The East End Park exit door has been in regular use since the Pars' season ended 3 weeks ago, with the departure of several players, offset by contract extensions for others plus one new addition.
Joe Cardle, Nicky Clark, David Hopkirk, Lewis Martin, Sean Murdoch and Ryan Williamson were already contracted to the summer of 2018 and, at this stage, will be in the squad for next season.
Contract extensions have been agreed with Callum Morris, Lee Ashcroft, Kallum Higginbotham and Nat Wedderburn. New contracts have also been signed by several of the now-disbanded Under 20s team: Paul Allan, Conner Duthie, Cammy Gill, Scott Lochhead, Brandon Luke, Stuart Morrison and Callum Smith. The only new face so far is Wee Team centre half Jean-Yves M'Voto, who was one of the players included in this Pars Review article from March: www.parsreview.org/blog/scouting.
Leaving the club are Callum Fordyce, Andy Geggan and the Moff, who have signed pre-contract agreements with new clubs, plus first team squad members Ben Richards-Everton, Lewis Spence and David Hutton, all released. This leaves Rhys McCabe, Michael Paton and Jason Talbot as the only first team players either not to have signed a new deal with Dunfermline (yet), or having announced moves to other clubs. Loan signings Paul McMullan, Gavin Reilly and John Herron are either back with their parent clubs or out of contract.
It has been confirmed that Under 20s goalkeeper Cammy Gill will now be part of the Pars first team squad.
With all of the above taken into account, the current Pars squad is as follows:
Midfielders & Wingers:
Players marked * are Under 20s outfield players. Allan Johnston has confirmed that DAFC will not be operating with an Under 20s team for season 2017/18; and with no reserve league until 2018/19, the manager also said that some (but not all) of these younger players will be loaned to other teams, with others retained for the first team squad. On the basis that 4 of the 6 teenage players will be loaned out (this figure could vary), then the current first team squad total would be 14. Johnston has stated that he hopes to have a first team squad of 18 or 19 players, a reduced pool of players compared to recent seasons.
Areas of the team/squad that now require additions, which will also depend on the futures of McCabe, Paton and Talbot, are:
Right back (1)
Left back (1)
Centre midfield (1, possibly 2)
Wide Left midfield (1: left or right)
I would not be surprised if another first team squad player was loaned out, meaning that six further new signings would result in a squad of 19, and would cover the positions noted above, some of which - particularly up front - are obviously lacking in numbers and quality as it stands.
Goalkeeper and central defensive positions would appear to be finalised. Both full back positions are a priority, with right back Ryan Williamson the only natural full back in the squad, and no left back other than Lewis Martin as cover.
If the manager retains his favoured 4-4-2 formation, at least one central midfielder is required, although if Scott Lochhead is not loaned out, he could be an option alongside big Nat and one other. Whether the "one other" is Rhys McCabe, or a new signing, will be one of Johnston's most important decisions of the summer. With the squad set to be tighter in numbers than in the season just ended, there could be just one wide midfielder added to compete for places with Joe Cardle and Kallum Higginbotham. If a 3-5-2 or 4-3-3 formation was considered, this would reduce the need for the 4 wingers who featured in the squad of 2016/17, and could see Higginbotham play in a number 10 role as opposed to wide on the right, or left.
Two new strikers are definitely needed: 17 year old Callum Smith will either be loaned out or used as an option from the bench, leaving only David Hopkirk to compete with Nicky Clark for a place in attack. The manager has spoken about the need to add more goals, which would explain the departure of the talented Moffat, whose all round play was of a high standard but was not replicated in his limited goal return.
The above comments are made with the 18 or 19 player squad limit in mind. Ideally I would add one further central midfielder plus another wide attacker and another full back to the list above, but this would push the number to 20 or above.
The signing of Morris could be Johnston's best of the summer, as stated in this Pars Review article from April: www.parsreview.org/blog/5-things-we-learned-v-dumbarton4578926. The spine of the team - Murdoch, Morris, Wedderburn and Clark - is strong enough to compete at the top end of the table, and with the signing of more players of the same quality, a promotion challenge could and should be anticipated when the league season starts in August.