The news today that Willo Flood has had his DAFC contract terminated to allow him to take up an offer to play in Bali, leaves the player and the club in a bad light. There are more clauses in football contracts than at a Santa convention but this one, which was - of course - not revealed when Flood signed for Dunfermline 9 days ago has created a farce of high proportions. There is not even so much as a penny of financial recompense to cover the embarrassment (I stand corrected if this comes to light).
I was behind the signing of the player, although reaction across much of the fanbase was mixed. I saw positives in his joining the club, and no doubt the same reasons will be why Dunfermline decided to take a chance on him committing to the club while his agent was busy arranging a deal - a move to a foreign club that was Flood's wish all along. This is not conjecture - it was confirmed in the statement that he was seeking a move abroad and that he would be allowed to do so if the opportunity arose.
As part of the announcement today, the club stated that they have first option on Flood should he decide to return to Scotland. We should not be entertaining any thought of giving him an outlet should he decide Bali isn't for him. Let's move on and sign a player who actually wants to commit to the club.
The small, jinky winger has been a tradition in Scottish football for decades, best epitomised by 'Jinky' himself, Celtic's Jimmy Johnstone, and others such as his Rangers counterpart Willie Henderson. In that period, Dunfermline had one of the best of the tricky wingers in Alex Edwards. Last week, we signed another diminutive winger, Aidan Connolly, who became the latest in a long line of Pars wingers. Just as a winger's game can include varying spells of good and bad form, so too has our club employed some great, some good and some not so good wide men.
Aidan Connolly comes to EEP with a good reputation, praised on social media by fans of his former clubs, which included a period in the Scottish Premiership with Dundee United as a teenager. As the edit below shows, Aidan has played in more positions than just hugging the touchline but he is predominantly a traditional left winger, and fits the mould of the Johnstone/Henderson image at 5'5'' and with a slight build. His pace and ball control more than make up for his lack of height and we can look forward to seeing him provide creativity on the left, making up for the loss of Fraser Aird and the departure of Joe Cardle.
Older Pars fans than myself will recall the great Alex Edwards and others that followed him. In the years that passed since Edwards' period, Mark Smith was a big success on the wing for Jim Leishman's 1980s Dunfermline, making over 50 appearances in the black and white between 1987-1989. When I became a Pars fan in 1991, the son of a Dunfermline great was on the left wing but failed to achieve the performance levels of his dad: Chris Sinclair, son of Jackie, was a hard worker but lacked quality. As the 1990s went on, Bert Paton signed a true cult hero in Ivo Den Biemen, and converted striker Stewart Petrie into a left winger/left sided attacker. Neither player falls into the category of this article's small, tricky wingers: Ivo was too tall and Petrie was a bustling winger rather than someone with tricks to spare. Paton then signed a pair of classic small wingers: Kenny Ward, who had one of the best individual games of any Pars player in recent years when his 2 goals helped Dunfermline defeat the Wee Team at Stark's Park in 1994. Paton then brought Allan Moore to the club and the wee winger was a big success in his 3 years as a Par.
The past 20 years have seen a variety of wingers come and go: while not listing them all, a sample size list would include successes such as Joe Cardle, Davie Graham - of the Jim McIntyre-era, not the earlier ex-Rangers player of the same name - and Willie Gibson, who just about makes the list although was taller than the type of player being looked at here. Then there were others, some of whom made half-decent contributions, and others who were qucikly forgotten, among them Chris McGroarty, Kevin Harper, Owen Morrison, Bobby Ryan and Sean Kilgannon. The 2006/07 season saw 2 wingers arrive on loan, that provided a spark to the team in the second half of the season, in Jim O'Brien (now a central midfielder with Ross County) and Adam Hammill (until this month a Barnsley player, and now a free agent).
It is to be hoped that Aidan Connolly will be more Kenny Ward than Bobby Ryan; more Joe Cardle than Sean Kilgannon. Connolly certainly has the pedigree to be a success and to add his name to the list of entertainers on the wing.
The great, the good and the not-so-good: some of the wingers who have played for DAFC through the years:
Rarely can the expression 'he knows the club well' apply more than to Stevie Crawford, who today joins Dunfermline for the fourth time in his career. Manager Allan Johnston made that statement when he revealed that Crawford would be a short-term replacement for outgoing coach John Potter, who has accepted the first team coach role at Sunderland. Crawford is certainly no stranger to EEP, having first signed for the club as a youth team player.
His first return was in October 1999, on loan from Hibs. The loan was extended to the end of the 1999/2000 season, in which he helped Dunfermline secure promotion to the Premier League. That summer, he signed a permanent contract and over the next 4 years was instrumental in the club's most successful period since the 1960s. Under manager Jimmy Calderwood, the team rose to fourth place in the top division and also reached the 2004 Scottish Cup Final. Crawford's partnership with Craig Brewster was arguably one of the best in the club's history, with both players complementing the other.
The first signs of financial issues at Dunfermline surfaced in Crawford's final season of his second spell at the club, 2003/04. Wages paid to players such as Crawford, Barry Nicholson and Andrius Skerla were incongruent with the club's income. The full impact of the shocking financial mismanagement implemented by Gavin Masterton and John Yorkston was not fully felt until the start of the next decade, but warning signs were there. Crawford left the Pars to move to Plymouth, then onto Dundee United and Aberdeen.
In 2006, now aged 32, Crawford signed for Dunfermline for a third time. This period would not replicate the success of his previous spell, although he did feature as a substitute in the 2007 Scottish Cup Final, which was lost to Celtic. Crawford was now more of a provider than a goalscorer and while still clearly an intelligent player, he did not make the same impact as he had done in the Calderwood era.
Crawford was released at the end of his contract in the summer of 2008 and played on for 3 more years, for 4 clubs in the lower reaches of the SPFL - East Fife 9which included a few months as player/manager), Cowdenbeath, Brechin and Forfar. He retired in 2011 having scored 177 goals in his professional career. 81 of those goals were scored as a Dunfermline player. He was also capped 25 times for Scotland.
In October 2011 Crawford moved into coaching at Falkirk, becoming assistant manager to Steven Pressley. He then took on the assistant manager role with Hearts, under Robbie Neilson. The pair took the club as far as second in the Premiership before leaving to join MK Dons in League 1 in England. Neilson and Crawford left MK Dons, in January this year, 14 months after being appointed.
Losing John Potter is undoubtedly a blow to Dunfermline but has been softened by securing the services of such a high calibre replacement. As the manager said, the move is short-term until a permanent replacement for Potter is appointed. Everyone at the club would welcome Crawford on a permanent deal but realistically he is likely to join up with Neilson as soon as the former Hearts boss takes on his next management position. Crawford himself may now have managerial ambitions having been an assistant boss for the past 7 years.
However long this fourth period as a Par lasts, this icon of the modern era will be a positive addition to the management team. Maybe one day in the future he will be back for a fifth time, in the manager's chair.
John Potter's second period at Dunfermline ended yesterday when it was confirmed he would move to Sunderland as first team coach. This is a tremendous opportunity for the popular and hard working coach and one that he thoroughly deserves. He will be much missed around EEP, not least because he is a self-confessed Pars fan and one of the few examples in the modern day game of a player, then coach, who was proud to represent his own team.
Potts joined Dunfermline as a 19 year old centre half in 1999 after a 2 year spell as a Celtic youth team player. He made 28 appearances for the Pars first team before leaving to join Clyde in 2002. From there he went to enjoy the best period of his playing career at St Mirren, from 2005 to 2011, which included promotion to the Premier League and 3 seasons as club captain. A change of manager in 2011 saw a squad clear-out which surprisingly included Potts. His next move was back to Dunfermline and marked the start of a 6 year period and the start of his coaching career.
Joining the club after its return to the top division in season 2011/12, Potts made 19 appearances before being loaned to Queen of the South for the second half of the season. The Pars team suffered relegation and manager Jim McIntyre was replaced by Jim Jefferies, who made Potts part of his coaching staff for the following season, 2012/13. The new-look Dunfermline team topped what is now the Championship until financial issues and eventual administration decimated the playing squad and left Potter and Craig Dargo as the club's senior players, with the bulk of the remaining squad being youth team players. Potts had guided the Pars youth team to the Scottish Youth Cup Final as the club's Under 20s coach but the sudden elevation of many of the young team to the first team, after many senior players were released, proved to be detrimental to both the youth team (the final was lost, to Celtic), and the young first team (a points deduction was followed by relegation to League 1).
After finishing second to Rangers in League 1 but losing the promotion play-off final in 2013/14, the team struggled in the early months of the next season, which they had started as firm favourites to win the division. Jefferies left the club and Potts, by now rarely featuring as a player, was promoted to the manager's role. Sadly, for a variety of reasons it was not a success and the club finished the season in seventh place in the third tier. Potts was retained by new manager Allan Johnston in the summer of 2015, returning to his coaching position with the Under 20s, in addition to working with the first team.
Potts' dedicated work as a coach and as a match observer for the manager, together with his positive manner and professionalism, made him a vital part of the management team as the club won the League 1 title in 2016 and the continuing year-on-year progress since. He has overseen the emergence of players such as Ryan Williamson, Lewis Martin, Callum Smith plus others who have moved on from Dunfermline including Shaun Byrne and Lewis Spence, both now Premiership players at Livingston and Dundee. I was fortunate to be able to attend many Under 20s games between 2015-2017, sitting in virtually empty stadiums or standing near the dug out at Kelty, the venue for many Under 20s Pars home games, in close proximity to Potts, and was very impressed by his method of coaching from the sidelines. Unlike some other clubs' coaches who spent entire games shouting expletives at their young players, Potts was always positive, encouraging his team and giving well-explained tactical advice: the type of coach that would be a dream for any young player to work with.
All the best to one of our own, a good guy and an excellent coach.
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.
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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.