BY ALAN TEMPLE – Capital City Press
Dunfermline defender Ben Richards-Everton reckons his flatmate Faissal El Bakhtaoui is the quiet man who is destined to become a big noise in Scottish football.
El Bakhtaoui, 22, has scored nine goals in his first five matches of the season – including a run of four successive braces – as he thrives under new boss Allan Johnston and sends scouts flocking to Fife.
His scoring feats are all the more impressive, given he has been substituted before the 70-minute mark in four of the matches he has played this season.
“God knows how many goals Fais will score when he’s able to finish a game,” Everton-Richards jokes.
Everton-Richards, a summer arrival at East End Park following his release by Partick Thistle, struck up an immediate friendship with the diminutive striker and they live together, along with Pars midfielder Josh Falkingham.
So there are few people better placed to sum up the progress of the man who only stepped up to the senior game at the age of 19 after previously starring in the small-scale version of the sport, Futsal.
“I get on really well with Fais and Josh because I live with them and Fais is having an unbelievable season so far. He’s really quiet around the lads, but comes out of his shell a bit at home.
“He’s a top guy and, as soon as I came to the club, we clicked, so I’m always looking to give him bits and pieces of advice.
“He’s definitely doing the business at the moment. He was scoring two goals a game until the Forfar match.
“Hopefully he continues to do what he is doing, and not think about what people are saying about teams watching him – although there’s no doubt he can go on and play at a higher level in Scotland.”
However, the 23-year-old believes the on-fire front-man will need to get the better of the boot boys as opponents start to take notice of his remarkable scoring record.
Everton-Richards continued: “Fais hasn’t even been finishing the games most of the time.
“The gaffer is probably taking him off to protect him, there were a couple of wild challenges on him the other night against Forfar. I’ve told him ‘you need to protect yourself, you are in good form so the opposition will target you’.
“I don’t mean anyone will try to injure him, but they will try to get into him hard – it’s what I would do as a defender if I knew a player was on fire, like Fais.”
Everton-Richards has already established himself as a firm favourite among the Dunfermline supporters with a series of imposing displays at the heart of defence.
And the 6ft 4ins powerhouse admits he is a man with a point to prove, believing he was given short shrift by Partick Thistle boss Alan Archibald following his arrival at Firhill in August 2014.
He was farmed out on loan to Airdrie before playing just twice on his return to the Jags.
He added: “I don’t think I got an opportunity at Partick, if I’m honest. Not wanting to sound big-headed, but I thought I was good enough to stake a claim for a place in the team.
“All you ask is that you get a fair chance to prove yourself, and I don’t think I got that. I played one full game, on the last day of the season against Motherwell, and by that point I already knew I was leaving.
“It was disappointing, but just one of those things that can happen in football. You need to dust yourself off and come back stronger. Hopefully I can prove to people that I can play at a good level.
“I think this has been the best move I have ever made in my career so far. This is a massive club and I really do believe we are going places.”
His latest challenge will be to ensure the Pars defence does not spring a leak as qualified plumber Rory McAllister, who notched five goals in midweek, leads the line for the Blue Toon.
With Dunfermline looking to continue their 100 per cent start to the season at Balmoor, Everton-Richards added: “I heard about that performance! He is obviously a good striker and I’m sure he will keep us on our toes.
“But we will try to keep doing our jobs and focus on our own game. If that works as well as it has done in the last few matches, then hopefully we will be on the right end of the result again.”