The ex-Hibs midfielder is set to complete a deal to sign with Dundee United after exiting Easter Road. Craig Fowler looks at why this should be a great signing for the Championship title hopefuls.
He’s a top level talent (with a point to prove)
Had Fyvie not dragged his heels over the offer of a new contract from Hibs, he’d be a Ladbrokes Premiership player next season. Whatever his reasons were for taking so long that the Easter Road club withdrew the deal, he was still rated highly enough to be granted the opportunity to play for a squad with aspirations of finishing second.
Even if the reason for his exit was his own fault, he’ll still harbour a sense of resentment and determination. Hibs didn’t have to stick rigidly to the original deadline. They could have offered the same terms once again. The fact they didn’t will surely sting Fyvie, and he’ll want to prove them wrong. That can begin by helping Dundee United reach the top flight, where he can go head-to-head with his former employers the following season.
Furthermore, Fyvie should recognise this as a key juncture in his football life. At 24, if he’s going to have a long and successful career at the highest level in Scotland or, who knows, find a route back to the English Championship, he can’t afford this latest move to go badly. There isn’t a lot of space to drop down from here.
He’s got title-winning experience
He’s the third Dundee United signing this summer who’s won the Ladbrokes Championship crown within the last two years. James Keatings lifted the trophy with Hearts and Hibs, while Billy King did likewise with Hearts and Rangers. That kind of experience is invaluable, especially when the pressure increases as the season goes on.
There will already be a lot of expectation placed on the shoulders of the Dundee United players at the beginning of the new campaign. Everyone will be looking to see if they can live up to their pre-season tag as favourites. Fyvie, like Keatings and King, is familiar with such pressure. He’s also one of few players in recent times to win both the Scottish Cup and the FA Cup, so he’s used to bigger and more intense occasions than a trip to the Falkirk Stadium.
Add the signing of Tam Scobbie, an experienced defender with plenty of Premiership experience, and up-and-coming lower league winger Paul McMullan, and you cannot help but be impressed with what manager Ray McKinnon has done in the transfer market so far.
He’s an efficient passer of the ball
Nobody played more passes per 90 minutes than Fyvie in the second tier last season. The results are skewed because he was on the league’s most dominant team, who had seven of their players in the top 12, but Fyvie’s numbers were still impressive. Not only did he better six of his team-mates, including the much-lauded John McGinn, he led second-placed Dylan McGeouch by over five passes per game. They weren’t many wayward ones either, as a 83.76 passing completion percentage (seventh in the league) would testify too. And he wasn’t one of those sideways, take-no-chances midfielders either, ranking third in both the most through balls and passes to the final third per 90 minutes.
The phrase “per 90” comes up a lot because he did have his injury issues, but when he did play he was highly productive.
He gives attackers the platform to shine
Fyvie had his detractors among the support. He doesn’t particularly stand out even when he’s playing well, so his better games go unappreciated, and he has a tendency to draw attention to himself when playing poorly. He doesn’t hide his displeasure and this can rub fans the wrong way.
Having said that, the majority of Hibs fans appreciated his input, and would point to the side struggling to replicate the kind of midfield domination they would when he was in the starting XI. A lot of Hibs fans have said the same thing to this writer about Fyvie: “you really notice his value when he’s not there.”
The reason why he wasn’t always a first-choice and, ultimately, why Hibs felt fine about revoking the contract offer, was the emergence of Marvin Bartley. The Englishman was the prototypical enforcer in front of the back four, capable of ragdolling opponents with the build of a centre-back, but with enough pace to chase down forwards who got in behind the defence. Unfortunately for Hibs, there just wasn’t quite enough attacking impetus left in the team to have both Fyvie, who’s never been much of a goalscorer or assist-maker, and Bartley in the same side.
He can play alongside Willo Flood
Hibs, for the most part, played with either a midfield four, usually a diamond, or in a 3-5-2. At United, at least for the majority of last season, Ray McKinnon preferred a 4-2-3-1. In such a system, Fyvie and Bartley might have thrived together as the double pivot in front of the defence, and he’ll likely get the chance to form such a partnership with Willo Flood this coming campaign.
In some respects they are similar players, tasked with getting possession and keeping it. However, the way they go about their business is completely different and that’s what may make them an effective pairing. Flood demands to be seen on the field; Fyvie does his business quietly. The latter is also a more adventurous passer, sending twice as many balls into the final third than his new team-mate. He even engages in more defensive duties per game than the notoriously hard-working veteran.
Together, they should give United a fine midfield base and help the Tangerines dominate opponents in the area next season.