Chairman slams critics of Loons as great season keeps on rolling

Pic credit Christopher Coutts.
Pic credit Christopher Coutts.

Alastair Donald knows Dick Campbell would love nothing more than to lead Forfar Athletic to another promotion this season.

And the Loons’ chairman believes the experienced gaffer will have more than earned that achievement.

But Mr Donald admits the only thing on his mind is survival.

He said: “It’s been a very good season for us so far. We’ve only lost two games in the league. We had a bad run there but look at the teams we were playing - Dunfermline and Morton away, Stranraer at home. These are the best sides in the league.

“But for me, it’s always about survival. I’ve always got my eyes on the bottom of the league - every point is another one towards keeping us in the division.”

It’s no surprise then that Mr Donald isn’t expecting a promotion this year - but admits it would be huge for the Station Park club if they were to make it into Scotland’s second tier in the near future.

That’s because of the huge financial gap left between the Championship and League One after the league reconstruction of two years ago - a point at which Alastair believes the two lower leagues were left behind.

He continued: “A club of our size would be capable of handling the step up to the Championship in the next few years, absolutely. The other Angus teams or other teams in our league are the same, because the financial step up is much bigger since reconstruction.

“League One and Two really got left behind in that arrangement. You can call it the SPFL, one body, but essentially it’s two leagues - Premiership and Championship, then League One and League Two.”

In spite of Forfar’s lofty league position, the club and the manager are not without their detractors.

Critics have slated the age of the goalkeeper and defence; they have accused Dick of playing direct, passionless football; and after the 2-0 loss to Morton, many claimed that “the bubble had burst.”

Mr Donald left no confusion over his thoughts on that.

He said: “All of this talk about the age of our team - it’s bizarre. There are older players in the team, but there are plenty teenagers and lads in their early 20s. For every Darren Dods there’s a Dale Hilson, for Stuart Malcolm there’s Danny Denholm.

“And why wouldn’t you play these experienced players when they’re performing like they have been? Could anybody really say Darren or Stuart or Rab Douglas have underperformed for the manager? Dick has got the right balance throughout the squad, in defence there’s Malcolm and Dods, Baxter and Paterson, then there are youngsters like Michael Dunlop and Aaron James. In midfield, James Dale and Gavin Malin are playing with someone of the calibre of Derek Young. Up front, could Dale Hilson be playing with anyone better than who I think is the league’s best player, Gavin Swankie?

“We were told that the bubble had burst after the Morton game. What bubble? There is no bubble. All there is, is a group of talented, passionate professionals doing their jobs well led by a great manager.

“The football this season has been excellent, we’ve had older fans telling us that it’s the best they’ve seen since the 1980s. People are criticising Dick and some always will, but I say this with complete certainty, write that man off at your own peril.”

Meanwhile, Dick Campbell admitted having a free weekend was good for his injured players, with Forfar enjoying nearly a clean bill of health.

The boss also confirmed Derek Young isn’t too far away from a return.

He said: “It gave us a chance to get the injured players back and to be fair, the only one we’ve got missing now is Derek Young and he’s back into full training.

“We had six players out a fortnight ago and now it’s just one, so the break’s come at the right time albeit it might have stopped the momentum a wee bit.

“Derek Young, we’re sorely missing him. He’s back full training, we thought he’d need an operation but there’s good news on that. He’s doing his full running and things. We’re looking to have him back first week in January.

“There is never an easy game in this league and if you apply another attitude, you’ll come unstuck. This will be a long hard season. But we’re not bothered about who we play. If I can get my team together, we’ll be the team to beat.

“Michael Travis has been good, I’ll be offering him a contract - he’s done well.”