Two young players who have become important figures in the Pars' current 8 game unbeaten run have agreed to remain with Dunfermline to the end of this season. John Herron and Paul McMullan, both on loan from Blackpool and Celtic, have contributed hugely to the team's improved form and points total. They have also replaced two of the Pars' most experienced players, with Herron taking Andy Geggan's place in midfield, and McMullan replacing the left sided Joe Cardle (and also right midfielder Michael Paton, with his ability to play on both wings).
22 year old John Herron is a former Celtic Youth captain, who won the Scottish Youth Cup with Celtic, defeating Dunfermline in the 2013 Final. He made 2 appearances for Celtic's first team and played a further 5 games on loan at Cowdenbeath in 2015. In the summer of 2015, he joined Blackpool and made 20 appearances for the Lancashire club, mostly as a substitute. Arriving at East End Park on August 31st on a loan deal that would run until January 2017, he impressed on his first team starting debut at home to St Mirren on October 1st, but was injured the following week at Ayr, causing him to miss the rest of that month. He returned to the team on November 5th. In his 10 League appearances for Dunfermline so far, the team have lost just once. In the other League 10 games that he did not feature in, the team lost 7 times.
A cultured midfielder, Herron has quickly established himself as a virtual automatic choice for one of the 2 central midfield places, and has also had the effect of making players who were not in the best of form play better when he is beside them: both Andy Geggan and Rhys McCabe have performed better when partnered by Herron, compared to when they played beside each other. Nat Wedderburn also had an excellent game alongside Herron at Ayr, and while credit has to go to these other players, they will doubtless be confident going into games with Herron at their side. Herron's desire to remain with Dunfermline and extend his loan deal saw him accept reduced terms compared to his Blackpool contract, for which he deserves great credit.
Paul McMullan's loan deal was provisionally agreed to last the whole 2016/17 season, but Celtic had a recall option this month. Yesterday's news confirmed that he would remain at East End Park until the end of the season. McMullan has now been on loan to 4 clubs during his Celtic contract. His first loan spell was at Stenhousemuir in the second half of the 2014/15 season, during which he had several outstanding games, including one against Dunfermline. He caught the eye of many fans that day and scored one of Stenny's goals in their 3-2 defeat. Further loan periods at St Mirren and Morton then led to him moving to Dunfermline in July last year. He was unable to break into the team initially but impressed as a substitute, and eventually won a first team starting place. His direct style of play, and the variations in his game, combined with his work ethic have seen him becoming one of the key Pars players in the second quarter of the season. He also scored one of (and possibly THE) Pars goals of the season, in the Scottish Cup tie at Buckie, when he weaved through the opposition defence and dinked the ball past the goalkeeper. Still only 20 years old, he has now started 50 games for his various loan clubs, and made a further 8 substitute appearances, giving him valuable first team experience for a young player.
Both deals are excellent news for Dunfermline and many Pars fans would be delighted if both players remained at the club permanently at the end of their loan periods.
Photos by Pars Review.