Following yesterday's article on the Pars squad for next season - who to retain or release from the current group of players - today we look at the areas of the team/squad identified for new signings to challenge the current players and provide competition within the squad.
After stating that I would retain the entire established "first 11" - the team that played Morton, which is Allan Johnston's regular starting 11 when all players are fit and available - the following positions were listed as requiring new signings - partly because some current players are not providing enough competition in these positions, and also to improve on what we already have within the squad:
Goalkeeper (a quality number 2 keeper)
2 Central defenders (preferably 1 of whom is left-sided and can also cover at full-back)
2 forwards (including 1 tall striker)
Whoever might be brought in would be in competition with the current starting 11, with the objective being to ensure that in the event of injuries and suspensions, replacements are at least of the same quality as the players they are replacing.
Some of Allan Johnston's best signings have been players who have been released from Premiership clubs and who are still at a good age (22-27) and have the quality to rebuild their careers in the second tier and aim to return to the top division with Dunfermline: Lee Ashcroft, Callum Morris, Kallum Higginbotham and Nat Wedderburn all were released from top flight clubs but have made a big impact at East End Park. With that recruitment policy in mind, this article looks at some Premiership players who would be realistic signing targets for Dunfermline, and who play in the positions listed above. I have focused mainly on players who are out of contract this summer, and so would not involve a transfer fee. The article also looks at some of the better options from the Championship and League 1. All the players featured in this article are under 30.
There are only 6 Premiership first team squad goalkeepers out of contract this summer. Some, such as Craig Samson, Allan Mannus and Neil Alexander are either unrealistic or the wrong age to be targeted by Dunfermline. One option could be 26 year old David Mitchell of Dundee, who has been restricted to just 4 appearances this season. He signed for Dundee in 2015 and had previously played 227 times for Stranraer from 2009-2015.
Motherwell's David Ferguson (21) has had first team chances limited this season but could be a good addition to the Pars squad. He has been loaned to Airdrie, Annan and Alloa over the past 2 seasons, gaining first team experience, but has found it hard to break into the Motherwell team.
Ayr United captain Nicky Devlin (23) will be a target for clubs this summer and would be a very good option at right back.
One of the Championship's most consistent central defenders this season has been Queen of the South's Darren Brownlie. At 22 years old, he has good experience with 127 appearances in his career to date. He has been a regular for Queens this season and is no stranger to Fife, having played for Cowdenbeath in season 2014/15.
Jean Yves M'Voto has been a standout player for Raith Rovers this season, and is out of contract in June. The 28 year old French defender has played in the UK since 2008, with this season being his first in Scotland. He is a dominant centre-half and has made 33 appearances this season for Rovers.
Depending on Paul McMullan's future (on loan from Celtic, where his contract expires this summer), another left winger and Celtic loanee could be an option for Dunfermline - Aidan Nesbitt (20), currently on loan at Morton (as was McMullan last season).
Another on loan winger could be temped to East End Park - Motherwell's Dom Thomas (21), currently on loan at Queen of the South. Motherwell might prefer him to gain another year's experience on loan at a good level.
Inverness striker Henri Anier (26) has also played for Motherwell and Dundee United in recent seasons and would offer a greater physical presence than our current strikers. He has not featured regularly for Inverness since signing for them on a 6 month deal in January but was a success during his time at Motherwell in 2013/14, and has also played for Dundee United.
In League 1, 22 year old Airdrie striker Andy Ryan has scored 20 goals in 34 games this season. He is under contract until 2018 but a deal could be possible, especially if Airdrie do not achieve promotion this season.
Some of the players included in this article would be more realistic than others to Dunfermline. There will, of course, be many other players that the club will have in mind, from other divisions and other countries. If you have any suggestions, please leave a comment here, or via the Pars Review Facebook or Twitter pages.