RHYS BREEN has hailed his manager for putting "a lot of trust" in him during Athletic's title-winning campaign – which he said wasn't there last term.

The 23-year-old, who penned a new contract to remain at KDM Group East End Park prior to the team's final game of the season, has also expressed his delight at the "unreal" partnership he has forged with skipper, Kyle Benedictus, at the heart of a defence that has enjoyed a record-breaking season.

Former Rangers youth Breen was snapped up by Peter Grant in the summer of 2021 on a two-year deal after leaving Ibrox, but had a tough first season with the Pars, making just 11 appearances.

In a campaign that saw Grant leave the club after just 12 games, with the team bottom of the Championship and without a win, John Hughes was installed as his replacement, but couldn't turn their fortunes around.

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After finishing ninth, they were relegated after a defeat to Queen's Park in the Championship play-off semi-final, after which Hughes departed, paving the way for ex-Dundee boss McPake to take over.

He and assistant manager, Dave Mackay, guided Dunfermline to the League One title at the first time of asking, setting a number of records along the way, including the amount of clean sheets kept, and fewest goals conceded at home, on the road, and overall, in a single league campaign.

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With 34 appearances in all competitions, Breen, who has signed a deal to stay at Dunfermline until the summer of 2025, was a key part of that, making 34 appearances in all competitions.

An injury sustained against FC Edinburgh ended his season early, with eight matches remaining, but the centre back is delighted to have the faith of his boss – which he felt wasn't always there last year.

"I've got a really good relationship with the manager. Everybody does in the team," he said.

"He's put a lot of trust in me over the season. That's something that I'm really, really grateful for, and it's something that I don't ever take for granted.

"Last season, I think that was one thing that was lacking, the manager's trust in me. He didn't really believe in my ability. Over the course of the pre-season that I came back, I had to make sure that I was fit. I had to go and prove a point, really, and I feel like I've went and done that.

"But, again, it's only one season that I've had. I've had a good season, and I need to look into the future and make sure next season's going to be even better than I had this season."

Whilst bettering, or matching, this season's total of 21 clean sheets in the league, and 24 overall, might prove difficult, Breen said that the influence of Benedictus has been a key factor in their outstanding defensive record, which saw them lost just 21 goals in 36 League One games.

"The character and the personality from Kyle, and his experience, has been a big thing throughout the season," he added.

"Looking at me last season, compared to this season, the partnership that me and him have got has been unreal. Hopefully, next season, I can keep on picking up little things from him."

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