19 days ago, I wrote an article on this blog titled "Don't Panic", referring to the lack of new DAFC signings at that point. Since that date, 2 further new players have joined the club - Declan McManus and Aaron Splaine. Manager Allan Johnston has also confirmed that he is still looking to add "4 or 5 players" to his squad, which is currently imbalanced and light on numbers in some key areas. With the first pre-season friendly (not including a closed-doors run out against Partick) due in 7 days - at home to Hibs - the squad still has just 1 senior player in central midfield - Nat Wedderburn), 1 right back - Ryan Williamson - with fourth choice centre-half Lewis Martin as cover, and 1 left-back - Jason Talbot, with Martin again as his cover.
A winger is required to replace Paul McMullan, who this week joined Dundee United. While Joe Cardle is still under contract, and so is available as a replacement for McMullan, it would be strange for a player not deemed good enough last season to replace the player who was keeping him out of the team, with the top 4 this season's target. Strange, but not unprecedented - Johnston gave Rhys McCabe a new contract a year ago, while at the same time released Josh Falkingham, whose form had kept McCabe out of the team in the season that had just ended.
While it would be foolish to advocate signing anyone (within reason) to simply fill the squad, another lesson from last season must be learned: the time taken to finalise the squad led to 3 defeats from the opening 4 League games, plus an early exit from the League Cup. The last player to be signed before the summer transfer window closed, Nicky Clark, was to prove to be a successful signing, but had he not fallen out with the club he had only joined weeks before (Bury), it has to be wondered what Johnston would have done, as he already knew by that point that his other 2 strikers - Gavin Reilly and Michael Moffat - were misfiring in the opening few weeks of the season. This is another scenario that cannot be repeated this year. Another striker to supplement the current pairing of Clark and McManus is required. David Hopkirk is the only other option up front, and his return of 7 goals for Dunfermline since signing in January 2015 suggest that he is not the answer either, if a promotion bid is to be made. Hopkirk also has a tendency to suffer recurring, small, niggly injuries, which also underlines the need for at least 1 other option up front.
Pre-season training is now well underway and the importance of integrating new players into the squad, assessing and improving their fitness levels, and allowing them to settle into a new club, is clear and has to be highlighted. Sean Murdoch mentioned in an interview last week that trialist players have been involved in training - we could expect some of these players to be included in pre-season games. This, plus the hours that Allan Johnston will be spending talking to agents and other managers on the phone, demonstrates that he is active in his pursuit of new players, but were are now entering the time frame where negotiations have to be turned into concerted moves for players' signatures. There is still time, but the clock is ticking.