On Friday, James Criagen signed a contract until the end of the season at East End Park after his departure from rivals Falkirk.
The timing of the signature was apt, as it brought an increase in interest to an otherwise uninteresting fourth round all-Championship clash in the Scottish Cup.
Craigen, while English as has spent his whole professional career in Scotland. Firstly at Partick Thistle then Raith Rovers and finally at the Bairns before returning to Fife.
The midfielder started his youth career with a decade-long stint for his hometown team, Preston North End before being released at 18 and moving to Edinburgh University to obtain a degree in sports business management.
Going into his final year of his tertiary education, the Jags signed him and joined third tier, Forfar Athletic before returning to Firhill at the start of 2013 and playing a first-team role in securing promotion to the Premiership.
In the top flight, he continued being a first-team regular but was released by Alan Archibald at the end of the 2014/15 season and wound up at Ray McKinnon’s Raith Rovers side. The following March he pre-empted a move to Falkirk amidst his best season from a personal performance standpoint as he played an important part in helping the Stark’s Park outfit finish fourth at the conclusion of the campaign.
With Peter Houston they finished second – ahead of Dundee United – but became a bench option in the last couple of months under Paul Hartley, having made the last of his three starts in November with his departure announced on Thursday.
On his signing, Allan Johnston said:
“James is a Player I have admired since he was at Partick Thistle in the Premier League. I had watched him in the play offs last season, when he scored in both legs against Dundee United and I had enquired about him then but he had extended his contract with Falkirk. When I became aware that he had asked to move on from Falkirk on Wednesday I had to move quickly to get him as other clubs were interested.”
The Dunfermline manager leaped at the chance to sign Craigen with the lack of central midfield options in the side. Nat Wedderburn is the only fit option with Aaron Splaine sidelined for the remainder with a fractured leg. His regular partner, Dean Shiels has had to play as a number eight, a position foreign to him in his professional career. Right midfielder, Michael Paton has been shoehorned in the middle of the park for spells, and utility defender, Lewis Martin had a short stint at the start of winter.
During his career in his 140 starts, 86 of them has been in a central role (48 at attacking midfield and 38 at centre mid) and 54 out wide (30 at left midfield and 24 at right mid).
In the Championship, in his 90 starts, his output reads as:
25 at LM (5 goals, 2 assists)
12 at RM (3 goals, 1 assist)
11 at AM (3 goals, 2 assists)
11 at CM (2 goals, 1 assist)
Craigen is an upgrade on what Splaine had to offer. The only aspect that the sidelined midfielder edges his teammate in is the physical side as he is stronger and quicker. However, he does have the confidence to dribble with the ball from the centre of the park and as a result move defenders back towards their own goal. Nobody else has the requisite ability to perform that action with the success that he does.
The concern is his lack of pace, especially playing in a two-man midfield with Wedderburn who relies on his positioning to excel in the defensive phase of the game. What the squad is missing a ball winning midfielder that has a decent amount of pace about them to cover the ground. Sean Welsh would have been perfect, but he joined Falkirk earlier in the month. One name that sticks out is Hamilton Academical’s Grant Gillespie who has only played 57 Premiership minutes across three fixtures and is a very similar player to Welsh.
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