STEVIE CRAWFORD has urged Callum Smith to grab his loan spell with both hands and propel himself back into Athletic’s plans.

The 19-year-old striker, a product of the club’s youth system, has joined League One Airdrieonians on a season-long arrangement as part of the deal that saw left-sided player Josh Edwards move to East End.

Smith, who made his top-team debut at the age of 16 against Inverness Caledonian Thistle, burst on the scene at the beginning of the 2017/18 campaign with some eye-catching displays, but spent the second half of that season on loan at Alloa Athletic.

Last season, the five-times capped Scotland under-19 player played four times for the Pars – scoring once – and made nine appearances during a temporary stint at Arbroath.

And Crawford believes that playing competitive football with Diamonds will be of more benefit to the teenager than warming the bench at Athletic or playing for the reserves.

“I think Callum got off to a great start in his Dunfermline career where he was lively, and his raw pace caused teams problems,” he explained.

“I just think, to be fair to Callum and as much as we’re working with young players, he’s at that in-between stage that is he going to get enough from reserve football?

“At this moment in time, he is down the pecking order.

"He maybe didn’t like hearing me say that, but I think it’s only fair to him that he goes out, gets the opportunity to go out to Airdrie and play at that level, and hopefully do well for himself, score goals and do well for Airdrie.

“It keeps him in mind for here."

It's the third season in a row that Smith has been sent on loan but the Pars boss insisted that he hasn't closed the door on the teenager.

Crawford said: “It’s that next stage of his development that I want to see, and he would’ve been very restricted in his game time between now and January, if I was being honest.

“I spoke to Ian Murray (Airdrie manager).

"He’d shown an interest in Callum and it just felt right for the player and the club at this moment in time.

"If he goes out and does well, Airdrie will benefit from it, we’ll benefit from it, and Callum will benefit from it.”

Crawford, meanwhile, was pleased to secure the signature of Edwards, 19, who made his debut as a substitute in last Wednesday’s Betfred Cup rout of Albion Rovers.

And he reckons he's got two positions covered with the versatile teenager able to play in defence and midfield.

“I have been on record as saying we are trying to identify a wide player,” he continued.

“It is a position that Josh can play, but what we’ve managed to do is balance the squad a little bit.

“It now gives us a balance should anything happen to Lewis Martin, or even Josh finds a bit of form and Lewis dips, that we’ve got a natural left back there.

“I know Euan Murray had said on record there that he can also play there, which he can, but in the main we’ll be looking to use Euan at centre back so we’ve still got, within the budget, an opportunity to bring in that wide player, to try and play that attacking role going forward.

“But Callum going out on loan has allowed us to make adjustments and bring in which we think gives us a better balance.”