ATHLETIC have secured the signing of a new central defender - with the help of a noughties cult hero.

They announced yesterday that Lithuania international Vytas Gašpuitis, subject to obtaining a long-term visa, has agreed a two-and-a-half year contract to move to East End Park.

A central defender, Gašpuitis, 26, will follow in the footsteps of countryman Andrius Skerla in pulling on the black and white strip - and head coach, Stevie Crawford, said his former team-mate had a hand in the move.

"We were scouring and leaving no stone uncovered," he explained.

"Vytas was brought to our attention by an agent but Andrius Skerla has played a big part in this when we started doing our homework.

"You cannot go out physically and watch a player just now. Vytas has broken into the Lithuanian international team recently, he is 26, he can play left centre back, right centre back and as third centre back if you are playing three.

"He is at a good age for a centre half to come to a club that gives him an opportunity to play in the UK.

"Once he got speaking to the chairman and myself he has been happy to commit himself for two and a half years."

A 6ft 5" defender, Gašpuitis began his career with his hometown club, Šiauliai in Lithuania's top flight.

After five years there, he moved on to have two years at both Atlantas and Panevėžys before his move to West Fife was announced.

In November, he made his international debut in a friendly with the Faroe Islands, and is set to become the third Lithuanian to represent the Pars.

Skerla, who scored the opening goal in the 2004 Scottish Cup final against Celtic, spent five years with Athletic after signing from PSV Eindhoven in 2000, and is his country's most capped player with 84 appearances.

In 2001, Tomas Danilevicius - who won 72 caps for Lithuania - was signed on loan from Arsenal, but made only three appearances for Jimmy Calderwood's team.

The club said that Gašpuitis will be integrated into the squad "in the coming days" after he entered a period of self-isolation following his arrival in Scotland.

They commetned: "All being well, Vytas will be a DAFC player for the next two and half years, but due to the extra restrictions imposed by Brexit in terms of the new immigration rules, coupled with the current challenges imposed by the Covid lockdown, there is still further paperwork to be completed to obtain a long term visa for Vytas.

"However, Vytas will be free to train and play with the squad.

"Dunfermline Athletic would like to thank the SFA Exceptions Panel and Vytas’s agent, KVD player agency for their help and patience, and once again Thorntons Law LLP for their expertise and diligence.

"In addition, our thanks must go to Pars legend, Andrius Skerla (who was the assistant national coach of Lithuania) who was instrumental in bringing Vytas to East End Park.

"We look forward to integrating Vytas into the squad in the coming days. He entered a period of self isolation after an exhausting 21 hour journey to Dunfermline on Sunday, after leaving his family in Lithuania travelling via Latvia, France, Manchester and then on to Edinburgh!

"Finally, we would also like to pass on our sincere thanks to Marie Hendry who has kindly offered to provide Vytas with his food shopping during his period of self isolation, and Sandy Wyse who has kindly offered to provide tuition lessons to Vytas to further improve his already very good English.

"Once again, the Pars Family rallies in support!"

Gašpuitis' arrival follows the news that Hearts attacker, Craig Wighton, had penned a pre-contract to join Dunfermline in the summer.