Arbroath respect integrity of the cup but say league fitness is main aim

Ian Campbell (picture by Graham Black)Ian Campbell (picture by Graham Black)
Ian Campbell (picture by Graham Black)
The Premier Sports League Cup group stages will supply Arbroath with a measure of how fit their squad is, as the part-timers attempt to follow last year’s tremendous league campaign.

Assistant manager Ian Campbell stressed the Lichties were looking forward to their group E foray in the contest and not taking anything away from its importance.

However, the prime objective would be to have a fully fit squad for another season in the Championship, after finishing second and narrowly missing a Premiership play-off final.

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The group games would be used largely as part of pre-season training, said Campbell, although they would treat all their opponents with the usual respect.

July 9 sees Arbroath visit Premier League St Mirren, while they are at home on July 13 to Cowdenbeath, banished from the League Two basement last season. They’re then due to visit League One newcomers Edinburgh City on July 16 before a home game against beaten Championship play-off finalists Airdrieonians on July 23.

“It’ll be a chance for us to see other clubs and have a look at our fitness,” said Campbell. “They are all teams that have a hell of a lot going for them, so I think they’ll be tight games. But we're not bad ourselves.”

The club has signed experienced ex-Falkirk and Livingston midfielder Keighan Jacobs, 32, while talks were continuing with a number of other players, said Campbell. The squad was beginning individual training programmes on Saturday and would return for pre-season work on June 13.

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Campbell echoed the views of twin brother Dick about a too-short rest period this summer and the pressure on part-time clubs of an early July return to competitive action.

They would have to field signed players in the League Cup games so they would be playing with a limited pool, maybe three or four short, as the loan players and others they wanted would not be available until deep into next month. Only two pre-season matches had been arranged, at Brechin City on June 25 and at Montrose on July 2.

“It’s our priority to continue our search for players,” added Campbell. “To get the players we want is not easy but we’re making a lot of progress just now. It will be well into July before we get the additional players we want but it should be remembered we have good players already and the vast majority of our team is still intact.

"We are looking, though, for players to come in and get games with us – that’s not easy because our standards are quite high these days. The loan players who are important to us will not be here until the end of July so the plan is to get our boys really fit – they will come back quite fit already – get a few others in to blend into the team and, hopefully, kick on again next year.”

Arbroath were victims of their own success in a way, said Campbell, adding: “We’ve always been in play-offs in recent years and we are a club that’s on its way up."