Summary of last season – Never mind a game of two halves, with Airdrie it was about a season of two halves. If you were an Airdrie fan last year it was an up and down year but those ups and downs fitted nicely into two long spells of the season. At the start of the year manager Jimmy Boyle managed to guide the team to the root of the table after the first few games of the campaign. He was then replaced by Gary Bollan and despite a very poor start the form of Airdrie beyond December was nothing short of phenomenal. The team finished in 6th place but for a few months were on a better run than almost any other team in Scottish football. At the end of the season Bollan extended his contract and Airdrie fans will delighted with that news. A horror start but a fantastic end sums up the Airdrie year.
Players in – David Proctor (Edmonton), David Andy McNeil (Waibop United), Joe Hamill (Formartine United), Marc Fitzpatrick (Greenock Morton), Jack Kirwan (Celtic), Scott Gray (St Johnstone)
Players out – Grant Adam (Dundee), Craig Barr (Raith Rovers), Stefan Milojevic (Greenock Morton), Gregor Buchanan, (Dunfermline Athletic), Darren McCormack (Brechin City), Andrew Duncan (Free), Chris McCluskey (Free), Grant Evans (Free), Ricki Lamie (Free), Lewis Coult (Free), Caolan McAleer (End of Loan)
What they still need – Gary Bollan has a challenge in replacing almost his entire defence from last season and despite making a couple of signings in that area he still definitely needs to look for a central defender. Further forward there are plenty options in the striking department but there maybe needs to be a couple of creative options in the midfield. Bollan will have a real challenge in building another team this year but most sides in this league have the same issue.
Key player(s) – Two seasoned pros can make the difference for Airdrie this year. One is a former player returning to the club and the other was last season’s Player of the Year. David Proctor is a versatile defender who can also play in midfield and he returns to Airdrie after leaving Canada. He was previously at the club on loan and was very well received in his first spell. An experienced professional who can play in a number of positions he will be a good piece of business for Airdrie and will be an important member of the squad. Further forward striker Jim Lister is another player that has a huge amount of experience and he was one of the division’s standout players last year. He is a strong, physical striker who chips in with important goals and provides a focal point upfront. Airdrie need him to perform again this season.
Opinion on Airdrieonians – After the magnificent run the side went on towards the end of last year it would be easy to think that they can just carry on from where they left off. Things are not quite so simple and the squad has lost some key players. Gary Bollan is a very shrewd and talented manager though so he will be well prepared for this campaign and he will know what is needed to perform in this division. The fans might be a bit frustrated at the lack of investment in the playing side after losing so many players to rival clubs but that is one of the pitfalls of this division. Bollan will make the difference for this club and he will manage to guide them towards the playoffs this season.
Prediction for this season – 4th
Summary of last season – Ayr United finished fourth last season and they qualified for the Championship playoffs but lost to Cowdenbeath. Getting to the playoffs might seem a success but for Ayr United the fans wanted much more out of the last campaign. Manager Mark Roberts continued at the club despite more than a few murmerings of discontent from the supporters and despite the fourth placed finished the fans were never entirely convinced with Ayr last year. A poor second half of the season did little to help moral at the club and by the end of the season the side were deteriorating in quality.
Players in – Kevin McKinlay (Defender, Stenhousemuir), Jon Paul McGovern (Midfielder, Derry City), Ryan Donnelly (Striker, Albion Rovers), Nicky Devlin (Defender, Stenhousemuir), Peter Murphy (Defender, Celtic Nation)
Players out – Michael Moffat (Dunfermline Athletic), Alan Lithgow (Stenhousemuir), Kevin Kyle, (Free), Adam Hunter (Free), Anthony Marenghi (Stranraer), Gordon Pope (Free), Kyle McAusland (End of Loan)
What they still need – This Ayr side still needs a bit of work. They are lucky that they have an academy system that can provide cover for areas that need it, but in terms of first team players they are probably still short of a central defender, central midfielder and another striker. They need that solidity at the back that a good, competent defender would bring and upfront they are simply lacking the firepower that would be needed to get them up the table. Roberts is now in a position where every signing he makes will come under heavy scrutiny, so he needs the right players and needs to make the right signings otherwise the fans will be quick to voice their opinion.
Key Player(s) – With much of the Ayr first team squad not exactly setting the heather alight last term the fans will look towards the new signings to lift the side. They do have a number of talented youngsters but right now it will be the established players that need to make the difference. One player familiar with Scottish football is John-Paul McGovern and the creative midfielder has the potential to be a stand out for Ayr this year. He has plenty of experience behind him and despite now being in his thirties he has the talent to play well in League One. Another new signing for Ayr is one that came out of the blue and is actually a fantastic piece of business for the club. Peter Murphy is a vastly experienced central defender who spent most of his career in England with Carlisle United. Most recently he was at Celtic Nation but the general feeling is that he could still be playing at a much higher level. Ayr have managed to secure a signing that most Championship teams would be delighted with (and a couple of Premiership teams if rumours are to be believed). Murphy will instantly become a vital player in this squad and will no doubt be a huge player for Ayr this season.
Opinion on Ayr United – It seems like Mark Roberts is almost living on borrowed time with his job at Ayr. The team have not progressed over the past few seasons and they find themselves being a bit of a yo-yo team in this division. That is not good enough for a side like Ayr and they need a spark that might give them the boost they need to gain promotion back to the Championship. If you were to look at managerial casualties in League One for this season it would be no surprise if Roberts was the first in the firing line. The club need a bit of a fresh start and they need a bit of investment (boardroom troubles still play a factor) so this will probably be a difficult campaign for the club.
Prediction for this season – 7th