Here is Ben's latest "Punt It Long" video, looking at various football news from this week.
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Focus on our friends at Kelty Hearts
A fantastic season for Kelty Hearts ended with another trophy yesterday when they defeated Preston Atheltic to win the King Cup. On a beautiful afternoon at Dalkeith Thistle's King's Park ground, the game ended 1-1 and went to penalties. Preston had a chance to win with their fifth penalty but missed, and Kelty went onto deservedly win in sudden death.
It has been a tremendous season for Kelty, scoring over 200 goals in all competitions, winning the East of Scotland League and being promoted to the Lowland League after defeating South of Scotland champions Threave Rovers 10-0 in the promotion play-off final over 2 legs.
Here is a video of yesterday's game, filmed and edited by Ben, plus photos also taken by Ben on the day.
An interesting and informative Supporters' Council meeting took place yesterday evening at EEP with over 100 fans in attendance. The evening began with the announcement of the "guess the crowd size" competition, and was followed by a presentation by Gennaro Guidice and Dave Dawson on DAFC's outreach programme, specifically aimed at local schools, with the club being awarded the Best Community Event award in March this year. This was in competition with several Premiership clubs and it is a great credit to the club and those running the programme that Dunfermline came out on top.
Chairman Ross McArthur then spoke and answered questions. As always, Ross was open and honest with his answers, covering subjects including:
- how Dunfermline will never allow debt to build and be added to, citing Dundee United - who have posted annual losses totalling £2.5 million over a 2 year period to 2017 - and who are continuing to outbid rival clubs for player salaries.
- the club are on a sound financial footing, with this year's finances expected to break even, or be slightly above or below that line. The important of the Lifeline income was stressed again, especially in light of a disappointing Scottish Cup exit that denied us extra income, and the period of almost 2 months without a home game in the winter due to bad weather.
- asked why 1 year deals are offered to players as opposed to 2 (or even 3) year contracts, Ross stated that he would not permit 3 year contracts but that many players actually prefer a 1 year deal - after being offered 2 years.
- the stadium continues to be upgraded, unlike a certain other ground that was alluded to (confirmed later as Tannadice).
- a newspaper reporter (possibly Daily Record, heavily suggested at least) phoned to ask if wages were being paid during the period when there were no home games for several weeks. After being told there was no cashflow problems, the reporter had no further interest in hearing about positive news from the club. Typical mischief-making.
- the importance of being positive and getting behind the team. Ross admitted that there were disappointments last season but was keen to emphasise how well the team responded to the backing from the stands, especially in the run-in at the end of the season.
- any ideas and initiatives to improve the matchday atmosphere within EEP will be welcomed and listened to.
- 1003 season tickets have been sold so far, an encouraging figure and one which is expected to rise once May paydays arrive.
- the 2018/19 Championship will be even more competitive than the season just ended, with Thistle and Ross County being backed financially and able to offer salaries beyond what Dunfermline can compete with for certain players.
Manager Allan Johnston then took to the podium and after a few words thanking everyone for their support, asked for questions. Here are some of the areas covered:
- while admiring Livingston's promotion success, AJ prefers to play football on the ground in a fast, attacking, exciting style. Livi, more robust and physical, would not be a style that he would follow.
- Fraser Aird verbally agreed a 2 year contract with Dunfermline but then phoned the club shortly before he was due to sign the contract, to say he would be signing for Dundee United.
- Jason Talbot may yet be offered a new contract, depending on the outcome of other moves/deals.
- AJ would not discount more loan deals but explained that they were difficult to negotiate early in the window, as they were usually dependent on other moves in and out of clubs.
- we will aim to be more effective in attack next season - chances/conversion rate has to improve.
- Sandy Clark and John Potter will be signing new contracts very soon.
- Callum Smith will not be going on loan next season. Cammy Gill might be loaned out, depending on Sean Murdoch's recovery from injury.
- AJ prefers not to use a target man in attack, instead looking for quick, exciting attackers; he did say that using a taller striker as a Plan B could be considered.
- Asked would he have Faissal El Bakhtaoui back at EEP, AJ said he would, and that Faissal was one of the best players he had worked with. He was surprised that Dundee did not utilise him better, but added "I'm not the Dundee manager".
- the club have massive potential and he is very excited about taking us back to the top division.
For a full, detailed report on the meeting, please see Buffy's excellent updates on this thread on dafc.net.
This article looks at the players who were selected most by Allan Johnston during season 2017/18 and puts together a "most selected" team line-up. Often, putting together such a team can have players placed out of position, if sticking strictly to players with most appearances regardless of their positions. So for the purpose of this article I have selected the most-selected players in their own positions. As it turned out, this was a relatively easy process, as 10 of the 11 most-selected players fit into the team in their own positions in any case.
In goals, despite missing the second half of the season through injury, Sean Murdoch made more appearances than his replacement Lee Robinson. The early season Cup games boosted Murdoch's appearance total over Robinson, with Murdoch making 27 appearances to Robinson's 21.
The player with most appearances in 2017/18 was Ryan Williamson, who also played every minute of every league game. He has made the right back position his own.
At left back, Jason Talbot played in 31 games. Lewis Martin, who finished the season strongly at left back, made 26 appearances, and not all at left back.
In central defence there were 3 main contenders for 2 positions, and as expected, Lee Ashcroft and Callum Morris make the cut ahead of Jean Yves M'Voto. Morris had 40 appearances, Ashcroft 43, while Big Jock played 21 times.
Using a 4-4-2 formation, the team's right winger is Kallum Higginbotham, with 43 appearances. Joe Cardle is on the left, having played 34 times. Central midfield, a problem area during the poor run of results in the middle of the season, sees 2 players who were eventually replaced make the team, selected more times than their eventual replacements: Big Nat (36 appearances) and Dean Shiels (25). Shiels is the only player in this team who was not in the actual top 11 most selected players. Lewis Martin was 11th in the appearances list with 26 games, with Fraser Aird joint 12th with Shiels, on 25 appearances. Martin, with 1 more appearance than Shiels, could not be fitted into this team based on having played less games than Jason Talbot, the other player who filled the left back slot, while left winger Aird had fewer appearances than fellow left sided attacker Joe Cardle.
The midfielders signed during the January transfer window did not come close to making enough appearances to qualify for this team - James Craigen made 18 appearances, James Vincent 12 and Tom Beadling 11.
Up front, it will come as no surprise that the regular pairing of Nicky Clark and Declan McManus made more appearances than their team mates Callum Smith and Andy Ryan, with Clark playing 41 times and McManus 44.
This team illustrates how continuity played such a big part in Allan Johnston's selections. The change of goalkeeper was an enforced one, although it worked out well given Robinson's excellent form. The only other significant changes that Johnston made were at left back, with Martin replacing Talbot - but only after most of the season had passed; left wing, with the previously under-used Fraser Aird taking Joe Cardle's place, again (like the left back switch) late in the season; and in centre midfield, where after months of persevering with Wedderburn and Shiels, the manager used the January window to sign 3 more mobile and agile players, which improved the team's performances and results.
Long stretches of the season saw the same core group of players selected, including a new set of midfielders in the second half of the season, which showed that although Johnston seems to prefer to show loyalty to players, he is not against making changes when the opportunity arises. Then, having done so, he then shows great loyalty to the next set of players, while also keeping faith in a select group that played throughout the whole season.
This team may not be the "best" Pars line up from the season just passed - the centre midfield would have to be changed for that to be the case - but it shows how many players made well over 30 appearances and how consistent the team selection was week to week. As stated above, 10 of the 11 players were actually in the 11 most-selected players, which made it relatively easy to piece together this line up.
2017/18 most-selected line-up:
Here is Ben's latest "Punt It Long" video, looking at various football news from this week and some DAFC chat.
You can subscribe to his YouTube channel here.
In this new video, Ben looks at the Pars' signing activity over the past week and other DAFC-related news.
You can subscribe to his YouTube channel here.
Dunfermline completed what could be the club's most important and significant signing of the summer today when midfielder Tom Beadling agreed to a 2 year contract. A big success after moving on loan from Sunderland to the Pars in February, his contract with his parent club ends in June and it was felt that whatever his next destination was - staying at Sunderland, or moving to another club - it would not be in the black and white of Dunfermline. Beadling, 22, was Sunderland Under 23 team's captain and many of their fans have commented online (Roker Report site and other forums) that they would have liked to see the player given a first team chance. His performances for Dunfermline throughout the spring must also have alerted other clubs.
Although he had played in central defence for much of his time in the Sunderland colts team, it was midfield that Beadling stated a preference for, and where he played all his games for Dunfermline during the loan period. A tall and mobile player, he was exactly what the team needed in that area of the pitch, and alongside other new midfielders James Craigen and James Vincent, was instrumental in the team's improved form and results in the final quarter. Central midfield had been a problem during the dire run of results in the autumn and early winter, with lack of pace being exposed by quicker and more agile opponents. This all changed with the arrival of the 3 new players, with Beadling the standout for many, a composed presence for someone with no first team experience prior to the move.
A sign of any player's importance to a team is not only the contribution they make when playing, but also how much they are missed when not on the pitch. An injury sustained late in the win at Falkirk in April sidelined Beadling for the remainder of the League campaign and - more importantly - in the playoffs. Although Vincent and Craigen did well without their team mate, the trio worked better with him alongside them as Beadling was the more likely of the 3 to tackle and break up play, alongside his ability to get forward and support the attack. With his defensive capabilities, he might have been seen as a defensive midfielder, a role he can easily fill, but he is even more effective as a box to box midfielder, making full use of his energy, strength and athleticism.
Beadling's qualities are hard to find (and afford) at Championship level and so the news that he has agreed to a contract - officially starting in 1 July - is a huge boost to the club and may well encourage other players who were considering other options to stay at East End Park. As important as last week's deals for Lee Robinson, Lee Ashcroft and James Craigen were, I feel the signing of Beadling may prove to be the best not only so far, but of the whole summer. This is a player to build a team around. Well done to all concerned on convincing the player to commit his future to Dunfermline and welcome back to Beadling himself - he will be a very important player for us and will hopefully prove to be instrumental in our climb back to the top tier.
Dundee United need never employ another scout: as the summer transfer window begins, they have seemingly embarked on a new policy of hoovering up players who performed well against them over the season just past. They tried this to a limited extent last season, signing Paul McMullan, James Keatings and Sam Stanton, all players from other Championship sides from 2016/17; this summer it has been reported by the Courier, the Dundee Evening Telegraph and other newspapers that they are interested in Morton's Tam O'Ware and Pars pair Nicky Clark and Fraser Aird. Aird was apparently set to agree a new 1 year contract at EEP last week before United jumped in with a 2 year contract offer, although there have been no other developments in the past few days. Clark is also a target of the Tannadice club, who released several players last week including top scorer Scott McDonald. As an aside, a further example of United's policy of signing familiar players is the alleged interest in bringing back forward Simon Murray to the club, after he left United last summer to join Hibs.
Rumours, of course, abound at this time of year but the Aird and Clark stories could well have foundation. Both players made significant contributions to Dunfermline's 11 game unbeaten run that was eventually ended in a hard-to-take play-off defeat against Dundee United. Clark was the club's top scorer, with 21 goals, while Aird - hugely underused by Pars boss Allan Johnston for much of the season - made a big impact when given a run in the team in the final quarter, with goals and assists. When the Daily Record announced that Aird had agreed a new deal with Dunfermline, fans' reactions were mostly positive; upon hearing of United's interest, revisionism kicked in to an extent with comments predictably following the "ach well, he wasn't that good anyway" line, along with others who saw more value in the player. Having just secured Lee Ashcroft, Lee Robinson and James Craigen to new contracts on Thursday, keeping Aird and Clark at the club would have been welcomed as a positive sign that the best of last season's team were ready to commit to a title challenge next season. The pleasing news of the 3 players who have decided to stay was tempered slightly (or greatly, depending on your view of Clark and Aird) by the potential loss of 2 of our most potent attackers.
Despite being top scorer in both his seasons at Dunfermline, Clark has never been given much love by the fans, who have been slow to warm to him, especially when he went through a goal drought but seemed to be undroppable. Aird, in contrast, was a late-season focus of much fan adulation, with songs sung about him and a mantra-like chant of his name in games during April.
I would prefer both players to stay at the club. My views on Clark can be read in this article (here) posted on this site a few weeks ago; there are few strikers more capable of guaranteeing such a decent goal return as Clark and if he wants to stay, he should be a priority signing. Aird would always be in my starting 11 and we would struggle to replace him if he leaves, in terms of his direct running, creativeness and ability to score spectacular long range goals.
Losing your better players to a direct rival is never a good thing, but at this level no player is irreplaceable. Certain players have aspects of their game that are hard to replace but just as the departure of McMullan (after his loan spell ended) 12 months ago opened the door for Aird, so might another opportunity come for a different player this summer if Aird and/or Clark leave.
In the meantime, let's hope United keep away from Ryan Williamson, Kallum Higginbotham and others.
In addition to DAFC vlogs, Ben also has a weekly feature on his YouTube channel called "Punt It Long" where he discusses general football-related topics and the latest Pars activity. Here is the latest video.
You can subscribe to his YouTube channel here.
After 3 seasons at East End Park, the end of Michael Paton's time as a Pars player was confirmed when he announced on Twitter today that he would be leaving the club when his contract expires at the end of this month. Paton joined Dunfermline in June 2015, one of several players who had played for Allan Johnston at previous clubs who would then reunite with the manager at Dunfermline. The manager and player had worked together with great success at Queen of the South, Paton moving to the Dumfries club during their League 1 title winning season of 2012/13, managed by Allan Johnston. Paton's first season with the Pars (2015/16) would see a repeat of that achievement, with Dunfermline winning League 1 in style and Paton contributing with numerous assists in his 41 appearances in all competitions. Operating on the right wing, he soon proved himself to be a very good technical player, not the type of winger who would burst past a fullback with pace but capable of very accurate passing and crossing and with a great first touch, rarely giving away possession.
A hernia operation in the summer of 2016 meant that Paton did not make his first appearance of the season until August, missing all of the team's pre-season friendlies and the first 4 competitive games. Kallum Higginbotham was signed, taking Paton's right wing position in many games, but after recovering from the operation, Paton was a regular in the matchday squad, always ready when required, making 22 appearances in total that season. His stay at Dunfermline was extended by a further year last summer and during the early weeks of 2017/18, he was deployed in central midfield, shifting from his more familiar right wing role. His excellent ball control and precise passing saw him contribute to an impressive start to the season for the team, including the League Cup game at Tynecastle when he had a very good game in the middle of the park.
Paton's appearances in the second half of the season were limited, with a combination of a niggling injury and the form of the midfielders recruited during the January transfer window leaving him with, at best, a place on the bench.
In total, he made 68 starts for Dunfermline, plus 14 sub appearances, scoring 7 goals but providing many more assists. I am certain that he will remain in the Championship with his next club, as he has much to offer and in addition to his ability, is a model professional and a very nice guy - a good player and a good person to have in a dressing room, an asset to any manager looking for a ball-playing right sided midfielder at this level.