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.
GK: *Murdoch (4th c), Hutton, ^Gill.
RCB: Ashcroft, Morris, Fordyce (vc), ^Allan, ^Morrison.
LB: Talbot, *Martin.
RDM: Geggan (c).
CM: McCabe, Herron, ^Luke.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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