IT has been the most tumultuous summer in the history of Scottish football, but away from all the backbiting and brinksmanship, we can now finally face the 2012-13 Second Division season with at least one degree of certainty: we know who will be facing whom.
The new league campaign begins on August 11 2012 after a summer of upheaval – four teams have departed the division; four teams have joined. Cowdenbeath, Dumbarton and Airdrie United have all moved on after winning promotion to the First Division (the latter, despite losing in the playoff final, was promoted courtesty of Rangers’ liquidation), while Stirling Albion have fallen through the trap door and into the basement of Scottish football. The clubs have been replaced by Queen of the South and Ayr United (both relegated from the First Division) and Third Division champions Alloa Athletic and Stranraer (who, like Airdrie, were moved up a division because of Rangers’ demotion).
As well as four new clubs, the division will also play host to four novice, thirty-something managers. Allan Johnston (Queen of the South), Mark Roberts (Ayr United), Martyn Corrigan (Stenhousemuir) and Todd Lumsden (Albion Rovers) will all enjoy their managerial debuts this season after Gus McPherson and Brian Reid left relegated Queens and Ayr respectively, while external pressures saw Davie Irons step down at Stenhousemuir and Paul Martin depart Rovers. It is perhaps a sign of the current financial climate in Scottish football that all four clubs have promoted veteran players from within to manage.
Relegated sides Queen of the South and Ayr United are assembling squads which reflect the budget cuts at both clubs (although the Palmerston side have maintained their full-time status). Arbroath, Stenhousemuir and the handful of other clubs who narrowly missed out on promotion hope to be in a strong position to better last year’s finish. Even the newly promoted Alloa Athletic are capable of securing back-to-back promotions.
Scotland’s third tier proved to be the most competitive of the four senior leagues last season – at the beginning of April 2012, only Third Division leaders Alloa were guaranteed to feature in the Second Division for the 2012-13 season – the other promotion, relegation and playoff spots were not confirmed until the closing weeks of the campaign. It will be of little surprise if similar drama is repeated this year.
- Jason Crooks (Elgin City)
- Chris McCluskey (Stenhousemuir)
- Gary Philips (Largs Thistle)
- Conor Stevenson (Clyde)
- Scott Chaplain (Annan Athletic)
- Derek Gaston (Morton)
- John Gemmell (Stenhousemuir)
- Robert Love (Stranraer)
- Ryan McStay (Ayr United)
Paul Martin became the first Albion Rovers manager since the 1930s to win promotion and avoid relegation the following season. His side secured their Second Division status after his side turned around a 2-0 first leg deficit and beat Stranraer at Cliftonhill on penalties in May’s playoff final. Immediately after the game, Martin stepped down as manager, citing ill-health. His position was passed onto his assistant, Todd Lumsden.
The 34-year-old Lumsden will have a difficult task in repeating the successes enjoyed under Martin, especially after the departure of five key players over the summer. Three of those players – Scott Chaplain, John Gemmell and Robert Love – accounted for over 60% of Albion’s goals last season and were instrumental in their playoff success. Rovers’ rebuilding plans have also been hindered by the loss of two home derby matches with Lanarkshire rivals Airdrie United (the club had budgeted significantly for these games) – anything other than a relegation battle for the Coatbridge side is hard to envisage.
The recruitment of former Stenhousemuir goalkeeper Chris McCluskey and the re-signing of the last season’s back four of Alan Reid, Barry Russell, Ciaran Donnelly and Mick O’Byrne will bring some comfort, but it is what’s ahead the defence that Rovers fans might have cause of concern. The burden of creativity will fall on the shoulders of former Hamilton midfielder Tony Stevenson, while in attack, new signing Jason Crooks will be looking to recapture the form that saw him score 15 times during 2010-11 season. The Coatbridge local was little more than a bit-part player for Elgin last season, scoring a paltry six goals.
Thanks go to Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser’s Colin Paterson for his assistance with this section. Colin can be found on Twitter here.
- Blair Munn (Falkirk)
- David Cox (Annan Athletic)
- Martin Grehan (Stranraer)
- Daryll Meggatt (Queen’s Park)
- Stephen Simmons (Queen of the South)
- Stevie May (St. Johnstone – loan end)
- Robbie Winters
Alloa’s relegation in 2010 was as dramatic as it was shocking. The Wasps had been pipped to promotion to the First Division on goal difference in the previous season, but a horrid run of results between Christmas and May saw them tumble into out of the league via the playoffs. Alloa Chairman Mike Mulraney moved quickly to appoint Paul Hartley as manager and, with Mulraney’s financial backing, the former Scotland international emphatically won promotion as champions at the first attempt. Hartley’s side won the league with a comfortable 14-point margin.
Hartley has retained the majority of his championship-winning side and added a number of players to key positions. It is replacing Stevie May, however, that may prove his biggest challenge – last year, the on-loan St Johnstone forward scored 19 goals in 22 games and won the Third Division Player of the Year accolade. David Cox has been drafted in from Annan Athletic and while the striker possesses the movement, pace and tenacity to unsettle Second Division defences, he lacks May’s level of class. Cox will hope to link effectively with fellow attacker Kevin Cawley.
That said, Alloa’s true strength lies in midfield. The experienced Darren Young orchestes play from the centre of the park, allowing Ryan McCord licence to push on into attack (the former Dundee United youngster chiped in with an impressive 11 goals last term). The recruitment of Stephen Simmons will add physicality and solid Second Division experience
If Hartley can unearth another Stevie May and harden their inexperienced defence, Alloa could perhaps achieve consecutive promotions.
- Keiron Brennan (Dumbarton)
- Paul Currie (Musselburgh)
- Darren Gribben (Berwick Rangers)
- Derek Holmes (Airdrie United)
- Joe Prince-Wright (University of Pittsburgh)
- Daniel Rennie (Civil Service Strollers)
- Michael Travis (Livingston)
- Beau Busch
- Josh Falkingham (Dunfermline)
- Keith Gibson (Forfar Athletic)
- Chris Innes
- Colin Samuel
- Gavin Swankie (Forfar Athletic)
- Kieran McAnespie (Stirling Albion)
Arbroath will go into the new season feeling aggrieved that both Dumbarton and Airdrie – who finished five and 11 points respectively behind the Red Lichties last season – will be competing in the First Division instead of them. Arbroath’s playoff semi-final defeat at the hands of the Sons encapsulated a season which started so well, but ultimately finished in failure. Player-manager Paul Sheerin’s side recorded only three wins in their last 11 league matches to finish up eight points behind champions Cowdenbeath.
2012-13 could prove a difficult second season for Arbroath, particularly after a summer of departures has weakened their squad. Sheerin has lost experienced players in Keiran McAnespie, Chris Innes and Colin Samuel, as well as the talented Josh Falkingham. Another notable departure is Gavin Swankie – his attacking partnership with Steven Doris yielded 72 goals in the last two seasons.
The goal-scoring responsibility will therefore be passed on to Doris, the Division’s top scorer last season with 21 goals. Sheerin will look to new recruits Darren Gribben and Derek “Homer” Holmes to share the burden.
In midfield, one-time Scotland cap Brian Kerr will play an important role again, but it will difficult to imagine how long Paul Sheerin can still influence matters on the pitch – at 37, he may have one eye on retirement. The manager has admitted he is “thin on the ground in defence” but feels adequately served offensively. Four trialists lined up in defence at Gayfield on Saturday, including former Dunfermline centre-back Alex Keddie.