EARLIER in the season Forfar came under siege from pundits writing off their hopes of League 1 survival but, rather than worry about relegation, the ambitions of the players and management were always loftier.
Youth has been augmented with the experience of 43-year-old Rab Douglas and 39-year-old Darren Dods and, having just missed out on automatic promotion when they were pipped to the title on the final day of the league campaign by Morton, the part-time outfit face Alloa Athletic in the play-off final.
We had our objectives but maybe people underestimated usDick Campbell
“There have been a few people who have had a pop at our team, saying things like ‘Dad’s Army’ because we have guys like Dods and Douglas,” said manager Dick Campbell, “but I’d think every manager in our league would love to have the two of them because experience is a great thing. You need that in your team and it’ll help tonight because they’ve been through big games before.”
They aren’t the only over-30s, with examples in every department of the team, but Campbell bridles at the perception that they are an aged outfit, reeling off a lengthy list of 20, 21 and 22-year-olds who account for a large chunk of the squad and highlights 18-year-old Michael Kennedy, who came into the team in the latter part of the season and is likely to be tasked with helping the team through the two-legged head to head.
“We had our objectives but maybe people underestimated us and some even had us going down,” said Campbell. “They are the things that are pinned up in the dressing room. That sort of stuff motivates everybody and it’s a kick up the tail ahead of this game. In one way we are lucky to be in the play-offs because we have to remember there are another ten teams not there who would want to be but in another way we deserve to be in the final,” he added, citing their staying power in the top four as evidence. He also knows how closely they came to a league finish that would have allowed them to bypass the play-off process.
The desire to prove detractors wrong is a motivation as is the determination to push themselves and test themselves against as high a level of opposition as possible. Promotion to the Championship would pit them against at least one of either Hibs or Rangers, with plenty of other strong contenders. Campbell knows the difficulty of that task for a club which would adhere to the principle of living within their means. “There’s no doubt the club would continue to cut the cloth accordingly,” he added. “We had a sportsman’s dinner the other week and it was the directors who were waiting tables. There’s not many clubs where you would see that but it sums up our club.
“It would be tough to be a part-time club in the Championship and some clubs might not want promoted because of that but we do!
“I think there is always room for a part-time club at that level and we might do ok. We might not. But if we don’t we would just work hard to get another chance. Jimmy Nicholl did a magnificent job with that at Cowdenbeath but they came up just short. But you have to go up and give it a shot. That’s what we want to do but for now we are trying to keep a low profile and get this play-off final against Alloa out of the way. I don’t know what Alloa are thinking but I can’t do anything about them. I can only control what we do and if we do as well as we can then we have a chance because I think we are a good team.”
The first leg is at Station Park tonight and having taken a handsome lead into the second leg of the last round, against Stranraer, Campbell hopes to do the same against Alloa. “We were 3-0 up after the first game so it was almost won by the end of that first leg,” he said. “Another result like that would be fine but at the least I want to have something to play for on Sunday, in the second game.
“We have worked hard all season. They have let themselves down a few times but not very often, so they will go out and see what happens against Alloa but there’s nothing to be afraid of.”