McPake`s MasterplanDate: Wednesday, 8th Jun 2022
We have discussed the players leaving the Football Club this summer, but what about those first-team players who are being retained.
There are 14 of them, which provides a really strong nucleus for McPake to re-build around, albeit some of these 14 players may wish to leave as the Summer Transfer Window of 2022 progresses.
Just the one senior Goalkeeper signed up for next season so far; Deniz Mehmet started off last term under Peter Grant as our #1 but was quickly replaced by Welshman Owain Fon Williams.
The former Dundee United shot-stopper had to wait patiently to make his final 2 appearances of the campaign when on-loan goalie Jakub Stolarczyk was called-up for Poland Under-21`s in March 2022, meaning Mehmet comes into this campaign looking likely to be our #1 once again, with 8 appearances between the sticks for the Pars so far, unfortunately without any clean-sheets.
The Football Club are well stocked when it comes to Full-Backs, with 4 already contracted for next season. Youngster Miller Fenton is the least experienced of the quartet, with just one senior substitute appearance for the Pars to his name, albeit he has played at this level before for East Fife on-loan during the 2020-2021 term.
He will be hoping ot be the latest kid that James McPake develops, with our new manager having a proven track-record at his previous Club Dundee for bringing through highly-rated youth prospects and allowing them to flourish as first-team regulars.
In competition with Fenton for Left-Back is Josh Edwards. He has been Mr Dependable for Dunfermline Athletic despite some difficult days and nights for the West Fife side in recent months. Edwards made the most appearances of any player within the first-team squad last term (43), taking him to 96 appearances overall, with 2 goals to his name too.
At Right-Back, the most experienced man within the Pars squad in terms of appearances in the Black & White, Aaron Comrie. 101 games played under 3 different managers shows the ability by our #2 and he will hope to rack up plenty more appearances in SPFL Cinch League One this coming season, as he looks to add to his 4 goals already scored for the Football Club.
But providing competition to Comrie is Kyle MacDonald, who haz shown plenty versatility in his 18 months at East End Park so far. The natural Full-Back can also play higher up the field and on either side of the park. His assists in last season`s Group Stage of the Premier Sports Cup in particular showed the quality of delivery he has on offer and this could be a vital weapon throughout the upcoming campaign for MacDonald, who was signed from Airdrieonians in January 2021 but has enjoyed two loan spells since then back with the Diamonds.
MacDonald has made 20 appearances so far for Athletic, scoring once.
And completing the list of currently signed-up Defenders, is Centre-Back Rhys Breen. A youngster who has played in League One before, while on-loan to Partick Thistle in Season 2020-2021, the former Rangers youth will be hoping for a more successful season over the next 12 months after a stuttering start to his career in Black & White.
Curtailed by Covid and Injuries, Breen struggled for regular game-time under both Peter Grant and John Hughes: 11 appearances so far to his name, 0 goals.
The most experienced of the 4 Midfielders who remains under contract at the Football Club is former English Premier League regular and Scotland International, Graham Dorrans. The Club Captain has shown his versatility in the centre of the park during his first year at East End Park, playing both in a defensive and offensive role.
Similarly to Breen, curtailed by Covid and Injuries, it was a stop-start year for the #17, making 23 appearances, scoring once. Dorrans will be hoping to flourish this term, under his former Dundee Manager James McPake. Another experienced Central Midfielder who is signed-up is January Transfer Window recruit, Joe Chalmers.
The left-footed versatile former Celtic youth provided balance to the middle of the park with him being naturally left-sided. With the potential of a reduced squad size this term, his versatility could be key with Left-Back and Centre-Back positions he is also very comfortable in. Chalmers was signed from Ayr United, making 16 appearances, 0 goals.
Paul Allan is a player who will be hoping to kick-on further this campaign after more regular game-time last season. The youngster who came through the Fife Elite Football Academy alongside Matty Todd, the fourth and final Midfielder in this list. Prior to last season, Allan had only made 5 competitive appearances for the Pars, but now finds himself on 22 and will be hoping he, as has been mentioned previously in this article, can be brought on further by a Manager known to put faith and trust in younger players.
As for Todd, this stage of his development already seems to have been accomplished, with the #26 winning the Managers Young Player of the Year award and the Centenary Club Lifeline Young Player of the Year award for Season 2021-2022. Todd is a natural midfielder who originally got moved out wide right by John Hughes before moving back one to Right-Back in place of the ever-present Aaron Comrie.
Todd was able to keep his place with competent and strong performances, so it will be interesting to see how McPake continues Todd`s development and in which position. Scoring twice for Athletic, both last term while being played at Right-Back, the youngster has 45 appearances for DAFC to his name and could form an integral part of a successful squad this season.
Finishing off our list are the forwards, with 4 contracted for next season. Similarly to Allan and Todd above, Lewis McCann was another who improved greatly last season despite a disappointing campaign overall.
The forward was notorious for being deployed out-wide – mainly on the left – under Stevie Crawford, but John Hughes in particular, saw the importance of the Northern Irish Youth Internationalist playing a more central role. This allowed McCann to score his first 4 senior goals, as he now sits on 68 appearances for the Club overall.
His main competition for the Centre Forward role last term was Kevin O`Hara: a player who came into the Starting XI as John Hughes`s tenure evolved, becoming a regular starter come the end of the season. A regular goal-scorer at SPFL Cinch Championship level for the Pars, O`Hara could be a key figure in leading the line this campaign, as he looks to add to his 20 goals in all competitions so far, from 73 appearances.
Nikolay Todorov was a player who showed he could score goals given game-time, so it will be interesting to see if the Bulgarian can regain a regular place in the Starting XI under James McPake, following a frustrating campaign for the ex-Hearts and Inverness man. Scoring 6 goals in 27 appearances so far, he will be hoping to fire the Football Club back into Scotland`s second-tier over the coming months.
One man who remains at the Club – and one who may be the early favourite to lead the Club forward next season is Craig Wighton. A former team-mate of McPake`s, our new Manager will know exactly what he is getting from our #9, who ended last season on-loan at Arbroath.
Having spent 12 months at East End Park before his Temporary Transfer to Gayfield Park in the Winter Window of 2022, Wighton has netted 9 times from 32 appearances. All four strikers have proven they can score goals and contribute at a higher level, and this – alongside Full-Back – will arguably be the last area of the park McPake will look to make any changes in during his first Transfer Window.
New SigningsWe await the completion of McPake`s first-team squad, however, at time of writing, two new signings have entered the building. Earlier on this week, Kyle Benedictus penned a 2-year deal at East End Park, re-uniting with McPake, whom he played with at Dundee earlier on in his career.
The 30-year-old Centre-Back is an experienced professional, who has captained Raith Rovers over a number of season`s to success. He won this division, SPFL League One, only a few seasons ago, while also picking up two Challenge Cup winning medals; the Tunnock`s Trophy Final never took place due to Covid, so finalists Raith Rovers and Inverness Caledonian Thistle were both awarded the title as joint-winners, before our rivals in Kirkcaldy defeated Queen of the South just a few months ago to retain the trophy, winning it outright.
Our second signing of the summer is Chris Hamilton – a young, local, lad who is a massive Par just like you and I!
The 20-year-old began with the Pars Foundation Mini Kickers and as he eloquently explained himself upon signing, now feels as if he has went “full circle” by re-joining his boyhood Club. The Central Midfielder joins after leaving Heart of Midlothian where he struggled for game time at first-team level. Loan spells at Cowdenbeath and Berwick Rangers gave him a taste of lower league Scottish football, before he joined Arbroath at the start of last season, on-loan from the Jambos.
Dick Campbell has moulded Hamilton into one of the most highly-rated youngsters within the SPFL, playing 28 times for the Red Lichties last season, coming ever so close to promotion with the part-timer Angus side. He has now moved to the West of Fife on a “long-term deal” in a move which has been widely accepted as positive within the Pars fan-base.
It is a positive beginning by McPake as he looks to re-build this Pars squad into one which can win football matches on a consistent basis. Hopefully more signings of this calibre are to come.