CB: Lee Ashcroft, 22 (Free)
Ashcroft was cast aside after Lee Clarke wanted to build his Kilmarnock side anew following defeating Falkirk in the Premiership playoff final.
The six-foot centre-back from Barrhead, East Renfrewshire made the last of his sixty top tier starts against The Bairns after being on the periphery since Gary Locke resigned at the end of January.
Lee broke through under Allan Johnston at the age of 20 and went on to appear 35 times in the Premiership over the 19 months that “Magic” was at the helm.
There is some thought having to go into the middle of that defense for the management team. Last year, Ben Richards-Everton played every meaningful minute for Athletic in their League One triumph, and the captain Callum Fordyce was missing for the majority of the campaign in the wake of his horrendous leg injury. Now unless a 3-5-2 – which I am not against – is implemented, one of Ashcroft and Fordyce will be warming the bench, seeing as both players are right sided.
RB: Euan Spark, 19 (Free)
Another Dundee United U20s talent that the Pars have brought in, having failed to make the grade at the first team level for the Tangerines. Hailing from Edzell, Angus and having attended Brechin High School, he spent the latter part of last season at Forfar Athletic, who finished bottom in the third tier despite his best efforts.
Spark had been connected to the Tannadice club for a decade, but only made three appearances for the first team. The 14 games for the Loons from February to May were the only other times the five-foot 10-inch full back has played professionally.
The upside of this signing is his ability to defend either flank. Although, he is suited to be stationed on the right of the defense. In terms of depth, his presence will sure up the Dunfermline backline, and will provide good competition to Ryan Williamson while adding quality to the ever-improving development side.
DM: Nat Wedderburn, 24 (Free)
The Englishman surprisingly arrived at the home of the Scottish Cup holders, Inverness Caledonian Thistle following his relegation from the Championship with Cowdenbeath in 2014. Although, unsurprisingly he never held down a spot in the starting eleven for any length of time after August.
Wedderburn has had somewhat of a nomadic career up to this point. After being a promising youngster at Stoke City, he made a dozen loan appearances split between Notts County and Hereford between November 2008 and January 2010. Northampton Town made a move for him in the summer six years ago and spent a couple of seasons there, but was hampered by multiple injuries. He took a couple of steps down to the Conference National but got the game time he needed before moving to Central Park.
While not the most mobile of players, at six-foot-three he does provide that dominating presence that the Pars have lacked in the middle of the park for many years. A more defensive minded Andy Geggan, he would be able to compliment any of the midfielders that he would partner for the sole reason that he does not stray from his duties and plays the short, simple passes to his more creative colleagues. He is also adaptable, and can play at the heart of the defence if needed.
AM: John Herron, 22 (Loan)
Somewhat of a surprise addition from Blackpool on deadline day, as it was one position that fans thought strong enough on ability and depth. Yet, it does allow for something different in the center of the park.
He has been capped at every level from Scotland U15s to U21s, and was a member of the Celtic youth academy from the age of eight to 18, and was released by the Champions at the end of the 2014-15 season after a loan spell at Cowdenbeath.
A five-foot-ten-inch attacking midfielder who can also play in the center of the park due to his demeanor to get stuck in when it comes to tackling is a positive, and perhaps indicates a change of formation under Johnston if he were to play in the hole.
RW: Paul McMullan, 20 (Loan)
Allan Johnston has been on the trail of the Celtic Under 20s forward since his performances for St Mirren in the first half of last season, and this brought about speculation of a three-month loan move in February. However, that never came to fruition as he took the offer at the Buddies’ rivals, Greenock Morton.
McMullan was capped for the national team at Under 16, 17 and 19 age group level and has been sought-after by numerous Championship clubs. His professional career kicked off at Stenhousemuir in the January of last year and was pivotal in their League One playoff victory over Queen’s Park to stay in the third tier for another campaign.
Pars fans may remember the bamboozling nature of the Stirling-born diminutive winger when he scored at East End Park for Stenhousemuir on Valentine’s Day 2015. The faithful will want to see more of that ability on the opposite flank to Cardle, and as a duo can cause real problems for opposition full-backs to come up with a solution. Likely to not be a week in/week out starter, seeing as he has competition at that position in the guise of David Hopkirk and Michael Paton.
SS: Kallum Higginbotham, 27 (Free)
Perhaps the dictionary definition of mercurial talent, the recruitment of the Salford-born attacker is somewhat of a coup for a guy that is a game winner on his day in the Premiership nevermind the tier below.
Another one of the squad to have started their career in Scotland for Falkirk, where he did enough to move to Huddersfield albeit an unsuccessful one. After impressing on loan at Motherwell, he really cemented his status as one of the Scottish league’s showmen with his playmaking ability while at Partick Thistle. After two years there he moved down to Ayrshire, with Kilmarnock and was deemed not needed under Lee Clarke at the end of the season.
An upgrade on Joe Cardle, but the positive is that you can get the best out of both of them in the same side, and that is a real positive for Johnston who loves to set out his team in a positive, attacking style.
CF: Gavin Reilly, 23 (Loan)
A real coup for the club. Reilly’s career in the capital has not flourished as both himself and his manager Robbie Neilson would have liked. However, by no means is his longer term future at Tynecastle uncertain.
Born in Dumfries, the six-foot-one-inch striker broke through under the tutelage of the incumbent Dunfermline manager in Scotland’s third tier at Queen of the South. While a teenager he partnered well with Sandy Clark’s son Nicky as the Doonhamers won the Second Division. That goalscoring prowess continued even after Nicky departed to Rangers and Reilly played in the Championship.
The Hearts loanee will be the number one center forward on the depth chart because of his experience in the Premiership and his one in three strike rate at this level, which is vital for a squad looking to finish in the playoffs. He will run himself into the ground, chasing through balls and closing down angles for defenders to play the ball out from the back. He will quickly become a fan favourite and if he can build a fruitful partnership with any of the striking options then Athletic will be certainly looking up the table rather than down it.
CF: Nicky Clark (Free)
Assistant manager Sandy’s son was a striker that the fans wanted from the day his contract ended at Rangers at the end of the previous season. However, he moved to Bury as Dunfermline were out-priced of a move. Although thanks to the arrival of James Vaughan, Clark was seen as surplus to requirements at Grigg Lane, and a couple of months after signing down south he was back north of the border on a two-year deal.
The five-foot-eight-inch centre forward from Bellshill had a formidable partnership with Gavin Reilly in the third tier under the stewardship of Allan Johnston and Clark senior at Queen of the South. In fact, aged 21, Nicky scored 42 goals in all competitions four seasons ago in the third tier. It is hoped that the pair has a similar effect in the Championship this time around.
CF: Farid El Alagui (Trial)
El Alagui has been trialing for some time now since his release from Hibernian, which means that the manager is taking a real interest whether to invest some of the remaining budget in the 31-year-old.
The Frenchman has spent the last five years in the United Kingdom after joining Falkirk from lower league Romorantin in his homeland. While being very effective for the Bairns and earning himself a move to Brentford, he has only played sporadically due to a knee injury, and a ruptured achilles tendon. So much so that he has only started 24 games in the last four years, whether it be for the Bees, Dundee United or Hibs.
If, and it is a big if that the legit six-foot-one-inch target man can be healthy for the majority of the season it gives the team a different option up top. An option that has been lacking for years, a big body that can help hold up the ball and pass it off to the more creative forces around him. It is something that would complete the front line.
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