JOSH EDWARDS insists his arduous journey to the professional ranks has made him more determined to shine after landing a dream move to Dunfermline.
Edwards, 19, has joined the Pars from Airdrie on a two-year contract, with the option of a further season, after an undisclosed fee was thrashed out between the clubs.
Young striker Callum Smith moved to the Diamonds on loan for the campaign as part of the agreement.
The transfer caps a meteoric rise for Edwards, who was still playing his trade with local Ayrshire boys’ club Crosshouse at 17, having endured the pain of being dumped by Kilmarnock AND Ayr United as a schoolboy.
However, he showed the bottle to bounce back and a 2017 switch to Airdrie proved to be the making of him – racking up 39 appearances and establishing himself as one of the brightest young full-backs in the lower leagues.
And Edwards reckons those early knocks fuelled his fire.
“I started playing in boys’ club football then I went to Kilmarnock at under-14,” explained Edwards. “I left there after a year and then went to Ayr United for six months.
“I got released by Kilmarnock and never really had anything signed with Ayr before they let me go. I’ve taken a few knocks and there have been a few managers who maybe didn’t like me – especially at Killie. They didn’t really take to me and I got released from there.
“I ended up playing boys’ club football for Crosshouse again right up until my 17th birthday when I signed for Airdrie.
“I think those challenges have made me more determined to kick on and have a good career.
“It’s nice to have a manager who believes in me, wanted to bring me into the club and I just want to push on again.”
Edwards has nothing but praise for his Airdrie apprenticeship, acknowledging that sharing a dressing room with a host of SPFL stalwarts was invaluable.
However, the chance to step up to Championship football with Dunfermline was too good to turn down.
“Marc Fitzpatrick was someone who set the standard for me in training at the start,” recalled Edwards. “If you weren’t meeting that standard, then he was on your case straight away.
“Sean Crichton was a major part in my development and someone like Dale Carrick, who played at a great level with Hearts, was really good to speak to about football and my development.
“I’ve learned so much in the last couple of years at Airdrie. It’s so different from playing under-17s football or boys’ club level. All the boys are physical and you’ve got to have something about you to compete at that level and make your mark on games.
“But the chance to play in the Championship is a hard move to turn down, especially when a club of the stature of Dunfermline comes calling.”
Meanwhile, Stevie Crawford has urged Callum Smith to use his loan stint at the Excelsior Stadium to kick-start his Pars career.
“Callum got off to a great start in his Dunfermline career,” said the Dunfermline boss. “He came in, he was lively with raw pace causing teams problems.
“But at this moment in time he is down the pecking order. He maybe didn’t like to hear me saying that but I think it is only fair to him that he goes out on loan, to get an opportunity to go out to Airdrie and play at that level.
Crawford was speaking ahead of Dunfermline’s Betfred Cup showdown against Albion Rovers tonight, with the Pars determined to build on a sensational start to their campaign which saw them defeat Premiership St Mirren 3-2 in Paisley.
Rovers, however, also kicked off their Group H with a win – seeing off Lowland League outfit East Kilbride 1-0.
“They’ll come to East End Park thinking they have a real chance on the back of a victory at the weekend,” added Crawford. “We need to match those energy levels and make sure we win the game.”