Craig Wighton didn’t think he was going to play much football between now and May – but he’s happy to have the opportunity to do so at Dunfermline.
The striker had signed a pre-contract with the Pars after a frustrating season at Hearts. While he had scored in important matches, notably the Scottish Cup semi-final against Hibs, Tynecastle manager Robbie Neilson told him he was not part of his plans.
Pars boss Stevie Crawford moved to get him in on loan and Wighton was more than happy to move to East End Park early: “As soon as Hearts signed the new striker (Armand Gnanduillet) at the start of January I was told that I wasn’t in their plans and to find something else.
“That was before we had even spoken to clubs about a pre contract. When we started looking Dunfermline came up so we got the pre contract done as quickly as we could with a view to going on loan in January.
“The longer this dragged on I thought I was going to have to wait until the summer. I am happy to get it done and it means that I can get settled in before signing in the summer.
“The season before I wasn’t playing and I could understand it. But this season I think that I have done well enough when I have played, especially when I am played through the middle. I have played wide a few times but I thought that I had done enough in the games that I played.
“Maybe not enough to earn a contract beyond the summer but I thought I had done enough to be in the plans until the end of the season. Obviously it wasn’t meant to be. It is up to the manager at the end of the day and obviously he didn’t agree with that.”
Hearts manager Neilson had said that Wighton was part of the plans but the striker says that was not the case, stating it was the Jambos’ preference for him not to leave for Championship rivals Dunfermline, Dundee or Raith Rovers.
He said: “I was training with the reserves for the rest of the season. That’s what I was doing there for the last four or five weeks, training with the reserves. That was frustrating. There were days when there were only three or four boys training with the reserves.
“I know he [Neilson] has said different but I was told at the start of January that I wasn’t in their plans. This was before we had even spoken to clubs about a pre-contract. At the start, they told me I could leave and go on loan but that I couldn’t go to Dunfermline, Dundee or Raith because they are the rivals.
“Then, we got the option of Dunfermline and we were trying to get it done as quickly as we could. Hearts didn’t want me to come, but then they changed their mind.”
There was interest from Hamilton Accies in the Hearts loanee but discussions with Crawford sold him on Dunfermline. Now with the frustration of this season in Gorgie behind him, he has motivation to thrive at his new club.
He said: “Football is ruthless at times, I am sure that it won’t be the last time that it happens to me in my career. That is a big thing, I just hope that I can hit the ground running. It is not too long since I played. I have played enough football this year so I am fit and ready to go whenever the manager needs me.
“I spoke to Hamilton as well but after speaking to the manager here, I just had a gut feeling this was the right move for me.”
NTOF now offers a YouTube channel featuring exclusive interviews, post-match discussion, in-depth debate, and much more – LIKE and SUBSCRIBE and don’t miss any of our videos.