Crawford to stay at Pars

Dunfermline Athletic yesterday provided Steve Crawford with the platform to prove he can be a potent force in next season's Premier League when they secured the striker's long-term future.

As a free agent under the Bosman ruling, Crawford had offers from three other top-flight Scottish clubs, but resisted their advances to sign an enticing four-year contract with Jimmy Calderwood's side.

Despite failing to lead Dunfermline to the First Division title, Crawford showed outstanding form as the Pars were promoted in second place. After arriving from Hibs last November, following a series of short-term agreements, Crawford finished his seven-month tenure with 16 goals.

Having failed to live up to the expectations that he would be a first-class predator with Hibs, 26-year-old Crawford is aware of the pressure on his shoulders. However, he is confident of his ability to cope and believes he can make it third-time-lucky.

"Hopefully the best is still to come from me," said Crawford. "I'm reaching the peak of my career and I had to make sure it was the right decision - not just financially, but in a playing sense.

"Dunfermline are ambitious and want to go up, hold their own and look for better things. Now it's time to prove I can live up to the faith Dunfermline have shown in me by doing it in the Premier League."

While eagerly anticipating the next episode of a colourful career, Crawford admits he feels a sense of disappointment that he didn't fulfil his ambitions with Hibs.

His refusal to commit his future to the Edinburgh club last summer saw him restricted largely to watching from the stands, although he says there is no ill-feeling towards the Hibs manager, Alex McLeish.

"Coming here erased the disappointment of my time at Hibs," Crawford admitted. "Alex had to look after Hibs' best interest and he brought in Dirk Lehmann who has done well for them. You've always got more lows than highs in football and I'm disappointed it never worked out. But that is now in the past."

Calderwood is aware that Dunfermline will be one of the pre-season favourites for relegation, but believes Crawford could make a vital difference.

"I think he could be the difference in a couple of positions in the league table at the end of the season," Calderwood said. "It's not hard to see the quality that he has got. The great thing for me is that he got a point to prove. I've said to him 'Stevie, there are a lot of people doubting your ability to do it in the Premier League'.

"He is hungry and I also think he could play for Scotland. Craig Brown has a hard enough task without me telling him how to do his job, but as far as I'm concerned, Steve has the quality for that level."

Dunfermline were further boosted yesterday by midfielder Scott Thomson's decision to sign a three-year contract extension. They are also set to sign 31-year-old Dutch goalkeeper Marco Ruitanbeek, who is out of contract at Go-Ahead Eagles.

Two of the club's longest servants, Ian Westwater and Hamish French, will not play next season, but have been offered coaching posts. Richard Huxford and Jamie Squires have been granted free transfers, while David Graham and Jamie Dolan are also on the market.