Last season Ayr United became the yearly surprise package in the Championship. It feels like in every season one team takes everything in their stride, causing upsets aplenty along the way. From day one it felt like Ayr were riding on the crest of a wave, helped in no small part by Lawrence Shankland. The Somerset Park side enjoyed each and every week in the opening months and that wave of confidence continued throughout the majority of the campaign. A really poor end to the season couldn’t detract from a fabulous campaign and manager Ian McCall was rightly hailed as the mastermind behind this success.
The big question for this season will be whether or not, after multiple departures, McCall can continue the good work and maintain those very high standards that were set last year.
Transfers In – Ross Doohan (Celtic, loan), Stephen Kelly (Rangers, loan), Frank Ross (Aberdeen, loan), Kris Doolan (Partick Thistle), Sam Roscoe (Aberdeen)
Transfers Out – James Hilton (Stranraer), Declan McDaid (Dundee), Michael Rose (Coventry), Lawrence Shankland (Dundee United), Liam Smith (Dundee United), Leon Murphy (Stranraer, loan), Nicky Cadden (Livingston, end of loan), Calvin Miller (Celtic, end of loan), Robbie Crawford (Livingston), Stuart Faulds (Largs Thistle), Chris Higgins (East Fife)
Transfer Success? – It is really hard to follow on from what was an excellent campaign, and it is even more difficult to try and replace players like Shankland, Crawford and Rose. One thing that Ian McCall does have on his side is the ability to find gems and get the very best out of his players. The return of Doohan is a sensible move and it will be intriguing to see how the other young loan signings perform (Kelly in particular has been praised during pre-season). Ayr are manoeuvring in a difficult market when they are competing with others who are rebuilding (and many of those clubs can offer higher wages).
The Manager – I actually wondered if McCall might have left Ayr at the end of the season and he was briefly linked with one or two jobs. I’ve said before on this blog that my opinion of McCall is a bit tainted due to his tenure at Tannadice but his record with Ayr is very impressive and he is always speaks well when he appears on the radio to give his thoughts on football and his squad. I think he always comes across as a very good man manager and although they may not reach the heights of last season, you would back Ayr to be competitive again this year.
The Hope – After such a successful campaign it is always difficult following that up and planning for the next step. I think that Ayr fans will remain quietly confident after last season and they will hope that in amongst the bookies favourites for the league that they can continue to upset the odds and challenge in the top-half of the table. They have the mental strength of last year that could carry them through some of their bigger fixtures in this campaign.
Look Out For – With the void left by Shankland it looked like Kris Doolan might be the natural successor but in recent weeks the Ayr fans have been very impressed with the breakthrough of Luke McCowan. The 19 year-old has played very well during the warm-up matches and in the Betfred Cup so it could be that the league might be witness to a breakout season from a promising young forward.
Transfer and club information correct as of 30th July 2019