Young Guns and Dick Campbell Go For It!

AYR UNITED

Players in:

  • Ally Brown (Stenhousmuir)
  • Darren Brownlie (Motherwell)
  • Anthony Marenghi (Rangers)
  • Austin McCann (Dunfermline)
  • Ryan McStay (Albion Rovers)
  • David Sinclair (Livingston)

Players out:

  • Kevin Cuthbert (Hamilton Academical)
  • Adam Dodd (Blackpool – loan end)
  • Andy Geggan (Dunfermline)
  • Jamie McKernon (St Mirren – loan end)
  • Eddie Malone (Raith Rovers)
  • Keigan Parker (Cork City)
  • Liam Tomsett (Blackpool – loan end)
  • Alan Trouten (Brechin City)
  • Chris Smith (Falkirk)

Newly installed player-manager Mark Roberts has (in true tabloid style) brought a “Breath of Fresh Ayr” to Somerset Park. Replacing Brian Reid, Roberts has been charged with deliving an immediate return to the First Division. The new manager has promised his side will entertain whilst promoting the talent available from the club’s youth academy.

Ayr have recorded some impressive pre-season results, including a 4-0 victory over Champions League qualifiers’ Motherwell and a respectable draw against a full-strength Bolton Wanderers side. What is evident from a their pre-season matches is a willingness to play a  more expansive, attractive style of play, and an ability to adapt to different formations, something unseen under Reid. Roberts appears to be sticking to his word, and a fairly settled side will stand his club in good stead for the season ahead.

Relegation has lead to the inevitable departure of a number of senior players, but most of the pieces of a strong squad appear to have been put in place. Among Roberts’s first signings was former Dunfermline captain Austin McCann, and the player will form an experienced defence that also includes Martyn Campbell and John Robertson. Right-back Jonathan Tiffoney looks set to sign on again (despite overtures from Dundee), while young defender Darren Brownlie will look to push the for a starting berth.

David Sinclair, Ryan McStay and Anthony Merenghi – a stand-out at the end-of-season SPL exit trials following his release from Rangers – all fit Roberts’s vision of a side comfortable in possession and able to move the ball around quickly. Operating predominantly on the left but comfortable in any of the front six positions, there is much excitement surrounding 17-year-old Mark Shankland. Roberts has spoken in glowing terms about the youngster, who spent a week on trail with Liverpool last year.

Another youth player set to play an important role this season is local boy Ross Robertson. Used at centre-back and central midfield by Brian Reid, Roberts has declared intends to use the 21-year-old a targetman alongside fans’ favourite Micheal Moffat. Roberts described Moffat’s exile on the left of midfield last season as “criminal” and believes the former Girvan man can score at least 20 goals this term. If Robertson and Moffat are unable to perform, Roberts himself is still a capable forward; he showed he’s still a classy player after his fine equaliser against Bolton last week.

How the tag as favourites – as well as Roberts transition from popular dressing room joker to an authority figure – will sit with the team remains to be seen.

 

BRECHIN CITY

Players in:

  • Michael Andrews (Montrose)
  • Jonathan Brown (Livingston)
  • Scott Dalziel (East Fife)
  • Alan Trouten (Ayr United)
  • Andy Jackson (Morton)
  • Johnny Stewart (Hearts)
  • Ryan Stewart (Hearts)

Players out:

  • Scott Buist (Stenhousemuir)
  • Michael Dunlop (Stranraer)
  • Bryan Hodge (Stenhousemuir)
  • Charlie King (Forfar Athletic)
  • Jim Lister (Dumbarton)
  • David McClune (Stirling Albion)
  • Rory McKenzie (Kilmarnock – loan end)
  • Paul McManus (East Fife)
  • David Scott (Forfar Athletic)

2011-12 was the most dissapointing season in Brechin City’s recent history as the club finished in their lowest league position for 12 years. Before the season began, Brechin had been installed as favourites, but Jim Weir’s side were unable to recover from a slow start (the Glebe Park side recorded just three wins in their first 15 games) and the club finished eighth place. Discussion surrounding the future of Weir – who has enjoyed a fairly uninspiring managerial career to date – was quelled after the Brechin committee put their faith in the former St Johnstone defender last month. Their support, however, has come with a warning: “improvement is required immediately”.

Weir has brought in former Morton striker Andy Jackson to score the goals. Still only 24, the Falkirk-born Republic of Ireland youth international’s career has been marred by injuries but last season, Jackson made 33 appearances for Ton last season, scoring 11 goals (albeit four of them arrived in one game against Stranraer in the Ramsdens Cup).

Jackson will be partnered by Scott Dalziel – an effective forward at this level, but another player with a history of indifferent fitness. The signing of Alan Trouten also intrigues. The former Ayr United midfielder is a player who splits opinion, but can be a classy operator in the right conditions. The signature of former Scotland U21 goalkeeper Micheal Andrews could signal the winding down of 41-year-old Craig Nelson’s career.

Brechin’s first competitive game, a Ramsdens Cup ties with Rangers at Glebe Park on Sunday, has brought some a certain degree of excitment to the club. Beyond that however, there is little optimism surrounding their’ league campaign – avoiding relegation appears to be the height of most supporters’ expectations. If Brechin fail to start the campaign strongly, Jim Weir is likely to be the division’s first managerial casualty.

 

EAST FIFE

Players in:

  • Scott McBride (Raith Rovers)
  • Paul McManus (Brechin City)
  • Gareth Wardlaw (Ayr United)

Players out:

  • Scott Dalziel (Brechin City)
  • Steve Hislop (retired)
  • Neil Janczyk
  • Bobby Linn (Ballingry)
  • Paul McQuade
  • Ryan Wallace (Dunfermline)

East Fife manager Gordon Durie has turned to experience in an attempt to replace Ryan Wallace after the 21-year-old striker moved on to Dunfermline and has brought in Paul McManus and Gareth Wardlaw. The returning McManus will immediately feel familiar to New Bayview, having scored 44 goals in 82 starts in his previous spell at the club. The 29-year-old netted 16 times for Brechin last season and can guarantee goals at this level.

Less prolific, but often as effective is Gareth Wardlaw. His transfer from Cowdenbeath to SPL side St Mirren was perhaps the most perplexing in recent memory yet at 33, Wardlaw represents a canny foward at Second Division level and will prove a tough opponent for most defenders if he can stay injury-free.

Darren McCormack is a player with a troublesome history off the park, but he can be expected to anchor a midfield which includes Darren Smith and Robert Sloan. In defence, Durie’s son Scott is an exciting prospect at right-back and Micheal Brown is a reliable goalkeeper.

Durie is perhaps a little light in attacking options going into the season and will rely heavily on McManus, but if he and Wardlaw can develop an understanding, the Fifers could be an outside bet for a playoff spot.

 

FORFAR ATHLETIC

Players in:

  • Danny Denholm (Stirling University)
  • Keith Gibson (Arbroath)
  • Omar Kadar (Spartans)
  • Charlie King (Brechin City)
  • Derek Soutar (Formartine)
  • Gavin Swankie (Arbroath)

Players out:

  • Greg Ross (Stenhousemuir)

Football in Angus can often appear fairly self-contained, particularly when it comes to the movement of players, so it should come as no surprise that most of Forfar’s transfer business in the close season has been made within the ‘Birthplace of Scotland’. That said, there may have been a collective intake of breath when Dick Campbell brought in Gavin Swankie from Arbroath and Brechin City legend Charlie King to Station Park.

Swankie and King have been paired in attack in what has been a good pre-season for Forfar. The club have recorded a 3-0 win over neighbours Montrose and a 7-3 victory against Cove. the results have left Campbell in buoyant mood and the manager told the club website last week: “I’ve been in a lot of pre-seasons in my career. Sometimes you win them all and sometimes you lose them all but it looks as if there is a freshness about us.

“There is a mixture of youth and experience. There is an excitement about us. The two wide players coming in; Danny Denholm and Omar Kader look exciting because they’ve got pace”.

Chris Templeman was the Loons’ top scorer last season with 19 goals, but it would be little surprise to see him operate from midfield this term. He might look ungainly but he could be effective in linking up with Swankie and King.

After finishing last term’s ten points behind playoffs in seventh place, Forfar should be in contention to better last year’s finish.

Alistair Gemmell

Alistair Gemmell

An exiled Honest Man since birth, distance from Somerset Park has not diminished Alistair's support of Ayr United. A placemaker by profession, he contributes match previews to the club's online content and once saw Andy Walker in a furniture store in Tillicoultry.

1 Comment

  • Reply July 25, 2012

    sav

    Excellent read.

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