''Is that the way I want us to play? Absolutely not'' - Stevie Crawford: one of the many encouraging comments to come out of last night's meeting at East End Park, which featured Ross McArthur, Stevie Crawford and Greg Shields, speaking openly and answering questions from the fans who attended. The style of play last season was a major issue for many, not least the management team. What was made abundantly clear was that there were serious issues with the squad, in terms of attitude. Obviously, nothing was specified, no names mentioned. However, the chairman and manager both made it clear, more than once, how big a barrier they faced in basically persuading several players to do their jobs, show pride and apply themselves.
''We will never again sign a player who thinks he's doing Dunfermline Athletic a favour by being here'' - Ross McArthur. The chairman spoke of the need to form a squad that the fans align with. We will not win every week and success can never be guaranteed. But as the chairman said, we need a team on the park that the supporters feel proud of. The 2019/20 squad will be younger - hungry and ambitious were other words used to describe the type of player and the type of person we are looking to recruit. The manager also hopes to add 2 or 3 older players with leadership qualities, although he admitted that type of player is not easy to find. Stevie Crawford recalled the example Ian Ferguson set at Dunfermline and it was made clear that we are interested in bringing a similar character to guide and motivate the younger players - and show a good example.
''Heart and desire'' - Greg Shields emphasised those qualities as key to what he and Stevie Crawford are trying to bring to the club. Shields had prepared a very impressive presentation, focused on the young reserve players, some of whom will hopefully be the future of the club. The former fullback is a very likeable and impressive figure, speaking with real passion about his job and his plans for the reserves, and their progress into the first team.
''Every day when I get out of bed, all I want to do is make Dunfermline Athletic better'' - Stevie Crawford. The manager stated that the attitude shown in games including the defeats by Ayr United and Queen of the South in the final quarter of the season would not be tolerated. Players who don't show the correct attitude (that word again) will not be welcome at East End Park. The manager put his hand to his heart while speaking about how much he had learned from players and coaches throughout his own playing career and how important it is that players give their all. He was livid with what he was watching in many of our matches towards the end of the season.
For a full report on the meeting, which included many other subjects other than those I have covered here, the official DAFC site will have the complete minutes online over the next few days. There were live updates from Lorna Morton on dafc.net which you can read here; and Ben's review on Instagram: please click here.
Stevie Crawford's second new signing was confirmed today when right back Aaron Comrie joined Dunfermline after his release from St Johnstone. On the same day that former right back Ryan Williamson signed for Patrick Thistle, Comrie (22) agreed a 1 year deal at East End Park.
Comrie, who began his career as a youth team player at Celtic, had been with St Johnstone since 2015, making 16 first team appearances. He was loaned out to 2 clubs during his 4 years in Perth: Montrose, from December 2015 to June 2016, playing 21 times, during which he scored the only goal of his career to date, in a win over East Stirling. He also featured 16 times on loan at Peterhead in the second half of the 2016/17 season.
St Johnstone manager Tommy Wright commented on the player's departure from McDiarmid Park this week: "Aaron is at the age where he needs to be playing first-team football on a regular basis and I can't promise that here.
"Aaron is a good player though and leaves with the best wishes of all the staff here at McDiarmid Park."
Right back was a problem position for Dunfermline last season, with Williamson suffering dips in form, and midfielder James Craigen initially filling in and then becoming the preferred option. The arrival of Aaron Comrie means we now have a natural fullback to fill that role in the team, and a player who fits the description of ''young and hungry'' that Stevie Crawford spoke about when outlining the type of new signings he was looking for.
Attacking midfielder Ryan Dow became Dunfermline's first new signing of the summer when he joined up today on a 12 month contract. Dow, 27, made the first senior starts of his career 9 years ago this month when he appeared in Dundee United's final 2 Premiership games of the 2009/10 season, a few weeks before his 19th birthday.
Over the following 5 seasons, which included a 5 month loan spell at Forfar in 2011, he gradually established himself in the United first team, making 28 appearances between his 2010 debut and the end of the 2012/13 season. In August 2013, Ryan spoke of his determination to become a regular in the United team: ''I see this as a massive season for myself. In the last two years or so I have been in and out of the team so I am hoping to keep my place and get a good run of games.
''I have always said that is all I am wanting not in and out. It has been frustrating over the last couple of years but it is down to me as I have maybe come in for games and not done well enough.''
The following 2 seasons saw him feature more regularly, playing 31 and 32 games. His manager at Tannadice during those 2 seasons was current Pars football consultant Jackie McNamara.
The video below shows Ryan scoring for United in 2014 (video owned by SPFL, linked from their YouTube channel):
In September 2016 Ryan signed for Ross County and went onto play 24 games that season. His second season in Dingwall saw him make 23 appearances. After playing his whole career at that point in the top division - except for that short period on loan at Forfar - it came as a surprise that he dropped down 3 divisions in 2018 when he joined Peterhead on loan. Peterhead manager Jim McInally told local press: ''Ryan had a good pre-season but I think Ross County see him as more of a super-sub type player and I know, feeling as fit as he does, he wanted the opportunity to play. I also think he wants to show people that he is fit and well and is prepared to go and do the graft.''
The loan deal was made permanent in January this year. Not surprisingly, he was one of League 2's top performers over the past season, helping Peterhead win the title.
Ryan will be a useful addition to next season's Pars squad. It is encouraging that he was prepared to go down the divisions to play football every week, which says a lot about his attitude. He now has an opportunity in the Championship to get his career back on an upwards trajectory. Able to play in midfield, on the wing or behind the main striker, his versatility will also be a positive.
Stevie Crawford made an encouraging start to the post-season with yesterday's news that 9 out of contract players would not be offered new contracts, while the 4 on-loan players would all return to their parent clubs. This is exactly what was required after a poor season characterised by lifeless performances and defensive tactics largely employed due to lack of trust in the available players. Too many players treated games in March as if they were the type of meaningless end of season game that was played out at Inverness in May. A top 4 place was there for the taking and yet we narrowly avoided relegation, helped by other teams' results going in our favour in the final 2 weeks.
As I have mentioned several times in this site, a complete overhaul was required and so it was very pleasing to see such quick and decisive action taken yesterday. Releasing fewer players would have watered-down any hopes of a new start.
Here is a run-down of who was released, plus comments on the other out of contract players who were not included in the list and so presumably will be offered new deals. I will also cover the players still under contract and what their possible futures are at East End Park.
Sean Murdoch: not so much 'released' as retired, a decision he made himself after battling long-term injury for the past 2 seasons. A good servant to the club.
Lee Robinson: no surprise here - the goalkeeper was jettisoned immediately after Stevie Crawford was appointed, with the new manager not happy that a first choice goalkeeper was allowed to work part-time. Robinson had a good clean sheet record with the club but was also his own worst enemy at times, picking arguments with opposition players and wandering far from his goal.
Ryan Williamson: A player who needs a new club and a new challenge to kick-start his career. His form and confidence dipped over the past year and while never a great defender, his attacking runs also became less frequent.
Mark Durnan: An season interrupted by injury but in truth, he was not the standard of player required to push for promotion next season.
Aidan Connolly: No lack of effort but simply too small to cut it in a physically-demanding division.
Kallum Higginbotham: An enigma whose best days in a Pars strip were behind him. Along with Williamson - a player he once formed a decent right wing partnership with - needs a new club to start again and get his form back.
Louis Longridge: a player I feared would be offered a new deal. Has ability but lacks pace, slows the game down and has a bad first touch.
Robbie Muirhead: considering Allan Johnston once resigned as Kilmarnock manager when Muirhead was sold behind his back, what on earth was going on with this guy over the past 10 months? A complete waster.
Brandon Luke: A product of the youth system who never seemed likely to break into the first team squad.
Bruce Anderson: We rarely played to Bruce's strengths, and he was left isolated up front in far too many games. I'd like to see him back on loan next season, but would Aberdeen be agreeable?
Faissal El Bakhtaoui: The excitement that greeted his return eventually turned to despair. Not the same player as in his first spell. Dundee have ruined him.
James Vincent: Did relatively well after joining the club on loan in the second half of last season, but was a huge let down this season after his loan was extended for a further year. As with Faissal, he returns to Dundee out of contract and looking for a new club. Thankfully, it won't be Dunfermline Athletic.
Ryan Blair: decent set piece delivery, but other than that, an empty shirt.
THE REMAINING OUT OF CONTRACT PLAYERS
Ryan Scully: Has the option of extending his initial six month deal. A keeper I have always liked and would hope to see him back next season.
Cammy Gill: Has to be loaned out for the sake of his career. Another year on our bench is not what he needs now or for his future development.
Andy Ryan: Out injured since November but made a late substitute appearance in the final game at Inverness. A poacher who could still do a job for the club if we adopt a more attacking approach next season.
Lewis Martin: Missed almost the whole season except for the final 2 games, so cannot be included in the general criticism of the squad. Versatile player.
James Craigen: Another versatile player but has yet to nail down a starting place in any position. Good guy, but not one to build a team around.
Stuart Morrison: One of the more promising young players who could be retained next season.
Other youth/reserve players including Matty Todd, Paul Allan and Lewis McCann should also be given new deals.
STILL UNDER CONTRACT:
To finish this squad review, I will list the remaining first team squad players who still have another 12 months on their contracts, and who I would choose to retain, and who would be free to move on if they found a more suitable deal:
Jackson Longridge, Lee Ashcroft, Tom Beadling, Joe Thomson
Move on, if possible:
Danny Devine, Myles Hippolyte, Callum Smith