Loan players big part to playWednesday, 22nd Sep 2021
Peter Grant sets out how Kai Kennedy and Ross Graham can make a big contribution to Dunfermline Athletic this season
Congratulations to Kai Kennedy who has been named in Scot Gemmill’s Scotland Under-21s squad for next month`s clash with Denmark at Tynecastle.
Originally due to be an away fixture, the match has been will now be played in Edinburgh on Thursday October 7, kick-off 7.05pm, following request from Denmark to reverse the fixtures.
Peter Grant has faith in his two young on loan players but admits that they still have work to do to get up to full match sharpness. When they are the Dunfermline boss predicts they will have good football careers ahead of them.
Talk of Rangers, Kai Kennedy going to West Ham United ended when the 19 year old arrived at East End Park on 22nd July on a season long loan. Centre back Ross Graham had signed three weeks earlier on a similar one year loan from Dundee United. Both were welcome additions to Peter Grant’s squad and the gaffer was pleased to hand Kai just his second start on Saturday against Inverness Caley Thistle. He told the media:-
“We’ve been trying to get his fitness right. People forget, Kai has been involved in two Covid situations — not just one — then he picked up an injury. So in the period of time we had agreed to take him, there were about six or seven weeks that he missed.”
The manager stressed that if you go after on loan players they can be lacking match action. It may be forgotten that Kai Kennedy had only played 15 minutes of football this season before getting his starting debut against Arbroath on the last Saturday in August. Ross Graham had missed two and a half months while at Cove Rangers last season. Peter continued:-
“If they haven’t been in the first team, with no under-20s or under-23s football there is a lot of football to catch up on. Match fitness is completely different from fitness — and I think you can see that with some of the boys.
“The more game time Kai gets, the more playing time he gets, you will see the player he is more than capable of being. He has those flashes of magic and I like nothing better than a player winning their individual duals. He is fantastic at those.”
The manager’s aim has been to build a squad with different types of players:-
“You need people who can take you up the pitch, however that might be runners or dribblers. We’ve tried to get that mix and I’ve always been brought up believing in players who can take people on. You want guys who can pick passes and feed these guys early but we don’t want to be one trick ponies.
“We know we can get the ball to Kai but we also feel we can spread it to other match winners from middle to front. Kai is a vital cog in that respect.
“Games can be tight, the opposition can try and stop you playing, the middle of the pitch might be full and they are defending deep, so at those moments you need someone who can produce those moments of magic and he is more than capable of doing that, as I feel we have with a couple of other boys as well in that area of the field.”
Ross Graham attracted Peter Grant’s attention as an opponent when Cove Rangers played Alloa Athletic in the Scottish Cup and he has watched him closely ever after.
“Ross is a terrific young player. Cove played us off the pitch and he was outstanding in the game..
“I know there are things in his game that he must improve on — but I remember taking Robbie Deas off at half-time against Ayr United, then I played him the following week against Dunfermline, funnily enough and he was outstanding. Robbie thought that was his career over!”
Making the point that young players are going to make mistakes, the gaffer explained that the defender’s chance will come again.
“You try to stick with them but sometimes you need to say: ‘Hold on, let’s take a step back’. That allows them to watch the game and see things that you miss in the heat of the battle.”
Peter feels that Ross gives his squad a fantastic balance with his left foot a great advantage. He can use the ball very well but the bottom line Peter added is that he has to remember he is a defender and he has to get better at that:-
“He’s a 20 year old centre back. Go down to England and look through the leagues — you will barely see any centre back under 28 years of age. That’s the way it is and you are always learning. It’s probably a position where you are probably 28 or 29 before you really know it inside out.
“The top ones learn it and realise that the margin for error is very minimal. The quicker you do that, the better. He is 6 foot 4, he has a lovely left foot on him, he’s mobile. Ross has every attribute to be a top top player. There’s no doubt he will be that. What he needs to do is keep working hard at his game and get better on a daily basis.”
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