations fell away as Partick Thistle got the better of the head-to-head matchup, and results took a dive from mid-January onwards due to – in part – the off-field issues; Dunfermline were top after match day 19.
 
Dunfermline’s historical status lies below the city teams and those of Kilmarnock and Motherwell. They have the infrastructure and fan base to be a team that shuffles around the bottom half of the Premiership on a regular basis. So, while falling away from a return was disappointing and may have meant lingering in the second tier for a few seasons, what was unthinkable – even in the midst of administration in March – was the steep decline that would show no signs of stopping until May 2015.
 
Andrew Barrowman, Andy Dowie, Andy Kirk, Joe Cardle, Jordan McMillan, Paul Gallagher, and Stephen Jordan were all made redundant after the 0-2 defeat to Falkirk on March 27.
 
  • Barrowman was the team’s top goalscorer. 
  • Dowie was the mainstay of the backline.
  • Gallagher was the first choice goalkeeper.
  • McMillan was club captain.
 
The others that were made redundant had been credible first team members, whether it was for their experience (Kirk and Jordan) or their fan favourite status (Cardle).
 
If the penalty (15 points) for entering administration was not deducted, the Pars would have finished sixth; two points better than Raith Rovers. Alas, – as it should have and was handed down – it meant Jim Jefferies’ men ended the season in the Division One play-offs; a couple points worse off than Cowdenbeath. The coaching and playing staff only have themselves to blame in the end, seeing as they only needed to defeat long relegated Airdrie United at home to finish eighth on the last day of the season.
 
While that depleted squad was good enough to stay afloat, it would have been delaying the inevitable bottoming out that was required for the club to rebound. The loss of those experienced heads that were made redundant, and the bad feeling around the club saw them relegated at the expense of a vibrant and confident Alloa Athletic that deserved promotion on the performance of that first leg.
 
13-14
 
The signings were a sign of not having little money as the club was still in the depths of administration. Players like James Washburn and Jamie Wilson were not known then, and have drifted out the game since. Robert Thomson, was a youngster from Dundee United and was away to Brechin City come the mid-season transfer window. Danny Grainger was not the player he once was. Jonathan Page was passing through on his way to being a capable part-time footballer. Then there was Ross Forbes, who was ineffective due to Jim Jefferies’ infuriating tactics as he was shunted out at right midfield.
 
There was mixed fortunes in the loan market: Ryan Scully became a figurehead of hope in his two seasons at East End Park, while Jordan Moore and Lawrence Shankland looked prospects as they combined for 12 goals in 29 appearances. Although, Luke Johnson and Ryan Ferguson fell into the anonymous category.
 
Before a ball was kicked, Dunfermline’s lowest position all season was fifth, due to alphabetical order. Once the action got under way, the Pars never lay outside of the top four, and were comfortable in second after a dozen games. Although, the team finished the campaign with two wins from 10 after going the previous 15 with three defeats. The playoffs were the aim as with Rangers in the division with a budget that dwarfed everyone, they were going to demolish foes on their way to lifting the title. The 1.9375 points per game in matches outside of Rangers would have been enough to win the title the following season. So, it was a good points tally accumulated.
 
As with the year previous, the playoffs once again began with a ropey away performance to the underdogs. Stranraer edged out the Pars 2-1 with thanks to a late Stevie Bell strike to give it that bit more of a sour taste in the mouth. Yet, they composed themselves at home, and as they did to Forfar, they strolled past them after extra time. Rivals Cowdenbeath awaited the victors in the final as they looked once again to consign misery upon their derby partners. They did that. Dunfermline born, Thomas O’Brien, canceled out Andy Geggan’s effort to leave it poised in the second-leg in his home town. Disappointment did not even cut it as the Blue Brazil were up within a minute as Kane Hemmings capitalised on an unorganised shambles to net within 60 seconds. The misery did not end there as O’Brien scored – as he did in the first-leg – and Greg Stewart would end put the tie beyond doubt to confine Athletic to another season in League One. If Callum Morris was playing instead of being shafted by Jefferies it may have turned out with a different outcome.
 
Geggan was the Centenary Club Lifeline Player of the Year, and deservingly so, as he finished second to Ryan Wallace in the goalscoring charts.
 
Having come out of administration in December, and being thankful to still have a club to support. It was expected that the club would be in League One for two seasons. Although, the manner in which the first one ended was dissatisfying. Yet, they had still not hit rock bottom, yet.
 
14-15
 
Everything was promising going into the season. Greenock Morton had come down, due to being ravaged most weeks in the Championship. The signings looked good such as PFA Scotland (League One) Team of the Year members, Andy Stirling and Michael Moffat. A pair of promising defenders in Gregor Buchanan and Stuart Urquhart. Also, there was an exciting centre forward called Gozie Ugwu. In addition, Ryan Scully, stayed on for another go at promotion as the number one goalkeeper.
 
Thorough dismantlements of reigning Challenge Cup holders Raith Rovers, and fourth tier, Annan Athletic, in the League Cup continued those good vibes going into the league campaign. Yet, it started with a microcosm of what the whole season would turn out to be, a damp squib. A scoreless draw at home against Brechin was not the outcome nigh on everybody expected when they visited East End Park on August 9, and three defeats in four unsettled the momentum. Although, they recovered to finish out the first quarter of the season at the top of the division. Nevertheless, three wins from the next 10 seen them drift down the table into fourth, and out of the Scottish Cup which would have been lucrative with a fifth round tie against Dundee United. As a result, on December 16, Jim Jefferies, left his post as manager and John Potter took the helm.
 
It was a sensible move. Potter had taken the U20s to the Youth Cup final and quarter final in successive seasons, and had been viewed for some time as the club’s next manager. Yet, like everything that looked sweet that season, it turned sour.
 
The signings that came in during his reign were questionable. Jim Patterson could not compete at the level Dunfermline aspired to be at. Swapping Andy Barrowman for Ross Forbes looks a poor bit of business in hindsight, and even the retired centre forward said he was struggling to be as effective as he once was. Forbes has went on to be an influential player for Greenock Morton.
 
Kyle McAusland looked raw and nervy which was the last two attributes that the Pars defence needed. There was also Paul George, who was as unmemorable a player there has been. David Hopkirk is the last player signed before the Allan Johnston era to still be at the club. The winger was the only shining light in an otherwise dark abyss of mid-season transfers.
 
Potter failed to win any of his first five games as Dunfermline fell out of the promotion playoffs into the chasing pack. They only briefly recovered before stumbling back into fourth with two wins in three. This was in the lead up to collapsing completely with only three victories in the last 11 matches. This left the Pars in a dismal seventh, 11 points from the playoffs, and 21 points from the desired top spot. The Ton did what the Pars could not: rebound back into the Championship.
 
Ryan Scully was the player of the season while Andy Geggan could not be accused of not doing his best for the cause. He chipped in with seven goals – tied for second in the team’s scoring charts –showing one aspect of why they failed.
 
15-16
 
May 8, 2015, will go down as one of the most memorable days in history for the writer. The Tories had won the general election with a majority (not that it would last long), TN10Y had its first podcast, and there was something to discuss with the appointment of Allan Johnston as manager.
 
Clearing the decks would be putting it lightly, as within a week of taking up the post he made the bold but correct decision of not re-signing a single player that was due to be out of contract. That meant 13 bodies shifting out across England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The key aspect being that every player was leaving to a team in a position that was in a worse off position than Dunfermline to start off with or at least came to be at the end of the following May.
 
The signings were slow to come in. Around the time of pre-season ending only Jason Talbot, Callum Fordyce, and Ben Richards-Everton had come in. The worry was that there was only one goalkeeper at the club: Cammy Gill, who was 17. Two weeks out from the opening game against Arbroath and the goalkeeper position had not been resolved. Only Michael Paton was added to the ranks.
 
Alas, the next week would fulfill the fanbase with the confidence and zeal that had been torn asunder over nearly the last half-decade. David Hutton and Sean Murdoch would come vying for the number one shirt. Although, that was small fry until the coup de grâce to any bad feeling around the club. The fan favourite, Joe Cardle, returned to East End Park.
 
From the off, it was to be an entertaining season as Dunfermline won 4-1, 5-1, 6-1 and 7-1 in succession. This seen them progress through the first round of both the challenge and League Cup. Yet, it came to an aburpt end with a 2-1 defeat at Balmoor. The Pars rebounded to what was their shining moment, and really the pivotal point for the fan base in which direction the club was going. That way was up.
 
Dundee visited the Kingdom of Fife in buoyant mood. A few months previous, Paul Hartley, had led them to the top half of the Premiership in their first outing back in the top-flight. They were not to have it their own way though, as Faissal El Bakhtaoui opened the scoring before the end of the first third of the half. Three minutes into the final period, the scourge of Kane Hemmings bore through once again, on the ground that he hurt Dunfermline a couple of seasons previous. Both he and Greg Stewart were not to have the last laugh once again, as the valiant defence stifled the Dee, and while they pushed they were picked off twice on the break late on through the French-Morrocan, and Cardle to progress the Fifers into the third round of the League Cup.
 
Dunfermline would bow out to Dundee United after extra time at Tannadice a month later, but it showed that the squad was on the right track when they were able to go toe-to-toe with Premiership opposition and not look out of place. This point is exemplified when they had Ross County on the ropes in their Scottish Cup encounter, but failed to down them with some lackadaisical finishing.
 
The Pars seemed to galvanize around Callum Fordyce’s horrific injury in the Ayr United defeat as they went 15 league games unbeaten before succumbing to Airdrieonians.
 
Ian McCal’s men had started tremendously well and never forfeited the top spot until the end of November. After that Johnston’s side breezed towards the title, and became the first team in either Scotland or England to win their division when it was sealed on March 26, against Brechin. It was a relief to all to return to the second tier after three stressful seasons milling about against part-time outfits.
 
Geggan, in a role that was familiar to him, had to take over the captaincy after Fordyce’s leg break which ruled him out of the season. He thrived as he was also to pitch in at right back until the arrival of Craig Reid in February due to Ryan Williamson’s lower leg injury, and Shaun Rooney’s distinct lack of form at full back. He also proved a goal threat, especially from set pieces. For the third consecutive season, he had in excessive of four league goals. He was rewarded by his peers as one of the best players in the division in the team of the year. Along with Richards-Everton and Cardle.
 
The last comment needs to go to El Bakhtaoui as he thrived as the season went on. 30 goals and every single award was bestowed on him for his efforts in what was a real coming out party for the attacker. While it would have been ideal to have played a campaign in the Championship before moving on to pastures new. It is hard to begrudge him his move to Dundee, especially now they are under Neil McCann who knows the ability of the player oh so well.
 
16-17
 
Lee Ashcroft and Nat Wedderburn came in before pre-season training to replace the outgoing Brad McKay and Josh Falkingham. Long term players such as Ryan Wallace and Shaun Byrne stayed in the division they had gained promotion from.
 
In the loan market: Gavin Reilly (Hearts), John Herron (Blackpool) and Paul McMullan (Celtic) joined with some excitement, but flattered to deceive, especially in the guise of the Jambo loanee to much disappointment.
 
After much deliberation and speculation, Faissal El Bakhtaoui, moved to Dundee with Paul Hartley impressed of what he seen first-hand. His replacement came late in the transfer window in the form of Nicky Clark who had moved to Bury earlier in the summer.
 
The pick of the bunch though was Kallum Higginbotham. In terms of ability he was above the rest of the squad with the ball at his feet.
 
It started off well with an untidy 4-3 win against Dumbarton that was more convincing than the scoreline suggests. That result may have made the fanbase believe that fourth spot should be a relative doddle. How wrong we were.
 
Five defeats on the spin ended any chance of the playoffs as the manner of the defeats kept getting worse and worse. Two self-inflicted wounds against Hibernian gifted them the win at Easter Road. Next was Raith Rovers at Stark’s where the Pars failed to trouble a hobbling goalkeeper and were beaten by a couple of goals. A defence cock up allowed Derek Lyle to net the only goal for Queen of the South. There was also having Cammy Bell saving three penalties in a half which will forever live in infamy as Athletic lost 3-1. Finally, was an average Greenock Morton side snatching all three points late at Cappielow.
 
What followed was another 4-3 win at home. On this occasion versus a St Mirren side that was keeping the bottom spot warm, and the only reason that Dunfermline was not in real trouble. Their first clean sheet resulted because of a draw with Ayr United. A deserved 2-1 defeat to Falkirk rounded out the first quarter of the league.
 
The problem in the opening nine games was losing too many games and the arse ache in the reverse fixtures was an plenty of draws, five to be precise. Although, there was movement away from the drop, and into the least acceptable position to Pars fans, seventh.
 
From there on out the Pars lost four in the second half of the campaign (they actually had more defeats in the first 10 matchdays (seven) than they had the rest of the way (five).
 
Athletic finished in fifth, four points away from the Ton in that last promotion playoff spot. As a result, they ended on a high rather than the downer of likely being eliminated in the quarter-final as Jim Duffy’s men were.
 
Geggan left at the end of the season on a more lucrative contract on a longer term deal. He had played, and scored the fewest times since his debut outing with the club. Regardless, he helped return Dunfermline to the level of competition that is acceptable, and he should be heralded for his efforts.

You can follow @MichaelWood_SJ on Twitter.

Another day, another Kallum, another re-signing

Yesterday at East End Park, Kallum Higginbotham followed Callum Morris in signing a contract to extend his stay at Dunfermline Athletic by another season.
 
The Englishman will be 28 years of age by the start of the 2017/18 Championship campaign which kicks off on August 5th and will want to keep the momentum rolling as the Pars aim for a top four finish.
 
Higgy – as he his colloquial known by the supporters – performed to expectations in his debut outing with the Fife outfit. Eight assists (most in the team) and six goals (second to Nicky Clark) was his output; he will need to score a couple more goals next year. This was from playing wide left of the midfield where he looks as though he could be more influential in a central role behind Clark. The reason behind that thought is that he is the most talented footballer that the club has when the ball is at his feet, and he is keen to roam around the final third.
 
There are a few perceived weaknesses in his game. One is that he can let the red mist descend very easily when he feels the referee is not awarding the calls his team deserves and gets booked; he was yellow carded on 10 occasions in 32 matches. The other being that he wants to carry the offence all too often (see the two missed penalties against Ayr United) which is good in the sense that he does not shy away even when results are not going the team’s way. Yet, it does have the downside that he needs to help bring others into the situation.
 
Higginbotham is a player that can perform to an adequate level for any side up to the top six in the Premiership. The only problem is that being shunted out wide often stifles his creativity and influence on the game which can draw ire from the fan base. Acquiring him in the first place was a big deal considering how well he had performed for Kilmarnock and Partick Thistle in the Premiership.
 
His career kicked off in 2007 when he was playing for League Two Rochdale; 15 miles from where he grew up in Salford. After being marginalised at The Dale he moved up north to Falkirk. His performances in the second tier seen League One, Huddersfield Town bring him back to England. It was a hapless spell in Yorkshire – as he barely made an appearance for The Terriers – and was bounced on loan for three seasons until Alan Archibald brought him to Fir Park after impressing for Motherwell at the end of the 2012/13 campaign. In the season before last he played his part in keeping Killie in the top flight before taking the step down to Athletic and a contender for player of the season.
He seems to have finally settled and learned from his prior experiences of staying put when it is going well. However, he is not happy to rest on his laurels and is looking to build on the solid foundations he has helped built on Halbeath Road. Speaking to dafc.co.uk, he said:
 
“I would like to do better than I did last season, score more goals, more assists and hopefully push us up that league. I do not really set targets for myself, I just take each game as it comes but I realise what I did last year goals-wise and assists-wise and you know what, I definitely want to better that. I do not set targets, I just take each game as it comes.”
It is refreshing to see him strive to want to surpass the already high expectations he has set out. He will be a vital cog in the machine that makes the attack work. His performances in games will be vital if he has aspirations of giving this club a chance of getting into the Premiership this time next year.

You can follow @MichaelWood_SJ on Twitter.

Why Callum Morris may be the most important re-signing for Dunfermline Athletic

Today at East End Park, Callum Morris signed a contract to extend his stay at Dunfermline Athletic for next season.

The six foot one inch Geordie centre back returned to Fife in the mid-season transfer window after a frustrating six months at Aberdeen.

Morris left in his first stint with the Pars to move up two divisions with Premiership side Dundee United in the summer of 2014. This was after a couple of seasons of personal success amid a difficult period for the club which was reeling from financial difficulties. Alas, the former PFA Scotland Team of the Year member in 2012/13 (Division One) and 2013/14 (League One) suffered many injuries during his time at Tannadice. As a result, he was not contracted with the Tangerines as they were relegated to the Championship in 2016. Although, he landed on his feet at Pittodrie; where he was hampered by niggles and failed to establish himself within the match day squad of 18.

The defender who is eligible for England (place of birth), Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland (family ties) was most influential when he returned to the field of play for Atheltic. He featured in four of the 10 clean sheets in his 13 games for the club. In addition, his minutes per goal conceded (103) was better than anyone else; the near ever-present Lee Ashcroft was second at 74 minutes.

What these statistics show is that he is bringing a solidity at the back that was not entirely present before his arrival. Once he was inserted and became a mainstay in Allan Johnston’s starting XI in the second half of the campaign, Dunfermline looked a far better side. As shown by the fact that the team only conceded twice in a game on a couple of occasions – Falkirk (A) and Hibernian (A) – with him on the pitch; it happened six times in the opening seven games, and another four instances came before January.

He and Ashcroft look a dependable enough partnership; even if the former Kilmarnock centre half can be erratic at times. Both players are at different ends of their athletic primes with Morris turning 28 in February and Ashcroft being 23. Yet, the Englishman will be able to provide a positive influence on his younger teammate, and help bring his game on.

It looks as though he settled in life which can only be positive. Speaking with Dafc.co.uk, he said:

“The fans have been massive since I came back, even when I walk up the town for a coffee people come and speak to you. Everyone is so friendly and come and have a chat. They treat you like a pal and it is a nice friendly, family club. All my family, and even my missus has said that this is the best club that she has ever come to watch games at so that means a lot. It is not just if I am happy but it is everything that comes with me. Everyone is positive about it and we have a big season ahead when we want to be pushing to win that title or at the least, be in those play offs this time next season.”

Morris has proved over his two full campaigns with the Pars just how good a defender he is in the middling divisions of Scotland. He is the best central defender the club has had since the days of Andy Dowie; whom he had partnered at one stage in his career. The fact that he and Sean Murdoch look so stable and organised as the head and the heart of the team with Nat Wedderburn and Andy Geggan as the solid core, it has the makings of an 11 that can duke it out in the Premiership Playoffs this time next year.


You can follow @MichaelWood_SJ on Twitter.

Signings Dunfermline Athletic may look to make this summer

The off-season has begun for Dunfermline Athletic as they make plans to contract players in an effort to improve on the last campaign.

It can be assumed that varying efforts will be made to re-sign Callum Morris, Jason Talbot, Kallum Higginbotham, Michael Moffat, and Rhys McCabe; seeing as they were staples of the starting XI.

Ben Richards-Everton, and Lewis Spence have departed. 

There are questions to be answered over Callum Fordyce, David Hutton, and Michael Paton’s futures; as they have scarcely appeared in 2017.

John Herron and Paul McMullan have returned to their parent clubs while they wait for their contracts to expire. Both are players that Allan Johnston will likely want to sign permanently, but will face competition.

Gavin Reilly will return to Hearts; where he has another year to run on his contract at Tynecastle.

Brandon Luke, Callum Smith, Cammy Gill, Paul Allan, and Stuart Morrison are the only under 20’s players on the books of the club, and will likely be on the fringes of the squad.

Depth chart

GK: *Murdoch (4th c), Hutton, ^Gill.

RB: *Williamson.
RCB: Ashcroft, Morris, Fordyce (vc), ^Allan, ^Morrison.
LCB:
LB: Talbot, *Martin.

RDM: Geggan (c).
LDM: Wedderburn.
RM: Paton.
CM: McCabe, Herron, ^Luke.
LM: Duthie.
AM: Lochhead*

RW: McMullan.
SS: Higginbotham, Hopkirk.
LW: Cardle (3rd c).
CF: Clark, Moffat, ^Smith.

* denotes academy graduate
Bold denotes likely re-signing
Italics denotes unlikely re-signing
^ denotes U20 players.

In laymen’s terms, the team is lacking two aspects from sides that enter the top four in the Championship on a regular basis; one being:

  • Clean sheets

Last season, Athletic had 10 clean sheets; the average is 13.

Answers:

Jean-Yves M’voto was the only player that Gary Locke recruited at Raith Rovers that would qualify as a success. Towering at 1.93m, the French centre half is a nuisance at set pieces. He netted on three occasions; which was more than the whole Dunfermline defence.

He was instrumental in helping the Stark’s Park outfit keep nine clean sheets in 34 starts, and when he was not present the goals conceded per game rose from 1.35 to three. At 28, he is in his prime as an athlete, and is a fluent English speaker; which is a bonus.

25-year-old, Michael Doyle has played throughout the divisions starting with Alloa Athletic under Paul Hartley where he was a mainstay in their rise into the second tier. He helped the Wasps stay afloat in the Championship until he moved to St Johnstone as cover for the injured Dave McKay.

At Greenock Morton he has achieved success once again; having made over 40 appearances for the Promotion Playoff contenders in his debut campaign at Cappielow.

What makes him an excellent option for Dunfermline is that he is a defensive full back that loves a battle with his opponent.

The other issue is:

  • A secondary goalscorer

Higginbotham finished second in the club’s goalscoring charts with six. The average tends to be 10.

Answer:

Jordan White is a former Pars trainee who built his career from the lower reaches of the professional game in this country. His breakout season came at Stirling Albion in the Third Division; where he found his goalscoring form, and fired the Binos to promotion. As a consequence, Livingston acquired his services, and he repaid them with a couple of 10+ goal campaigns in the Championship.

His performances peaked the interest of fifth tier, Wrexham where he performed well enough for the Welsh mid-tablers. At six foot, four inches tall, he would give Athletic that target man they have lacked since the days of Craig Brewster; and like “Brew” he is more than one-dimensional. He can provide pace out wide and whip in a good cross as shown by the 30 assists he has laid on in the last five seasons. From his CV it looks as if it has all the markings of a creating a great partnership with Nicky Clark.

From a perspective of watching the games, this is what I believe is lacking:

  • A creative midfielder

Higginbotham hit a target of creating eight goals, but others lagged behind. Moffat who was the link up between the midfield and Clark managed just four; the same as Talbot. Clark had a treble, while no other player managed more than one. Neither Herron or McCabe registered an assist.

Answer:

Gramoz Kurtaj dotted around four teams in Germany before moving to the Czech National Football League, and then to the New Douglas Park in 2015.

He is performing at a division a cut above his ability at Hamilton Academical. However, the Kosovan does have a nice skill set suited to playing as a number 10 in the Championship. He has all the technique and fight required for a player to excel at this level; think a more aggressive Tony Andreu.

He is a good age (26) to kick on after a difficult season with Accies due to injury, and rightly playing second fiddle to Ali Crawford in Martin Canning’s midfield.

Alas, whoever is re-signed or brought in over the summer has to improve the side into one competing for promotion to the Premiership. Anything less than fourth will be seen as a disappointment by the fans, and will give the club a decision to make with Johnston’s contract set to expire at the end of next season.


You can follow @MichaelWood_SJ on Twitter.

2016/17 Dunfermline Athletic player ratings

Goalkeepers

Sean Murdoch: 9 (last season: 8)

Last year, I wrote:

“A few minor problems with his game that can be exploited.”

There were no discernible weaknesses shown over the course of the campaign in which he has surpassed expectations on a statistical and eye test level.

He has taken that step up and was quite rightly heralded at the end of season dinner with many best player awards.

On form, there has been no better goalkeeper in the Championship as he helped the Pars avoid the drop with his ability to command the defence.

Defenders

Callum Morris: 7

A great return for the big Geordie central defender who proved a calming influence alongside Lee Ashcroft. He played his part in keeping four clean sheets – Dunfermline had 10 in total – from a possible 13.

Naturally, he should be with a team near the summit of the Championship. It should be a priority to re-sign him if Allan Johnston wants to be in promotion contention.

Jason Talbot: 7 (last season: 7)

Mr. Consistent. He never shirked responsibility and was very rarely bettered by a nippy winger. An experienced member of this young squad, and even managed to chip in with four assists from left back.

Another campaign like this at East End Park for the Englishmen would cement his status as the best full back the club has had since Austin McCann.

Lee Ashcroft: 6

This season’s marathon man having missed just a single game through suspension. While he can be erratic at times – see his red card against Dumbarton – he was the consensus number first choice at centre half until Morris joined in January.

Having reached maturity over this campaign upon reaching 100 league appearances over the top two tiers; he is capable of improving on his efforts this season. The management team also have belief in him as he was rewarded with a year’s contract extension.

Callum Fordyce: 5 (Last season: 6)

The vice-captain returned from a serious injury, and it was a baptism of fire after 11 months out; his return was on the Easter Road turf. Unfortunately for him, he was at fault for Jason Cummings’ winner.

Until the arrival of Morris, he was vying for the position in the starting XI with Lewis Martin and more often than not looked the better option. He finished the season with a similar minutes per goal conceded as Ashcroft but will feel hard done by with his backup role.

Ryan Williamson: 4 (Last season: 6)

Another injury plagued season for Williamson, and one in which he looks as though he has regressed from the promising youngster that burst on the scene four years ago. At 21, he is not at the level he needs to be defensively to be a full back; which is why he has seen himself falling down the pecking order.

With another year to work with the management team and the squad; it will be make or break for him as he looks to play a backup role.

Lewis Martin: 3 (Last season: 6)

It has been a steep learning curve for last year’s Young Player of the Year. His problem came down to a lack of positioning as he often got caught under the ball. Then on such occasions, he panicked, which ended up in him dragging his opponent down and receiving red three times.

Like Williamson, he has another season to get himself on the right track and prove himself a worthy utility player.

Midfielders

Nat Wedderburn: 8

He had many detractors in his first few months, but won them over with his imperious performances in breaking up play in front of the back four. His versatility in slotting into the backline showed his importance to the team as it was a role that Dunfermline has not had in many years.

He will stick around next season, and is the most important member of the midfield. Hopefully, Geggan will be back alongside him as that looked the most solid partnership in the middle of the park.

Kallum Higginbotham: 7

The leader in assists in what you expect from your most creative player on the park. Nonetheless, he had to put on chances for players to finish, and he did so eight times in the league; matching the target expected of him. He was playing a little out of position on the flank; I believe he would be suited to playing off a centre-forward.

Undoubtedly, the most talented member of the side. Although, he does let himself down on occasion with his temperament, which seen him accrue 10 cautions; more than any other par.

Andy Geggan: 7 (Last season: 8)

Geggan stepped up to take the captaincy over once again. He also had to spend a big chunk of the season covering at right back through form and injury to other members of the squad. He looks most comfortable in the centre of midfielder, but did well at full-back papering over the cracks that need solid foundations put in over the summer.

John Herron: 6

An upgrade on Rhys McCabe but ended up playing slightly less than his once Old Firm rival. Although, like McCabe, he looked more suited in an attacking midfield role rather than as a no.8. Yet, he formed a good partnership with Wedderburn as Dunfermline’s fortunes changed when they started playing together on a regular basis.

A free agent after he managed to get out of the last season of his contract at Blackpool. Some teams in League Two (England) and the Championship in Scotland will be interested.

Paul McMullan: 6

There is potential in McMullan, I am sure of that, but the right winger neither lays on enough chances for his teammates or scores them himself. His direct style of play is a blessing and a curse (see James Forrest under Ronny Deila). He can often streak away from a defence when he finally gets the ball under control, but he does tend to run down blind alleys and is unsure of when to pass the ball on.

Out of contract – as Celtic will not renew – and will turn 22 next season. He is a footballer that can be developed. Yet, I am not sold on his ceiling being any higher than mid-table of the Championship.

Joe Cardle: 6 (Last season: 9)

The fan favourite has taken a seat while Higginbotham took over the reins as the left midfielder for Johnston’s most used XI. An infuriating season for him that still seen him finish as the second top scorer from open play with four which included a hat-trick against Dumbarton. Incidentally, that was twice as many as McMullan netted in more than half the minutes.

There is one more year of his contract to run. I am not sure anyone would want to see him moved on as he still has enough to offer for the next campaign. He is and will be a positive influence in the dressing room as well as a great role player at the age of 31.

Michael Paton: 5 (Last season: 8)

His output was drastically down compared to what he achieved in League One with only one goal and an assist. He was pretty much frozen out of the starting XI after being substituted in the 2-2 draw with Dumbarton in early November.

It is likely the last we have seen of Paton at East End Park giving his marginal time on the field. It is a shame as I do not think there is a better deliverer of a cross in the squad.

Rhys McCabe: 5 (Last season: 4)

Ended up being used alongside Wedderburn the most over the course of the campaign. Yet, much like Herron he looked as though a more advanced role would suit him. Defensively he looked a little lost, and was guilty of losing the man he was marking all too often.

Forwards

Nicky Clark: 8

Outdone himself in the scoring charts with 15, and while he can flit in and out of games; he is a worthy player to start when pushing for promotion. Harshly treated by the fans as some believe it is nepotism for his inclusion in the squad (his father is assistant manager Sandy). He is not appreciated enough for his sheer ability to put the ball into the back of the net. Outwith that he finished tied third in assists with three.

Will certainly be at East End Park until May 2018, and has already penned his name in the starting XI for the upcoming campaign.

Michael Moffat: 5 (Last season: 6)

The link up man between the midfield and Clark, but never had enough assists or goals for the amount of minutes he played. He disappointed as a centre-forward but you cannot fault his endeavour or work rate for the team. Yet, his finishing has always been the one disgruntlement of his game which needs to be better at this level of competition.

Out of contract come the end of May. It would not be a surprise if he either stays for one more season or returns to Ayr United as they gear up for a title push in League One.

Gavin Reilly: 2

Everything that he had accomplished in his career up until signing for Hearts made this signing look a great one. He was returning to the management team that helped him become the player he was at Queen of the South. This was after taking a hit in confidence at Tynecastle last season. Also, this was before he was joined by his strike partner from QoS; Nicky Clark; where they combined for 44 goals in the Second Division. Alas, he would only find the net once in 11 starts and quickly found himself behind Moffat.

Likely to move down to the Championship level again. The Doonhamers would perhaps be the best destination for him to rekindle his career and become one of the best centre forwards in the league again.

Non-ratable (played under 650 minutes)

Ben Richards-Everton: N/A (last season: 7)

Only played six games, and was curtailed by a season ending knee injury at the end of October. Moving on to new pastures after his contract expires at the end of the month.

David Hopkirk: N/A (Last season: 5)

Once again resigned to the role of impact sub with 10 appearances from the bench. Injuries had a stop-start effect on his season which started positively with a cameo winner against Dumbarton. Never stops working, and that will flourish him into a dangerous threat if he remains available for selection.

David Hutton: N/A (last season: 5)

Undoubtedly, the second choice between the sticks having played only six and a half games.

Callum Smith: N/A

18 minutes and one assist at the tail end of the campaign for the 17-year-old who looks as much a talent as PJ Crossan who is now at Celtic. It will be a few years before we see him play consistently for the first team, but it is a positive start to his career which has a lot of potential.

Conner Duthie: N/A

Undefeated in his 97 minutes of football for Dunfermline. To his credit, he looks happy to play the game even though he has been shuffled all over the park whether in the Championship or on loan at League Two bound Stenhousemuir. From what I have seen, he looks at his best stationed at left midfield. He will still be at East End Park to see if he can make the transition from U20s to squad player.

Farid El Alagui: N/A

Was worth the punt, and provided that target man quality that Dunfermline had been lacking since the departure of Mickaël Antoine-Curier. Although, his effect was like that of his compatriot; good enough to be around the squad, but not to be relied on for where they want to be.

Lewis Spence: N/A

Only played 26 minutes and set up one goal. In my opinion, he should have got more of a look-in but will be playing elsewhere next season.


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Why Dunfermline Athletic failed in getting fourth in the Championship

This season Dunfermline Athletic lay fifth in the Championship through an inability to win games on a consistent basis.

It is easy to suggest that they are where they are is because they have drawn and lost too many games which would make this the shortest article ever written on the site. Yet, there are reasons as to why the Pars stagnated in mid-table throughout the majority of the campaign.

1) The adjustment period left any hopes of a late playoff surge insurmountable

Five defeats in the opening six games killed any hope of the Premiership Playoffs. This season’s points per game average needed to make the top four was 1.44. The last time Dunfermline was ahead of schedule was match day two when they were defeated by Hibernian (2-1). On August 13th they sat fourth in the table with a points per game tally of 1.50. A month later they had their fifth successive defeat and the Pars dropped to ninth with a ppg of 0.50.

The turning point seemed to have come in a mid-week game against a high-flying Dundee United at Tannadice. While Nat Wedderburn was send off in the first half and Simon Murray struck late to keep the Tangerines near the summit. The fight and determination not to lay down and get thumped was commendable. It showed that they would not be in trouble of relegation and be amongst that group of teams placed fifth, sixth and seventh.

Subsequently, the form over the previous 25 – 1.56 points per game – would have been good enough to finish four points better than Greenock Morton if extrapolated over the whole season. However, that does come with the caveat of who knows if the Ton would have upped their game in the last quarter of the campaign if they were uncertain of their position in the table.

2) The results against Ayr United were fatal

Last season, Athletic won four of their five matchups versus Ayr as they strolled towards the League One title. This time around they have taken five points from the Honest Men who went down with a whimper after the teams around them got their act together.

The east enders lost four of their previous 26 with wins for runners-up Falkirk at home and away and third-placed Dundee United in Tayside. The other came from an Ian McCall managed side in Fife. The loss in itself is disappointing for obvious reasons but even more so that it was at home. In tandem with the draw against the South Ayrshire outfit – in which Kallum Higginbotham had two penalties saved within two minutes – it leaves a sour taste in the mouth as Allan Johnston would have likely earmarked those two fixtures for a couple of wins.

3) Lack of clean sheets at home

As mentioned in the previous point, Athletic was unable to keep the lowest scorers at bay and only managed to take one point from a possible six as a result. The Pars had two clean sheets both of which were against Raith Rovers who were the second worst team in terms of goals for and last in most number of matches in which they have failed to score. Naturally, Dunfermline’s two clean sheets from 18 seen them rooted at the bottom in keeping the opposition at bay. Even Ayr had twice as many.

In stark contrast though, Johnston’s men accomplished eight on the road – second only to Hibernian. Nonetheless, that came with the trouble of being unable to score in one-third of matches away from East End Park. The two instances of this were the 0-0 draws with Ayr and St Mirren. A win to nil in both games would have seen Dunfermline surpass their target for points on their travels.

4) Poor home form

As stated before there is a lot to be positive about away from home. Only the champions conceded less and only the top two accrued more points.

Yet at East End Park, even Raith Rovers faired better in the matter of points and victories. You can also pinpoint the poorer results on Halbeath Road without even mentioning the Ayr results once again.

  • A win to nil for Queen of the South
  • A scoreless draw against the Rovers

These are the two that stick out as neither are merited if you are aiming for the Premiership Playoffs.

5) Being far too depended on Nicky Clark was a problem

The assistant manager’s son scored 15 goals which are more than twice that of Kallum Higginbotham who finished second to him in the club’s goalscoring charts. Nevertheless, four of the inside forward’s goals are from penalties – which is not to say they do not count but you cannot hope on getting a spot kick every week. From open play, Joe Cardle ranks second with four, along with second choice centre forward, Michael Moffat.

Pars ranked tied fifth in goals scored and failed to score in games more often than seventh-placed Buddies who spend the majority of the season in last place. Clark was responsible for 35% of goal scored while all the other forwards (El Alagui, Hopkirk, Moffat, and Reilly) accounted for 21% of their beleaguered goal tally.


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