Allan Johnston signed a two-year deal at East End Park in the off-season as he aims to guide his Pars side towards promotion by May 2020 with an overhaul in personnel to his squad.
Regardless whether the former Heart of Midlothian winger was here or not the first order of business was for Dunfermline to return Daniel Armstrong and James Vincent to their parent clubs after their three-month loan spells.
That was not the end to the departures as Callum Morris, Conner Duthie, Dean Shiels, Jason Talbot, Michael Paton and Scott Lochhead followed. Five of the six names were expected, but when Talbot’s name was spotted on the PFA Scotland player availability list it was somewhat surprising as he had been dependable in the overwhelming majority of his 109 appearances since joining from Livingston in June 2015.
The only out of contract player that fans will not be astounded to see in another strip next season is Nat Wedderburn. The Englishman featured for 156 minutes since the mid-season transfer window closed; 90 of them being his last start back in February. Yet, it would be disappointing to see him leave considering he offers something to a team that very few players at this level can.
It can be assumed that every effort will be made to keep Declan McManus, Joe Cardle and Kallum Higginbotham where they are seeing as they were staples of the starting 11. Johnston should be wanting the backup centre back, Jean Yves-M’voto to remain. However, Athletic have seen Fraser Aird and Nicky Clark go to fellow Championship side, Dundee United.
If those that are expected to sign up for at least another campaign remain then there is a good base to the squad. There are 10 players (Ashcroft, Cardle, Craigen, Higginbotham, Martin, McManus, Murdoch, M’Voto, Robinson and Williamson) that can be relied on to perform at this level. Andy Ryan, Callum Smith and Tom Beadling (returning to the Pars on a permanent basis) are the unknowns at this level across the course of a season but are deserving of their place in the squad for one reason or t’other. What is predominately lacking is depth and that can be resolved with the acquisition of these players:
The Livingston captain has established himself as a first-team professional since the Lions transitioned from a League One outfit to a Premiership one in the two seasons after he joined them in the January of their relegation campaign in 2015.
Halkett was voted by his fellow professionals as one of the best centre backs in the second tier. That honour fulfilled the potential that saw him sign a professional contract at his boyhood club, Rangers when he turned 17.
It would be a coup if the Pars could prise the 23-year-old central defender from the allure of top-tier football. Yet, he would earn a better wage plying his trade for the Fifers and be in a more stable situation with Dunfermline.
The former Greenock Morton right back started his career as a youth player for Celtic then Kilmarnock before getting his first taste of professional football with a Stirling Albion side that could not stave off relegation from the First Division in 2011. Following that, he moved on to Paul Hartley’s Alloa Athletic; achieving back-to-back promotions. He stuck with the Wasps until he was snapped up by St Johnstone, but was back in the second tier with the Ton six months later.
He is coming up for 27 in August, and with over 280 games to his name, he has the experience of being a defensive full back that would compliment Ryan Williamson’s approach to get forward ahead of the wide midfielder.
The left midfielder had come up the bottom two divisions on loan at Albion Rovers starting in 2010. Lawless then put the Pars to the sword; scoring four of his 13 in his debut First Division campaign. Over the course of the last five seasons, the Motherwell youth product had been a mainstay in the Premiership.
Having turned 27 in April, he is still in his theoretical prime while being experienced enough (270 games) to give Joe Cardle competition and offer something different. Cardle tends to favour to cut inside and while Lawless can do that he is ambidextrous and able to take a defender down to the byline and cross a ball back for the centre forwards to latch onto.
Another player that has tasted success and like Lawless has played over 100 games in the Scottish top flight and the third player that will be 27 for the majority of the campaign. Gillespie had been at Hamilton Academical for 12 years until his short stint at Dundee United earlier this year.
The Pars have lacked a ball-winning midfielder since Andy Geggan departed the club last summer and Gillespie would be the answer to that problem as they have Wedderburn as is the anchor man, Craigen the attacking midfielder and Beadling the deep-lying-playmaker.
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