Stevie Crawford is enthused by the untapped potential of Vytas Gaspuitis as the towering Lithuanian threatens to attain cult hero status at East End Park.
Even with supporters conspicuous by their absence in stadiums, the 27-year-old has managed to strike a chord with the Pars fanbase following several no-nonsense, committed showings in the heart of defence.
Gradually picking up more English as he goes, ‘humble’ Gaspuitis is visibly growing into his role on the pitch and within the squad.
The Pars have only lost once in the six matches in which the four-time capped defender has been involved — keeping three clean sheets in the process — and his standout display in the recent 0-0 draw with Hearts landed him a spot in the SPFL’s team of the week.
— SPFL (@spfl) April 6, 2021
Not bad for a player who only joined Dunfermline in February, having already completed one gruelling domestic campaign in his homeland with FK Panevezys
“When Vytas first came in, he was lacking in match fitness,” said Crawford. “It wasn’t ideal that he was joining us at the tail end of his season — so for him to get to the fitness levels he has is a credit to himself and [sports scientist] Gary McCall.
“I think the big man would be the first to praise his team-mates. They have helped him along, made him feel welcome within the club and, although he has come in during a difficult period, he has done well.
“There is still a lot more to come from him, which is exciting, but we are happy with how he is developing so far.
“When we looked into signing him, it wasn’t a case of him just wanting to move to another football club. He expressed a desire to become a better football player and — as I’ve always said during my time at Dunfermline — that’s the type of person I want to work with.
“With a pre-season under his belt, I know there’s even more there. But he has done enough to play a part in these remaining games.”
Vytas Gašpuitis played the full 90 minutes in Lithuania's 1-0 defeat to Switzerland on Sunday.
Vytas was up against the likes of Liverpool's Xherdan Shaqiri, Schalke's Breel Embolo, Arsenal's Granit Xhaka.
Here is how our Lithuanian giant done on the pitch. 🇱🇹 pic.twitter.com/PrYWPmnTid
— DAFC NEWS (@DAFCNews) March 29, 2021
Reflecting on Gaspuitis’ immediate rapport with the Pars faithful, Crawford continued: “That often comes from when you sign someone from a different background; with the big man being from Lithuania, and the fact his size makes him stand out in a crowd!”
Gaspuitis certainly does not need to look far for inspiration. A picture of his compatriot, Andrius Skerla, hangs alongside other assorted heroes of the Halbeath Road inside East End Park to celebrate his impressive five years in Fife.
It would be fair to say Pars fans are predisposed to being fond of a Lithuanian centre-half.
“Andrius was a great servant to this club. When you talk about someone who has that bond with the supporters; that was Andrius,” said Crawford, who played alongside Skerla for four campaigns.
“I remember having conversations with Andrius when we signed Vytas and it shone through how much he still holds the club in high regard — and he’ll be looking out for big Vytas and hoping we kick on as a football club.”