Dunfermline Athletic

Manager hoping for more Wighton goals

Thursday, 13th Apr 2023

JMc: - “He has done a lot for a relatively young player and I’m delighted that he is going to be here for the next couple of years.

When it comes to agreeing a new two year deal contract with his top goalscorer James McPake recognises that Craig Wighton is not a player that he really needs to say much about.

“I have spoken about Craig for years. I have played alongside, I have worked with him doing rehab and now I have had the chance to coach him a lot. I did bits and pieces with him when I had the youth team and reserves at Dundee.

“I think what we have got to remember he was still carrying an injury at the start of the season. Since September / October time he has been injury free. The knee is now really good but I think getting the season done with and he has a break, he will come back and with a full pre season, he is going to get better.

“He is still a very good age and he has played in a lot of high pressure games whether at Dundee as a kid, derbies up there, Edinburgh derbies, Scottish Cup semi finals and Scottish Cup finals. On the last day of the season he has won titles, he has done a lot for a relatively young player and I’m delighted that he is going to be here for the next couple of years.

“As soon as I got the job, he was one of the first people I called to say that I was looking forward to working with him and I was going to be relying on him a lot and he has not let anyone down. He has been excellent. He has scored sixteen goals, different goals as well. We have seen him score a variety of goals.”

Craig took over penalty kick duties last month and the manager hopes that settles his nerves since spot kicks have been troublesome this season. James continued:-

“He scored a good one at Montrose. It was a decent penalty and quite a high pressure one. When you talk about games that there is more to - maybe the Falkirk one here with the crowd and the atmosphere that night - the Montrose game was really important to us because they had beat us. We didn’t want to go through the season with not having won at every ground. That was a target we set ourselves and that was a high pressure penalty.

“This season has done me in with penalties - we have lost two shoot outs, missed a last minute one against Airdrie, Lewis (McCann) has missed one as well. So it has not been great for penalties, I hope we don’t get anymore and we just score goals from open play. I don’t get nervous a lot but when we get a penalty I certainly do.“

With Craig Wighton approaching the end of his contract, the Pars manager was aware of interest from other clubs. He pointed out that had not been on Craig Wighton’s notice:-

“A lot of people do and ask when he is fit. Whether he has scored goals or not I think other managers will look at him.”

Poster Boy

James believes it’s unfortunate that, due to the impact he made at Dundee, there were such high expectations for the younger Craig from the age of sixteen. Then in May 2016 as a 20 year old he scored the 90th minute goal against Dundee United that relegated their rivals and it elevated him again:-

“He was probably put out there too soon in terms of being a poster boy for a football club. He was only sixteen and I can speak about it because I was there. It was not something that I particularly agreed with but he was exposed to things he shouldn’t have been doing when he was so young. I don’t know if it hindered him too much but it certainly didn’t help him.

“I don’t think that was handled particularly well and that wasn’t the managers, that was the football club in my opinion. It is similar to an Andrew Tod or Sam Young bursting on the scene here, doing fantastically well becoming the club’s youngest ever scorers and let them model the strip or put them out to the press every week.

“I can speak from experience because I have had players very similar to Craig - Finlay Robertson, Lyall Cameron, Josh Mulligan, Sam Fisher - all playing for Dundee. Maybe not having the impact Craig had at such a young age but even with them, you have to protect the younger players.

“I don’t think Dundee did that with Craig. Paul Hartley was excellent with him, Neil McCann was excellent and then he was a bit older when the next manager came in.

“It had an effect on Craig because when you are so young and you are carrying the expectations of the full club which was the case, then as soon as you have a bad game people recognise it more and you are held more accountable. When you are a younger player and you have a bad game that is part of it. Older players have bad games, super stars have bad games you just need to handle it and you just need to deal with it.”

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