Redemption, in the form of resurrection, at the club that made him redundant. Joe Cardle’s association with Dunfermline has all the undulations of an epic movie tale. One in which East End Park manager Allan Johnston could assume the role of the reanimator, the former winger drawing the best from wide man Cardle after two years when he drifted too far from the action.
The 29-year-old signed a new deal with the Fife club last week only a day after he was named among the shortlist for PFA Scotland League One player of the year. If he lands the accolade this week, the acceptance speech will have a heavy accent on what Johnston and his assistant Sandy Clark have done for the player since tempting him to the club last summer.
“It definitely helps me that the manager was a winger. He’s worked on my game so much and obviously I’m 29 now and I feel like I’m still learning the game,” said Cardle, who had spells with Raith Rovers and Ross County in recent years.
“Normally the way I play is being given the ball and beat a defender. He’s taught me to get in the hole, create more space for myself, get players turning and that’s helped me a lot. It’s been the perfect time for me to work with this manager.
“I felt last season I wasn’t getting on in games. This has boosted my confidence massively, I’ve got 15 goals and 20-odd assists so it’s been fantastic and helped me a lot. Allan Johnston has been the perfect man for the job for me this season.”
Dunfermline will enter a Championship next season that will prove daunting as they desperately chase a top-flight return. It could potentially feature Hibernian, Dundee United, Falkirk and St Mirren but Cardle is imbued with optimism.
“There’s nothing stopping the club from kicking on again. As long as he makes the right signings and brings in good experience as well as the young boys coming through. The reason I went back when out of contract in the summer is it’s really a Premiership club. I had a few other options but the way it finished in the past at Dunfermline, I wanted to go back and resurrect my career there.
“It’s a club that is on the rise. After everything we went through a few years ago it’s come on leaps and bounds and hopefully we can get back to where we should be. That’s going to be tough when you look at the league and the teams that could be in it compared to when the club were last in the Championship.
“It’s a massive difference and spurs on the players even more – going to the bigger stadiums and playing against the better players. The cup games against Dundee, Ross County and Dundee United, we’ve raised our game and it’ll be the same next season. The players we’ve got are quality so playing at a higher level will allow us to kick on.”