Ayr’s old guard return for some more

Scott Sutherland, one of Ayrs cohort of long-serving veterans. Picture: Bill Murray/SNS
Scott Sutherland, one of Ayrs cohort of long-serving veterans. Picture: Bill Murray/SNS
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After yesterday’s Charity Shield the club season proper will kick off next weekend with the same old faces expected to be elbowing their way to the business end of the table.

Melrose, Hawks and Heriot’s have all recruited well and should be challenging but last season’s BT Premier League champions Ayr have arguably done something even better than recruitment. They have managed to hold on to the core of players who have stuck with the club, some of them for the best part of a decade, such as evergreen lock forward Scott Sutherland.

“He is one of these guys who gets to the end of every season and says: ‘Oh, I’ll play another year, just one more year’, says Ayr’s youthful coach Calum Forrester.

“It good to have that sort of experience especially when there are hardly any second rows about. There is a real shortage of locks.

“Some of these guys have been with us for ten years at least, that is how long [full-back] Grant Andersson and Scott Sutherland have been coming down to the club. They have been a part of that whole journey, the success that the club has had in that ten-year period.

“The key to our success is a core of six or seven guys who have been there the majority of the time over the seasons, certainly since I have been there since leaving Glasgow in 2012. The actual turnover of players each summer has not been huge.

“I keep saying this but our semi-final team last season, compared to the season before that, had three changes to the starting line-up!”

While other clubs see players come and go through a revolving door, Forrester can name just four first-team squad members who left the club this summer.

Ross Curle is living in Stirling and will now turn out for County while flanker Will Bordill has a new job in London, Tommy Spinks, lured from Hawks, is a like-for-like replacement. One younger player is travelling and another returned to newly promoted Marr.

Ayr have some players with professional experience including lock Rob McAlpine, stand-off Frazier Climo and new recruit Robin Hislop, son of the late “Bomber” Hislop, who has moved north and should prove a very handy recruit after professional experience with Edinburgh, Doncaster Knights and Rotherham Titans.

“His partner lives and works in Glasgow,” says Forrester on Hislop, “so the likes of him and Tommy Spinks with the professional experience they have helps massively in organisation, they point some of the younger guys in the right direction, you can really see that coming through in training.

“We have a young ten Paddy Dewhusrt and he can sit and learn from Grant and Frazier Climo who run the backline and that will be huge for Paddy’s development over the next few years.”

At the other end of the scale Ayr host a number of Glasgow apprentices including winger Robbie Nairn, the 6ft 4ins centre Stafford McDowell, Robbie Smith, George Stokes and Scotland 18s skipper from last season, prop Euan McLaren.

It would be nice to think that some of them will still be donning that pink shirt in ten years’ time.