Is St Johnstone’s Efe Ambrose the answer to Dunfermline’s defensive woes?
Reeling from a dismal 5-0 defeat against Morton and with on-loan Dundee United ace Mark Connolly set to depart on January 16, a seasoned, quality centre-half is a necessity.
Which has brought Pars boss John Hughes to the door of St Johnstone.
Ambrose has not featured for the Saints since a brief cameo in their 1-0 victory at Dundee United on October 30 and, given Callum Davidson’s capture of Dan Cleary, his opportunities will be further limited.
Could East End Park be a viable destination for the affable Nigerian? And would he be right for Dunfermline?
Courier Sport analyses his form over the last two seasons.
Ambrose’s exile from the St Johnstone side has baffled some supporters who were enamoured by his initial impact.
However, the underlying numbers justify Davidson’s judgement.
Granted, Ambrose has only been afforded six Premiership appearances for the Perth Saints — scarce time to build up match fitness and build form — but his performances in those outings do not stack up favourably.
Compared to his rivals for a starting berth at McDiarmid Park during the first half of the campaign, Ambrose made the fewest tackles and interceptions. He also won the fewest aerial and ground duels.
The only metrics in which he was not lagging behind were successful passes — just ahead of James Brown — and clearances, where he leads Lars Dendoncker, Hayden Muller and Brown.
There are also more intangible issues.
His ‘bomb-scare’ reputation is vastly overstated — albeit a disastrous showing in October’s 3-0 defeat against Livingston did veer into the realms of farcical.
But Ambrose, now 33 years of age, does not possess the same mobility as he once did. His limitations in that regard were often exposed as he sought to step out from the Saints back three or shuffle across to cover wide areas.
Rolling back the years?
However, it is not all doom and gloom.
Ambrose’s time in Perth has been underwhelming to date, but he was a regular for a solid Livingston outfit as recently as last season.
He made 22 league appearances for the Lions and showed an ability to start play from the back — something the Pars sorely lack. He comfortably led the centre-back pool for successful passes.
Ambrose made more clearances per 90 minutes than Ciaron Brown, now a regular in Northern Ireland squads.
It should be noted, however, that Ambrose was again at the foot of the rankings for tackles — albeit only narrowly behind Jack Fitzwater — interceptions and duels won, both aerial and ground.
But just as there are some negative intangibles related to Ambrose, there are plenty of positive ones.
The former Celtic and Hibernian defender would bring pedigree to a Dunfermline squad sorely lacking in nous, confidence and experience.
He is also a truly infectious character in the dressing room.
Ambrose won six major honours with the Hoops and reached the last-16 of the Champions League. He lifted the Africa Cup of Nations with Nigeria among his 51 caps for the Super Eagles.
One does not reach that level of the game without talent and drive.
If he has anything left in the tank — something to offer on the pitch and in the dressing room — then he could be exactly what the beleaguered Pars need.