The final piece of the Raith Rovers puzzle was secured on Monday evening.
Kai Fotheringham’s arrival was not the most zealously guarded secret in Kirkcaldy — his impending loan signing has been in the works for a couple of weeks and was only delayed by a slight knock — but it was nonetheless welcome.
The 19-year-old Dundee United prospect adds depth to the wide areas, supplementing the talents of Dario Zanatta and Aidan Connolly, and can also operate in attacking midfield.
Providing there are no further injuries or unforeseen set-backs, Rovers boss John McGlynn is now content with his numbers ahead of the big kick-off in the Championship.
Fotheringham is the ninth new face at Stark’s Park this summer, complimenting the captures of Christophe Berra, Liam Dick, Tom Lang, Blaise-Riley Snow, Zanatta, Connolly, Matej Poplatnik and James Keatings.
And the waspish playmaker is one of the most exciting, given his undoubted talent and how mutually beneficial this switch appears; it could be a match made in heaven and, in the fullness of time, see a United star emerge.
Style of play
It was pivotal that Fotheringham was farmed out to a club which plays to his strengths.
At a whisker under 5ft6ins, there is little merit in the youngster being charged with battling for second balls and developing a crick in the neck as he watches hopeful passes sail over his head.
With Rovers, he will work under McGlynn, a coach committed to passing football, dominating possession and attacking fluency. Fotheringham will be given the chance to express himself and hone his skills at Championship level.
In return, Raith have access to a player with creative spark and X-factor. He will seek to find pockets of space (Fotheringham is particularly adept at drifting in from the left) and make killer passes.
For a side who have failed to score in their last two matches against Livingston and Alloa, that additional injection of invention is to be welcomed.
Faith in youth
Fotheringham could have all the talent in the world but it won’t matter a jot if his name is not on the team-sheet. However, Rovers have displayed a willingness — nay, a desire — to blood young players since McGlynn’s return to the club in 2018.
He brought a teenage Kieron Bowie to the fore, ultimately landing a six-figure fee when the precocious forward joined Fulham in 2020, has blooded Dylan Tait and gave Kai Kennedy a platform to shine last term.
Fotheringham is comparable to Kennedy — now on loan at Dunfermline — in terms of his awareness of space and creativity, and will play if he impresses in training and grasps his opportunity when it comes.
Fotheringham has already had one formative experience on loan and, if one does learn more from the challenging times than the good, then he should have picked up plenty.
He spent the final two months of last season at Falkirk and, while it started promisingly with his first-ever career goal, things soon went off the rails for the Bairns.
— Ewan Smith (@ewansmithpr) March 24, 2021
Lee Miller and David McCracken were dismissed and Falkirk subsequently failed to even make the League 1 playoffs — none of which, it must be said, lays at the door of Fotheringham, who was solid during his 13 outings.
Fotheringham will once again be part of a promotion push — or so it is hoped — at Stark’s Park, but this time he will have stability and calm; advantageous for a player still learning his trade.
That will only help Fotheringham when he returns to Dundee United and lofty expectations abound.
John McGlynn’s methods
Much — probably too much — has been made of Dundee United’s use of analytics and a modern approach to coaching and infrastructure.
Fotheringham could not be at a better club to become accustomed to that.
McGlynn’s attention to detail is staggering, with an almost obsessive focus on video footage, individual opposition analysis and tactical work.
Aidan Connolly, formerly of United, recently commented that it was like nothing he has ever experienced.
Rovers’ commitment to attacking football — allied with the daily crash-course in analysis and tireless work on the training pitch — will stand Fotheringham in good stead to stake his claim for a place in the United first-team.