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Deniz Mehmet interview: Why I had to swap Dundee United for Dunfermline

New beginnings: Mehmet

Deniz Mehmet accepts it was time for him to depart Tannadice in search of first-team football, conceding: “It just wasn’t happening for me at Dundee United.”

Mehmet, 28, served as an able deputy with the Tangerines over two spells — initially arriving in 2017 — and made 25 appearances for the club before joining Dunfermline Athletic this week.

He performed solidly between the sticks for six games at the tail-end of last term after Benji Siegrist suffered a fractured hand, helping United reach the Scottish Cup semi-final.

Arrival: Mehmet

However, Mehmet confesses that he saw the writing on the wall in terms of him once again being seen as a No.2 behind Siegrist, assuming United’s 2020/21 player of the year does not also exit this summer.

That was an unpalatable prospect for the ex-Falkirk and Queen of the South stopper, who is determined to finally cement himself as a first-choice keeper as he enters his peak years.

The decision came down to a lack of game-time at Dundee United,” said Mehmet frankly.

“I got into the team, was playing well and then I got injured — against Dunfermline [May 2018] — and when I came back, I couldn’t get in that rhythm of playing regular games again.

Rivals: Mehmet, right, and Siegrist

“I need to give myself the best possible chance of getting week-in, week-out football — and that’s no disrespect to Fôn [Owain Fôn Williams].

“It just wasn’t happening for me at Dundee United and this is a football decision.

“Obviously, no-one knows exactly what will happen with Benji [Siegrist] but, if we were both to stay, then it would have been safe to assume he would have been No.1. He has been playing for the last couple of years and had a terrific season last year.

“I can’t expect to be dislodging someone like that and I need to make the right decision for myself.”

On the subject of that serious cruciate knee ligament injury, sustained in a Championship playoff win against the Pars, Mehmet is keen to put a couple of apocryphal tales to bed.

The damage — which kept him on the shelf for eight months — was reportedly sustained as he celebrated a United goal and the incident has grown arms and legs over the subsequent years.

ACL: Mehmet after his ‘freak’ injury

“I’ve already been reminded of that,” laughed Mehmet. He can afford to laugh about it now.

“Apparently it was a somersault that I did! That is definitely not true. That’s something I’ll never be able to shake off. It was nothing to do with the celebration.

“It was a freak incident; a standard jump, land and step forward. Thankfully, that’s behind me now.”

Title-winning pedigree

However, it would be wrong to characterise Mehmet’s time at Tannadice as all bench-warming and fitness woes. He can reflect on a successful period in tayside, during which he was part of a Championship-winning squad in 2019/20.

While he was largely back-up to Siegrist during that campaign, that experience of securing promotion — and what it takes to navigate the highs and lows of a title push — is something he intends to bring to East End Park.

“I know what it takes after being at United and winning promotion there. We want to emulate that here,” he continued. “There are ups and downs throughout the season, even in a title-winning team, and there’s no doubt that will be the same here.

“That’s just the way football is. But if we can replicate that season and get Dunfermline up to the Prem, it would be amazing.

“The manager was really good at outlining what the ambitions for the club are, and where it wants to go, and I wanted to be part of it.”

Fôn Williams fight

Mehmet is likely to make his non-competitive debut for Dunfermline when the Fifers visit Civil Service Strollers on Saturday afternoon, sounding the starting pistol in what will be a fascinating race for the gloves.

Wales internationalist Fôn Williams will not surrender his spot without a fight — and Mehmet would expect nothing else.

He added: “I’ve always had a good relationship with other keepers I have worked with and it’s good to have that challenge.

“We’ll push each other; bring out the best in each other — and that can only be good for the club. Any team wants players battling away and creating competition for places. I just can’t wait to get going.”