Dunfermline Athletic

Peter Grant gets his man and eyes more

Wednesday, 16th Jun 2021

“Training becomes the hardest and the most competitive, where you’ve got the best players fighting each other to try to get into the team on a Saturday.

Dunfermline manager Peter Grant is delighted to have signed Bulgarian Nikolay Todorov claiming that the striker has always concerned him when playing for Inverness Caley Thistle against his side.

“He has always been a handful. I watched him closely last year because people forget that he is a young man. He has grown up in this country but you can see with his performances each year that he has got stronger and wiser in that position.

‘We were given an opportunity to get him and we spoke to him but great credit to the chairman for his enthusiasm to get him on as well. That helped me because when Nikolay met us he had probably agreed within an hour that he wanted to come. I was absolutely delighted with that.”

Nikolay carries a degree of physicality and strength with him and Peter sees that beneficial in adding to the options within his squad:-

“What I like about Nikolay is that he is like an old fashioned type of centre forward in many respects. He wants to play in the middle of the goal but I think that we have a good mixture. We have got people who can run, people who can come short and people with that physicality as well. That is what I am trying to do with the group. I have had a lot of good players offered to us but I think getting the balance right is more important than just bringing in players.”

With Declan McManus leaving for New Saints, the signing of Nikolay Todorov is important in terms of attacking options especially when Peter had quickly sensed that Declan had to move on:-

“When I came in there was news that Declan’s agent had been on the phone telling us that there was somebody interested in him. That put some doubt in my mind right away. I want people who are committed, I am not saying that Declan wasn’t in any shape nor form but when I get agents on the phone that starts alarm bells off for me.

“As soon as I knew that there was a situation arising there, I made the contact with Nikolay to try and get him here. Within a short period of time he had agreed to come and that is the way I wanted it to go. I want the best players at this football club and Nikolay is one of the best strikers in the division. I have no doubt about that.

“The strikers I have got here anyway are amongst the best in the division and that puts pressure on them to perform. He is a young man, he is only 24, his career is in front of him and in that respect, hopefully, we can make him better.

‘It gives a different balance to us. You don’t want to lose good players but with Declan going, as soon as they make it known that there is interest from elsewhere that always tells me that there is a different agenda. I’d rather have players here who are committed to doing well and winning games.”

Above: Matty Todd, Miller Fenton and Paul Allan

The manager is really pleased with the squad that he has inherited, his own agenda is to strengthen the squad and he doesn’t anticipate any more departures but in the young players’ cases that will be dependant on how well they impress the gaffer:-

“I just have a couple of young boys here that I have to make the right decision on, whether to keep them in the group. Anybody that knows me knows I like the young boys to play football.

“I hate young boys sitting on the bench not playing games because the game is the learner for me. I think it is so important for them. They will get game opportunities during the cup and hopefully they can prove that they can be more than just squad players.

“They will get those chances and I have certainly been impressed by the way they have gone about their training. I have been delighted with them, their attitude has been excellent and the shape that they have come back tells me that they are hungry to succeed. Now we just need to give them wee bits of small detail. Every manager is different, they have different ways of training and playing so it is just putting in pointers.

“For me it is just things that I learned 50 years ago when I was a kid, that you still use to this day. It is simple things. Simplicity pays as people say so I try not to complicate it. If you can play forward with your first pass, how is your first touch? If your first touch is no good or your final ball is no good you get taken off the pitch. It is as basic as that.

“I have really enjoyed working with them, more through their enthusiasm to learn, willing to make mistakes. That is really important to me. The things that you are telling them is maybe a change to them but it is giving them that braveness to go and get it again and make another mistake in trying to do the right thing. I will forgive a multitude of sins as long as you have players like that.

“The ball has been out since the first day in training because of the shape that they have come back in. That tells me that they have a hunger to succeed and a hunger to play.”

Euan Murray has moved on to fellow Championship contenders, Kilmarnock and that has created a vacancy in the heart of the Pats defence. Peter Grant confirmed that he has been running a rule over Sheffield Wednesday defender Isaac Rice:-

“It is a strange situation with covid and perhaps that’s why things are moving along a bit slow. When you get people in to have a look at them or if you can get them up for an opportunity, you have to be careful who you can bring in and who you can’t when it comes to mixing. It is not as straightforward as it was when you could bring in as many people as you wanted.

“We have to make sure that we get the right people at the right time. Obviously hotels and sharing flats is a bit different, all these things come into it.

“Yes, Isaac is up and he looked very good in training. We have been delighted with the way that he has gone about his business. He has given himself the best chance with the shape that he has arrived in, that is important and he has shown that hunger to get up here.

“We have a few other guys appearing probably over the next couple of weeks. We know that is a position that we need to strengthen. I like balance if it is possible, I like a left footer on the left hand side so they are not easy to come by. I like that balance because it is easier to play that way. You can change shape of course but when you are playing on your natural side it is easier for you as well. It is making the player as comfortable as you possibly can, I prefer to have that left footed balance and Isaac comes into that bracket.”

The manager made it clear that a contract for Isaac Rice is there to be clinched:-

“It is up to him to grab that, he has got the opportunity, he is in the building. I know his footballing ability is there, I have seen it before. When I was a player at Celtic real top top players would come but they just couldn’t handle the pressure that goes with it. It wasn’t because they were a bad player. You just need to see what he is like in the group, what is he like as a character, does he mix with the group?

“The team is the most important thing to me. You can be the best player but if he is not good enough round about the group he will not be here.

“I know most of the boys here anyway. I’ve worked with them or been against them many, many times. So I understand them and I know their characters, but that’s a big, big thing for me, because I want everybody to feel part of it.

“I’ve said it from day one, the supporters are important, the people that work at the stadium are important, because we’re all trying to push and do the right thing.

“The one achievement we want to try to achieve is to be number one in the league, and there’s no getting away from that. That’s what we’re trying to do and to do that you have to bring in the best players you possibly can - and that’s what we’re trying desperately to do.”

Asked if the reported fee paid for Declan McManus might make a difference to who can be added to the squad, the manager said:-

“I don’t think the fee makes any difference. I came to an agreement with the chairman and I know what I’m offering for players. The fee is by the by, I know where we are within the parameters of the football club and I’m one of these guys who’s not a negotiator. I’m probably old school in that respect. I’ll tell them what we can afford and if the player can’t come for that then, fine, we’ll move on.

“I don’t go back making about 15 phone calls, saying we’ll give you this or that. I tell him right away, ‘this is what we can offer you and if you don’t like it no problem, I’ve no issue with that, whatsoever’. I want people to show that hunger to come to the football club. I think that’s so important.

“I’ve not even spoken to the chairman about that, to be perfectly honest. I knew what was coming in but the biggest thing for me was getting Toddy in anyway. I wanted to do that.

“We know we’re light in other positions - the goalkeeping area is an issue for us and that’s something we’re looking at very closely. I want two goalkeepers who are going to be fighting tooth and nail to try to get in the first-team. That’s exactly what I want, I want that quality in there.

“Ideally, that’s what I would like all over the pitch, to have that balance, so that training becomes the hardest and the most competitive, where you’ve got the best players fighting each other to try to get into the team on a Saturday. Hopefully that brings you the results that you so desire and that the supporters want.”

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