I have written and in the recent past broadcast about the three lower levels of the SPFL – Andy has been very kind in his description of me being industrious – my ex-wives wouldn’t recognise me… Tracking 30 clubs over the season can be pretty onerous. As I am looking to understand the views and experiences of fans in the lower leagues I have hit upon a brand new idea!
I live in Kirkintilloch. I have always believed that fans should choose their club according to their geography. SO! For the season I shall be following only three teams that are closest to my front door. One in the Championship, one in League One and one in League Two.
Let me start with the lowest reaches of the SPFL and League Two…
In my trek round the lower reaches of Scottish football I have discovered that Clyde FC are my local club. Nestled just a few miles away from my front door they boast a relatively modern stadium with an internationally capped manager alongside a nomadic past that makes them interesting even before they kick a ball.
As they settle into the second year of Barry Ferguson’s reign I cast my eyes over the squad and pre season prior to their taking on Livingston in the first round of the Petrofac Training Cup. Here was what I saw…
At the back, between the sticks there was first choice keeper, John Gibson and back up Mark McMillan. Gibson was an ever present during pre season and he looked like he had the pedigree to make the spot for a full season his own. The previous number 1, Alan Martin moved from his League Two spot to number two at Premiership club, Hamilton Academical so good goalkeeping was a staple on the Broadwood diet last season. Gibson was previously with Dundee and Alloa however supporters didn’t fail to notice that Clyde had let in 3 goals in their 3 pre season games. Gibson has, however continued to retain the jersey and with only 2 clean sheets to their name in the league or cup competitions so far this season, there shall be many looking beyond the keeper to lay blame; especially since Gibson currently sits 4th in the man of the match club stats!
In defence the back 4 includes veteran Mark McLaughlin, one of only 9 players to survive from last season’s squad, alongside Michael Bolochoweckyj in the centre of defence. With a combined age of 70, that’s a solid looking and experienced pair of centre halves. To the right ought to be Scott Durie but he is still out with a double hernia. On the left is Scott Linton who is yet another highly experienced player. These 4 have been about the leagues for some time and McLaughlin I admired when he was at Hamilton, Dumbarton and Morton and should be a very handy man in charge of this defence. Linton I also loved watching when he played for the Sons so this is quite an exciting grouping. Of course playing the same line up for every game is highly unlikely so who are the backups? Former Kilmarnock man Ross Fisher seems a great signing as does former Ayr United and most recently Stirling Albion utility man Chris Smith. With Billy Robb stepping up from the now defunct youth academy and David Marsh coming in from Cumbernauld United there is some depth in numbers here. Ferguson has also not been slow to bring people in where they may be available and one of the big news signing has been Marvin Andrews on amateur terms. Let’s be honest there is not going to be a huge amount of movement from those legs but that head will add some real experience in the dressing room.
The midfield has even more of a look of the veterans as Scott McLaughlin is joined by Hugh Murray. Their combined age might only be 67 but both have been with Clyde since early 2015 and have been solid for the team. Round them we have Steven Brisbane from Falkirk and East Stirlingshire, 20 year old Conor Lynass from the youth academy and Chris Mitchell, formerly of Bradford City, Ayr United and Queen of the South. Having watched McLaughlin, Murray and Mitchell up close they are likely to form a formidable grouping in the centre of the park for the Bully Wee. This is a serious looking midfield IF they keep away from the treatment table. So far, so good and the supporters have been talking of how the midfield is far more solid than in previous years.
Up top we keep with the whole veteran tag as Archie Campbell, David Gormley, Brian McQueen, Sean Higgins and Mark Roberts are available to lead the line. Gormley, Campbell and Higgins have been, in one combination or another the partnership that have taken the pitch. This should be a highly competitive area with some decent rewards but many are asking where it went wrong as they should be chipping in with more than just over a goal a game in the league, as they are at present.
Overall, though, this is a decent squad for this League. By the September weekend we have already had 8 games by which to judge the quality on show. The Berwick Rangers game had been woeful but aside from that this has been a decent start in a highly competitive league – it needs more than that though…
Firstly the worry is that the age of the legs could prove to be difficult to keep going by Easter of 2016.
Next up is squad unity. There are a number of big names in the squad and there needs to be harmony to keep things motoring in a positive direction. Ferguson recognised this by preparing a pre season that took the squad away. It may have begun with Clyde facing East Kilbride – they were held to a 1-1 draw – but they were soon on their travels. The Highland tour saw them lose in their first game to Wick Academy, 2-1, and before they had a 0-0 draw with Brora Rangers. Scott Linton got their solo goal against East Kilbride whilst Ross Fisher got their only goal in the Highlands against Wick. The Brora Rangers game was a game with lots of chances but no goals however 5 days away together with the squad was about bonding for a great start to their league campaign. Whilst Livingston knocked them out of both cups, 4 wins out of 8 in the league thus far is not too bad.
Their final issue is that their form is far from title winning form – is that there have also been 3 losses in their 8 games. They sit 5th, just outside of the playoff spots, on goal difference. This began as the season that most observers thought Clyde would canter the league. League Two has been a massively competitive league in the past and i don’t think that is going to change. For Clyde, or any otehr club, to romp it would be miraculous. This is a massive season for Barry Ferguson and Clyde. The supporter owned club has big issues off the park too; but that as they say is for a different time.