QUEEN OF THE SOUTH
- Mark Durnan (St Johnstone)
- Willie Gibson (Falkirk)
- Tom Brighton (Irvine Meadow)
- Scott McLaughlin (Peterhead)
- Sam Parkin (St Mirren)
- John Potter
- Craig Reid (Morton)
- Stephen Simmons (Alloa Athletic)
Gus MacPherson was quick to leave the sinking ship after charting Queen of the South’s relegation from the First Division last season. He had even resolved to leave at the end of the season by mid-March, less than a year after taking charge of the Doonhamers, long before their relegation was assured. MacPherson, concerned for his reputation, was quick to point to the financial constraints he was working under but he was not without culpability, as has been pointed out elsewhere on this site.
Queens find themselves outside the First Division for the first time in ten years. The man charged with plotting their return is veteran former Hearts, Sunderland and Kilmarnock midfielder Allan Johnston. The 38-year-old, who earned 18 Scotland caps, is to be assisted by Sandy Clark.
His first signing is a gamble: in returning to his hometown club, one cannot help but think this might be the final chance for Willie Gibson, particularly after his acrimonious exit from Falkirk. Johnston is hoping the 27-year-old can provide the creativity that was lacking last season but what role Gibson is likely to play – and the personnel he will be creating the chances for – is still to be resolved. No fewer than eight trialists lined up against Queen’s Park on Tuesday. In an earlier friendly against Workington Reds, Gibson lined up as a conventional winger with Kevin Smith and Nicky Clark up-front, but he has also been used behind a lone striker in a 4-4-1-1 formation.
One player missing from the friendly was Daniel Carmichael. Following relegation, Queens supporters were mildly comforted by the news the 22-year-old had committed his future to his hometown club. Used mainly on the right, he and fellow Dumfries youngster Gavin Reilly will be hoping that they can contribute to a more successful season in front of goal for the Doonhamers. Last season, the club scored a meagre 38 goals.
Queen of the South’s status as the only full time side in the division should prove to be the key advantage to Allan Johnston over his immediate rivals, but on the evidence of a pre-season where his side were never truly tested, they still appear to be looking for a balanced and settled line-up.
- Craig Anderson (Civil Service Strollers)
- Scott Buist (Brechin City)
- John Gemmell (Albion Rovers)
- Bryan Hodge (Brechin City)
- Callum Reidford (Stirling)
- Greg Ross (Forfar)
- Grant Anderson (Hamilton Academical – loan end)
- Ally Brown (Ayr United)
- Kenny Deuchar (boiled into glue)
- Michael Devlin (Hamilton Academical – loan end)
- Nicky Devlin (Motherwell – loan end)
- Willie Lyle (Auchinleck Talbot)
- Kieran Miller (Hamilton Academical – loan end)
- Stevie Murray
- Paul McHale
- Chris McCluskey (Albion Rovers)
- Gary Smith (Motherwell – loan end)
Stenhousemuir go into the season with something of a hangover and an apparent lack of optimism amongst their supporters after missing out on the playoffs last season. The Warriors occupied third spot from September through to the start of February, but a winter that brought seven defeats in nine games from Boxing Day onwards put Davie Irons’ side on downward curve they were unable to fully correct and they ultimately missed out on the last day by a single point.
The timing of Irons’s resignation was poor, but the appointment of Martyn Corrigan has been warmly welcomed by both players and fans. Kevin McGoldrick will continue as assistant manager.
On paper certainly, Stenhousemuir have a strong side with the most important players from last year retained, but there is a feeling shared between some sections of their support that while their squad is a capable one, they are two or three players short of mounting a genuine threat.
The mercurial Andy Rodgers looks set to be Stenhousemuir’s key player this season, assisted by the guile and work ethic of Stewart Kean. Highlights of the Warriors pre-season friendlies demonstrate the value of the Kean-Rodgers partnership in the Warriors’ good work going forward. The highlights also show a defence which has the tendency to dither, particularly during crosses into the box. On the evidence of pre-season, including the three goals conceded against East Stirlingshire on Saturday, their back four might yet take time to settle.
As well as Rodgers and Kean, Iain Thomson and Ross McMillan, two of the division’s most impressive players last season, will be expected to continue their strong form. That said, if Stenhousemuir are able to better last season’s fifth place finish, it would be a remarkable achievement.
- Ryan Borris (Dumbarton)
- Michael Dunlop (Brechin City)
- Robert Love (Albion Rovers)
- Martin Grehan (Alloa Athletic)
- John Kane (Clyde)
- Stuart McColm (Clyde)
- Steven Noble (Peterhead)
- Nathan Shepherd (East Stilringshire)
- Stephen Stirling (Morton)
Unlucky not to clinch promotion to the Second Division through the playoffs, Stranraer were shunted into the league eight weeks later after Rangers admittance to Division Three. The bookmakers’ odds suggest Stranraer are liklely to tussle with Albion Rovers to avoid an immediate return.
As Stranraer finished last season as the Third Division’s highest scorers with 77 goals, six players reached double figures. Two of those six, Stuart McColm and young midfielder Stephen Stirling have since departed, but in Chris Aitken, Craig Malcolm, Micheal Moore and Sean Winter, manager Keith Knox still has a potent array of attacking talent and experience in his squad. New signings Robert Love and Ryan Borris will ensure Stranraer’s strength remain’s in going forward.
Knox must look to strengthen a porous defence – 57 goals were conceded past promising goalkeeper David Mitchell. Whether or not Stranraer can hope to compete in the Second Division by with their swashbuckling brand of attacking football will soon become clear.