Aaron Comrie has been urged to draw inspiration from imperious Italian duo Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci as he grows accustomed to life as a centre-half.
The evolution of Comrie, 24, has been one of the most intriguing aspects of Dunfermline’s opening two Premier Sports Cup fixtures — a win over Partick Thistle and a narrow reverse at St Mirren.
The former St Johnstone youngster has played on the right side of a back-three as the Pars implement an energetic, fluid 3-4-3. It is quite the departure for a man who is ordinarily a rampaging full-back.
Yet, Comrie has shone — even scoring against the Jags — and has revealed that the stoic pairing at the heart of the Azzurri defence as they claimed Euro 2020 glory is the benchmark.
He said: “Positionally, the manager [Grant] touched on a few teams and what they did well off the ball, and helping each other on the ball.
“It was actually Italy that the gaffer mentioned despite the fact they weren’t playing a back-three.
“It was more about the two centre-halves of Italy and how they defend their box; the positions they take up; the communication — and trying to translate that into our back-three.
“I’ve enjoyed it. I think the defensive side of the role suits me. I might be lacking some height but the boys have told me I’ve got a big jump! Hopefully that evens it out.
“I’m getting touches of the ball and have a freedom to overlap — which was unheard of for centre-halves until recently.”
Indeed, the notion of a spare, forward thinking centre-back is the tactical tweak du jour.
It was utilised by the likes of England and Germany at Euro 2020, Sheffield United implemented it to magnificent effect in the 2019/20 campaign and Jason Kerr filled the role to perfection as St Johnstone won a historic cup double last term.
Kieran Tierney is also a shining example, turning in two fine showings for Scotland at the Euros.
Comrie laughed “I wouldn’t compare myself to Kieran Tierney!
“But it’s similar to what he does — I think that’s what the manager’s looking for me to do. In a Scotland shirt, Tierney does that job brilliantly. If I can emulate him in any way then I’d be doing well.”
Comrie is the first to admit that the new-look Fifers are a work in progress, both in terms of shape and personnel — one can reasonably expect between four and six new arrivals before the transfer window closes.
Nevertheless, the signs of progress have made the process far less painful.
He continued: “The main feedback from the boys is how much more running it feels like we’re doing!
“I think that’s good, defensively and going forward — it feels like we’ve got more numbers behind the ball and then, when we’re attacking, I’ve got the freedom to go and overlap.
“We’ve got the central midfielders and, at times, we’ve got three strikers on the pitch. We’re defending in numbers and going forward in numbers.”
‘It’s been a long time coming’
And Comrie would love nothing more than to illustrate this new free-flowing style to the 1000 fans in attendance at East End Park this afternoon for the visit of Dumbarton.
The Pars have not played in front of their own supporters since a 1-1 draw with Queen of the South on March 7, 2020.
Comrie added: “It’s been a long time coming and, with the way the group is set up, we have a chance to go through with the next two games at home. We want to send the fans home happy.
“Playing behind closed doors is hard to put into words, really. There are moments when it can be a real disadvantage, as all the players have acknowledged.
“Other times, it maybe gave us a freedom to go and express ourselves, especially with the young squad we had last year. But overall, it was a huge miss and hopefully we’ll never experience it again.”