HE HOPES to follow in the footsteps of an East End icon and Vytas Gašpuitis says he’s now ready to try to emulate a “very famous” countryman in black and white.

The 27-year-old central defender, who is a three-times capped Lithuania international, joined the club last month on a two-and-a-half year deal thanks, in no small part, to former Pars hero Andrius Skerla.

Skerla, who spent five years with Dunfermline before departing for Russian side Tom Tomsk in 2005, and who is his country’s record appearance-holder with 84 caps, was instrumental in helping Gašpuitis decide that his future lay in West Fife.

Following a 10-day period of isolation after arriving in Scotland, he was named on the bench for Athletic’s last match – the 1-0 defeat at Queen of the South on February 27 – but wasn’t called upon by head coach Stevie Crawford.

He did, however, make his debut for the Pars as a late substitute during Saturday's win over Greenock Morton and, ahead of that match, Gašpuitis said that he feels “stronger each day”, and is confident that he is at the right club to help him develop and gain further international recognition, with the help of Skerla, who has had spells as Lithuania’s assistant national coach, and that of their under-21s.

“My agent talked with me about this opportunity and we discussed it a lot,” he explained.

“I talked a lot with Andrius Skerla, who played here, and I decided it’s a better place for me to become a better player. He said a lot of good things about the club, about the city, about the fans, about everything. I like it.

“He’s very famous; a very good defender and he played a lot of games in the national team. He was a very good player.”

When asked whether Skerla had told him about the close bond he had with the Pars fans, and whether he hoped to emulate the success he had at the club, Gašpuitis replied: “No, he didn’t say this but, when I come to the club, I understand that everybody loves him in this club and that he was a big player here.

“It’s not so easy (to perform as well as him) but I will do my best.

“I’ve been here about one month. Adaptation, maybe for me, it was easy because I focus only on what I came here for, for football, to be fit and be close to my best shape every day. For me, it was easy because everybody was very helpful, very friendly when I came here.

“In the beginning, for me, training was very hard because I came here in bad condition, but every day, and every week, I feel much, much better and feel stronger each day.

“I want to play and I think I am ready. I am confident about that and I just have to be ready 100 per cent for the next game.”

While basketball is the number one sport in his homeland, the 6’ 5” defender was only interested in football from the age of seven, and revealed his love of Italian football, citing AC Milan great Paolo Maldini as his idol.

Gašpuitis was also aware of the Scottish game long before his move to Dunfermline thanks to television coverage of their Championship rivals, Hearts, whose squad contained several Lithuanian stars – such as Edgaras Jankauskas, a Champions League winner with Porto who spent almost three years in charge of the national side, Saulius Mikoliunas and the late Marius Zaliukas – during Vladimir Romanov’s ownership of the Edinburgh club.

“I know about Scottish football a lot because, about 10 years ago or less, a lot of Lithuania players played in Scotland,” he continued.

“In my opinion, in Scotland, football is more intense. In Lithuania, it’s not so intense. A lot of teams, a lot of players, they have a lot of time, they pass back many times, and when I come here, everybody plays every time forward.

“They want to be very aggressive and they want to create dangerous attacks every time, and I like it.”

Crawford added: “I think when he was saying he wasn’t in good condition, it’s probably like a player coming back at the start of pre-season.

“He was still in very good physical condition but what he’s found difficult is coming in amongst a group of players up to a certain speed – we’re already just about two-thirds into the season.

“He’s worked extremely hard. He’s now in place to be considered to be in the squad, so credit to him.

“His attitude is first class on the training pitch, he’s a strong individual whose mindset is to come over here and do really well and bring something to the table.”