Yesterday's signing of veteran midfielder Willo Flood brought back memories of some of the immediate reactions to the past signings of Craig Brewster, Ian Ferguson and Martin Hardie. As with the three above-mentioned players, who all had undoubted quality but were doubted by many due to their age when signing for the Pars, Flood's signing led to a predictably mixed reaction. However, I can only see positives in having such an experienced player join what is a relatively young squad. Age is no longer the barrier that it was decades ago, with players (generally) being fitter in the modern era and working with specialised fitness coaches and sports scientists at clubs. Added to that, no one can doubt Flood's professionalism and determination. He is coming to Dunfermline to win and to extend his playing career by at least one further season, having only being offered a coaching role with previous club Dundee United at the end of his playing contract last month.
Certain players, including Flood, can be disliked by opposition fans who might, secretly, wish that the player was playing for rather than against them. Flood's often dour demeanour and a reputation as a hard-to-please, highly-driven and demanding character make him hard to love unless he is playing for your team. After experiencing multiple games against Dundee United over the past two seasons, with Flood bossing the midfield, we can now enjoy having a player who was a nemesis now become one of the leaders in our team: Flood has a big game mentality and brings high standards and 15 years of experience with him, having played for teams including Manchester City, Celtic, Aberdeen and Dundee United, where he spent two periods on loan and a further two spells as a signed player.
Allan Johnston is to be congratulated on addressing the Dunfermline midfield issues that blighted so much of last season, until the January transfer window. With Tom Beadling, Joe Thomson, James Craigen and now the experienced Willo Flood all competing for central midfield places, we have an encouraging mix of youth, athleticism, skill, mobility and now with the addition of Flood, a real leader, a dying breed in the Scottish game. He will demand much from his team mates and will be an asset on and off the park over the next 12 months.
Here is Ben's new Pars Roundup video, in which he gives his opinion on the signing of Willo Flood.
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Here is Ben's latest "Pars Roundup" video, looking the latest activity at East End Park.
You can subscribe to his YouTube channel here.
The summer transfer window activity continued this week at EEP, with one player re-signing, one new recruit and two popular players leaving the club. Part 3 of this ongoing series looks at the players who have come and gone in the past few days.
In signing a new contract with Dunfermline, Kallum Higginbotham enters his third year with the club - the first time he will have spent 3 seasons with a club since he was a teenager with Rochdale. Higgy has played for 10 different clubs and has already played more games for Dunfermline than for any other team in his 11 year professional career. After the departures of Fraser Aird and Joe Cardle, it was especially pleasing to retain Higgy, with the squad (currently) light on creative sparks, particularly out wide.
A hard worker in addition to being the team's top goal assist provider, Higgy can be inconsistent but is the type of player who should always be accomodated within the team structure.
The reconstruction of the Pars midfield continued with the signing of former Celtic player Joe Thomson. After loan spells with Livingston, Dumbarton and Queen of the South, Thomson was released by Celtic at the end of his contract 2 weeks ago. Having impressed Queen of the South fans during his period on loan at Palmerston, Thomson will be an important part of a reinvigorated midfield at EEP, alongside Tom Beadling. He has played for Scotland at every age group from Under 15 up to Under 21 and at 21 years old has all the attributes necessary to continue his career progress over the next 2 years of his Pars contract.
After 7 seasons with Dunfermline over two spells at the club, Joe Cardle left after it was decided he would not be offered a new contract. A full Pars Review tribute to Joe can be read here.
A popular player who was something of a cult hero with Pars fans, Big Nat made his presence felt over the two years he spent at EEP, with his physique and strength helping to bolster the Dunfermline midfield. What he lacked in pace he made up for with often surprising (and crowd-pleasing) moments, such as "the Wedderturn" - a pirouette that left opposition players baffled and trailing in his wake. His greatest moment, though, was when he held off a group of Wee Team players at the corner flag late in a game, shielding the ball and running down the clock towards the end of a Dunfermline win in the Fife derby.
Here is Ben's latest "Punt It Long" video, looking at various football news from this week, including the World Cup plus the latest DAFC news.
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The term "legend" is used all too often to describe players who are elevated to a status well above their true worth, just as others are described as "stars". When an actual legend leaves a club, it is only right to pay a full and proper tribute. With yesterday's news of Joe Cardle departing East End Park, our club has lost its greatest modern day legend - a player who made over 200 appearances for the Pars, was instrumental in 2 promotion winning campaigns, and who after being jettisoned due to administration, returned to the club and made an even bigger impact in his second spell, contributing on the field and being one of the best off-field ambassadors for Dunfermline Athletic.
Joe Cardle joined Dunfermline in 2009 after leaving former club Airdrie. Pars manager Jim McIntyre gave Cardle his debut in July 2009 in a League Cup win against Arbroath. The following week, Cardle scored his first Dunfermline goal in a league win at Morton. He would be a regular part of the team in his first season. The next season, 2010/11, saw Cardle play 35 times in the title winning season that took the club back into the Premier League. The Pars suffered relegation the season after, despite Cardle scoring 8 League goals from the wing. New manager Jim Jefferies reshaped the squad over the summer of 2012 but Cardle was still a main player in the team that led the First Division and seemed set for an instant return to the top flight until financial problems and eventual administration decimated the squad and saw Cardle released along with most of the other senior players in March 2013. It was devastating for the player and the club and a sad way to end what had been a mostly successful 4 years at the club.
Good players are always in demand, especially in the circumstances that Joe Cardle found himself in: a free agent at 26 years old, about to enter the peak years of his career. A year with the Wee Team was followed by a season at Ross County, where he reunited with his former Dunfermline boss Jim McIntyre. This was McIntyre's second spell as a Premier League manager and he adopted a more pragmatic style at Ross County, after being fired by Dunfermline towards the end of the 2011/12 season with the club heading for relegation. The open, attacking style he had favoured with the Pars was replaced by a more disciplined, defensive system at Ross County, which served him well, but saw flair players such as Cardle being marginalised. When the 2014/15 season ended, a return to Dunfermline was completed when Cardle became one of Allan Johnston's main signings that summer, with the club determined to get out of League 1 under the new manager.
Cardle, along with players such as Faissal El Bakhtaoui, lit up League 1 and were the creative sparks that saw Dunfermline win the title with games to spare, scoring goals for fun (at one point the team were top scorers in Britain); Cardle himself scored 15 goals, the best goalscoring season of his career. The link up play of Cardle and Michael Moffat, together with and clinical finishing of El Bakhtaoui, made 2015/16 one of the most enjoyable seasons in recent times to be a Pars fan.
The return to the Championship in 2016/17 saw Cardle figure less as a starter, with Paul McMullan preferred on the left wing. Joe's appearances, particularly in the second half of the season, came mainly from the bench. Unsurprisingly, he was keen to make an impact in the limited game time given to him but that often had the effect of him almost trying too hard and losing the assuredness he had when selected from the start of games.
McMullan's departure at the end of the season gave Cardle a chance to re-establish himself in the team. Right from the start of pre-season it was obvious that Joe was determined to make an impact: his display in a public park against Partick Thistle in the first pre-season friendly last summer saw him put in an energetic performance, seemingly reinvigorated. When the competitive games began, his good form saw him named Championship Player of the Month for August 2017. He scored 9 goals in the opening 11 games of the season, one of which, a goal of the season contender, coming against Hearts at Tynecastle in the League Cup.
A hamstring injury in September, with the team top of the Championship, had a big impact both for the player and the club. Returning from injury 6 weeks later, Cardle maintained the same level of enthusiasm but could not recapture his scintillating early season form. More often used as a substitute, he was forced to watch from the bench as Fraser Aird took over the left wing slot. Yet the was still magic in the Cardle boots and he made 2 significant contributions in the limited time he was given towards the end of the season: on 21 April at Inverness, again as a sub, he flighted in a perfect ball for Nicky Clark's 95th minute equaliser, a goal that effectively sealed Dunfermline's play-off place given the consequences of losing that game; and then the following week, against Dumbarton, he played in Ryan Williamson for the fullback to score his first ever goal, in what would be Cardle's last appearance at East End Park.
There are few players who excite a crowd and who can light up games by themselves. Joe Cardle is one of those. We will miss him doing his trademark cut inside, which no matter how often it happened, was still difficult for opponents to defend against. Crucially, the cut inside was usually followed by an end product, which saw Cardle score 54 goals for Dunfermline in his combined 7 years as a Par. The goal assist tally would be equally impressive ( I do not have those stats for his early years) but he directly set up 9 goals in 2017/18, in addition to scoring 10. All of which would suggest that he was worth another contract - another year would have been deserved, not through sentimentality but because this is a player still capable of contributing on the pitch. He is also a great character to have around the club, a huge fan favourite who did much to boost the club's profile. But he is gone now, fully deserving his place on the list of club legends. His Pars career spans 9 years, 7 of those in the black and white. Thanks for everything, Joe.
More players have come and gone from East End Park since last week's Ins & Outs article. The departure of Callum Morris was covered in a separate article here. For this latest entry in the summer transfer series, I will look at 3 moves that were made yesterday, plus 1 that was confirmed today, as AJ continued to strengthen the new-look Pars defence, while also losing the Supporters' Player of the Year and releasing a defender.
25 year old centre half Mark Durnan was released by Dundee United at the end of the season having played 36 games in the 2017/18 campaign. He joined United from Queen of the South and played 115 times for the club. He becomes the fifth player to be signed by Allan Johnstone for Dunfermline who had previously worked under AJ at Queen of the South. That list of players also includes Nicky Clark, Lee Robinson, Michael Paton and Gavin Reilly.
Durnan has 256 career appearances and has scored a healthy number of goals for a central defender, netting 30 times. He is likely to be a direct replacement for Callum Morris.
The second 25 year old central defender to join Dunfermline yesterday is Danny Devine, formerly of Partick Thistle. After starting his career at Preston, a short period at Wrexham was followed by a loan move, and then a permanent transfer, to Inverness. He then signed for Partick Thistle in 2016. After Thistle's relegation and with over 100 appearances in the Scottish Premiership, he was released as part of a squad revamp at Firhill.
Money talks and Declan McManus became the latest Dunfermline first team regular from 2017/18 to sign for another Championship team, when he joined Ross County on a 2 year contract yesterday. A popular figure with the Pars support, he was possibly the hardest working player in the team but lacked finesse and also had a below average goal return. His miss at Tannadice in the playoff quarter final was crucial and despite the fans singing his name at the final whistle, when he looked distraught, he made the decision to move north as an opponent for the forthcoming season. Scored 13 times for Dunfermline but his final goal in the playoff against United was his first in 17 games.
JEAN YVES M'VOTO
With Lee Ashcroft among the first players to sign a new Pars contract, followed by Lewis Martin and then yesterday's double capture of fellow central defenders Mark Durnan and Danny Devine, it came as no great shock today to read the news of Jean Yves M'Voto's departure from EEP. A no-nonsense centre half, Big Jock was used primarily as cover for Ashcroft and Morris during his 1 season with Dunfermline, having joined from the Wee Team last summer, performing well when called upon. Memories of his 15 minute appearance up front against Dundee United in his final game will hopefully fade with time, however.
Here is Ben's latest "Punt It Long" video, looking at various football news from this week.
You can subscribe to his YouTube channel here.
In this new video, Ben looks ahead to the World Cup and talks about what team he will be backing to win the trophy.
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Club captain Callum Morris left Dunfermline for the second time in his career when it was announced on Friday that he had decided not to accept the offer of a new contract. Instead, he hopes to find a club in England, where he has never played League football.
Callum joined Dunfermline in August 2012 at the age of 22. His career to that point had seen him start as a youth team player at Newcastle before playing non-league football and having a spell with the Glenn Hoddle Soccer Academy in Spain. Signing for the Pars, who were managed by Jim Jefferies and had hopes of making an instant return to the Premiership, gave Callum his first experience of sustained first team football at senior League level. A survivor of the squad cull that followed administration in 2013, he went onto make 67 appearances for the club before moving to Dundee United in 2014. His decision not to extend his stay at EEP led to Jefferies dropping him for the play-off final games against Cowdenbeath, when he briefly saw action as a late sub in the first leg - as an emergency striker.
After a good start to his time at Dundee United, Morris suffered an injury that cost him his place in the team and on his return to fitness, was sometimes played out of position at left back. 45 games in tangerine was followed by a transfer to Aberdeen in 2016, but he was unable to break into the Dons team and left the club in January 2017 without making a single first team appearance.
A return to Dunfermline was confirmed when he signed a 6 month contract in the January transfer window and he began to form what was to become a very effective central defensive partnership with Lee Ashcroft. In the summer of 2017 he signed for a further 12 months (it was later revealed that he had been offered a 2 year deal, but preferred to sign for 1 year) and was given the club captaincy after previous captain Andy Geggan was released.
His form in the opening weeks of the 2017/18 season saw him recalled to the Northern Ireland squad - although born in England, Morris qualified to play for both Northern Ireland (through his father, born in Belfast) and the Republic of Ireland (his mother was born in Waterford). The partnership with Ashcroft in the Dunfermline defence was to be one of the highlights of the Pars' season and despite occasional lapses in concentration, Morris proved to be an excellent captain and also involved himself in the club's community work. He made 56 appearances in his second period at the club, and a total of 124 in the black and white over his 2 spells with Dunfermline.
Now 28 years old, Morris clearly has ambitions to play in the English League. He will be missed at East End Park in an era when players will always prioritise personal ambitions over loyalty. Good luck to him in the next chapter of his career.