It hasn’t all been plain sailing for Dunfermline Athletic on their return to the Ladbrokes Championship, but Saturday’s 1-0 win at St Mirren saw the Pars climb to eighth spot. And experienced striker Farid El Alagui thinks there’s more to come from the Fife outfit.
Ladbrokes News chewed the fat with the French hitman, discussing Allan Johnston’s attacking tactics, the Pars’ young stars and how to win gritty in Paisley.
Ladbrokes News: You made the move from Hibernian to newly-promoted Dunfermline in the summer. How are you finding life at the club, and training and playing under Allan Johnston?
Farid El Alagui: It’s been really good so far. I didn’t get the game-time I would’ve liked at Hibs, so it was important to find a club where I enjoyed playing football again.
I spoke a lot with Allan before making the move, and he believed that if I can stay fit, I can make a big contribution to the Dunfermline team. Up to now it’s gone really well, and I have a good feeling about being here.
The way we play is really enjoyable too, as a striker. [Allan] is a very attack-minded manager. Not many teams play two strikers week-in, week-out. He wants us to get the ball forward as quickly as possible, and for the wingers to get involved.
LN: You’re one of the more experienced guys in a squad with a lot of players in their early 20s. Is passing that experience onto the younger players something you’re enjoying?
FEA: We’ve got a young team with some really good players, so I’m not going to try and tell them what to do. If I can help them out by looking back at what I’ve been through in my career, I’m happy to – but they know what’s required on the pitch already.
I do think it’s important in a squad to have a good blend of younger and more experienced players, and we have that at Dunfermline.
Even some of the guys in their ‘20s have done a lot in the game already. The likes of Kallum Higginbotham and Nicky Clark have already played at the highest level.
LN: You’re on four goals from 11 games in all competitions so far – a good ratio. What do you think are your main strengths as a striker? And are there parts of your game you’re still looking to improve?
FEA: I’m always looking to develop my game, and will always do so – no matter how old I am, and how many matches I have behind me!
In terms of my attributes – I’m quite strong physically, and can offer an aerial threat. Holding the ball up and laying it off is also an area where I feel I can make a difference for the team. I always try to keep the defenders busy!
LN: Saturday was a good day for the team as a whole, with your second win over St Mirren this season – a 1-0 triumph in Paisley. Were you pleased with your display and the overall Pars performance?
FEA: We said before the game that the most important thing was to pick up three points, especially when you consider the league position we were in ahead of kick-off.
Saturday’s game wasn’t easy on the eye, and I think we’ll work to improve on that performance – but with us and St Mirren being the bottom two in the Ladbrokes Championship ahead of kick-off, this was all about the result.
It’s given us a real lift ahead of the coming weeks, and this victory is definitely something we can build on.
LN: There have been a few excellent wins this season, but the issue for the Pars has been consistency. Are the players all confident you can move up the table?
FEA: Definitely. We’ve conceded some stupid goals this season, and also failed to take some of the chances that would have won us matches. There’s a sense within the camp that we haven’t quite achieved what we should have – and in a few games, we’ve not got the points we deserved.
That’s been a real frustration, so now the focus is on being as compact and solid as possible. I don’t think many of the teams above us in the league have a better squad than Dunfermline. We just need to take our opportunities when they come.
LN: Next up in the Ladbrokes Championship is the visit of Ayr United. You drew 0-0 away there earlier this season, and the signs point to another close encounter. How important will the East End Park faithful be in a game like this?
FEA: The fans have been excellent, and remained really patient even when we weren’t winning games. They follow us in big numbers away from home which is great, but it’s at home where it really gives us that extra edge.
But while the fans can definitely make a difference, it’s up to us to perform and to lift the atmosphere and giving the supporters something to get behind.
LN: But before that, you’re off to Buckie Thistle in the Scottish Cup Third Round. They’re top of the Highland League, but you go into this game as favourites. How are you feeling ahead of the trip to Victoria Park?
FAE: I’m confident we’ll get the win. It’s a huge game for Buckie, but we treat every game with maximum focus – and there’s no doubt that a good cup run would give everyone at Dunfermline a lift.
I’ve played plenty of Scottish Cup games and there are no small teams on the day, no underdogs. You always have to work very hard to get a result, and we have to play to our best and not allow any complacency.
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