Two years ago, the signing of striker Declan McManus would have been seen as something of a coup for Dunfermline, following the player's highly successful season with League 1 champions Morton. Declan, still just 22 years old, signed for the Pars yesterday and despite his patchy form over the past 2 years, will see the move to East End Park as a chance to re-establish himself as one of the best young strikers in Scotland outside the Premiership. He joins Nicky Clark as only the second established striker in Allan Johnston's squad and has signed for 12 months.
Declan McManus signed his first professional contract with Aberdeen in January 2012 at the age of 18. He remained under contract to the Dons until July 2015 and was twice top scorer in the Youth league but did not establish himself in the first team squad, making 12 appearances. To continue his development, Aberdeen decided to send him on loan, firstly to Alloa, where he scored his first senior goal, against Morton, in December 2013. The following season, 2014/15, saw Declan score 23 times in 2 loans spells at Morton, helping the club to win the League 1 title and winning the League 1 Player of the Year award. His form attracted interest from clubs in England, and he signed for League 1 side Fleetwood Town in the summer of 2015.
After scoring on his debut for Fleetwood, he then endured a 9 game goalless run. He was given the option of returning to Morton, once again on loan, in January 2016 and despite his barren run in front of goal extending to 14 games - after failing to score in his opening 5 Morton appearances - he went on to score 5 times, ending the season with 6 goals in 30 appearances. He remained in Scotland for season 2016/17, this time on loan to Raith Rovers.
Declan did not enjoy the best of seasons in Kirkcaldy. He scored in just 1 of his first 12 League games (a double in a win over St Mirren). His next League goal came 8 games later, in October, after which he played a further 21 League games without scoring. He was to score a last minute winner in Raith's last League game at home to Ayr, which then led to a further 2 goals in both legs of the relegation play-off final against Brechin. This was not enough to prevent Raith being relegated, losing a penalty kick shoot-out after the second leg of the final. He scored 9 goals in League and Cup games for Raith but the season was a huge disappointment.
Declan has undoubted ability and it has to be remembered that he is still a relatively young player, and as such will suffer dips in confidence. His excellent season on loan at Morton in 2014/15 showed that he can score goals in the right environment. He has also been recognised at international level, winning Scotland caps at Under 18, 19 and 21 levels. Moving to Dunfermline will give him another chance at Championship level, and it is to be hoped that he will flourish in a team that is at the right end of the table.