It may not have been champagne football but the bubbly stuff was certainly flowing in the visitors’ dressing room at Glebe Park yesterday as Arbroath secured the point they needed to clinch the League One title and with it automatic promotion to the Championship.
Some illustrious names in the Scottish game had better brace themselves not only for some chill North Sea blasts as they head for Gayfield next season, but also for some testing 90 minutes when they are confronted by a side that under the tutelage of the wily veteran of the dugout Dick Campbell are well drilled and attack with some zest.
It’s a heart-warming achievement for Campbell who’s experienced his fair share of the glorious highs and cruel lows of the game in a near 50-year career as a player and manager. It was perhaps especially fitting that this moment to saviour should take place at Brechin where he had successful stints in both guises. Naturally he expressed pride of delivering silverware for his current charges who are yet another example of how part-time clubs can dare to dream if they have a bit of nous about them.
“It’s been a long time coming, but we deserve it” reflected the near overwhelmed Campbell. “From day one we’ve been top of the league. We’ve kind of limped over the line but it doesn’t matter how you win it when that final whistle blows.
“We play with two wingers and I’ve got six strikers here – we always like to give it a go. It’ll be no different next season in the Championship. We’ll be expected to lose every week. But if we go down, we’ll go down trying.”
With all four Angus clubs finding themselves in the same division for the first time in years this campaign must have sometimes seemed akin to a World Series to Campbell and his men – this was their 12th local derby of the season. To finish a record of won seven, drawn three, lost two tells you a lot about the drive and resilience he has instilled in this Arbroath side and the part that has played in propelling them to this Championship success ahead of other better resourced sides.
This particular local head-to-head was always going to be a tough scrap. Brechin have emerged from their annus horribilis in the Championship last season to find themselves in grave danger of notching up the dubious distinction of a double relegation, such is their current precarious position. Darren Dods was removed as manager mid-term and with the experienced Barry Smith bellowing out orders from the touchline yesterday they were a side that lacked neither effort nor resolve.
Ryan Wallace looked to have given Arbroath the ideal nerve-settling start by burying a Colin Hamilton cross behind Graham Bowman after just five minutes. But though they enjoyed the greater share of possession they couldn’t completely impose themselves on the tenacious hosts. Just on the midway point of the first half a lapse of concentration allowed Mikey Miller simply too much time to hit a shot which appeared to take a deflection en-route to beating Darren Jamieson to restore parity.
It was a similar pattern in the second half with the visitors at times laying siege to the Brechin goal, but a series of telling crosses and set-pieces were somehow repelled. In the end, however, the point was enough – Campbell even admitted he wasn’t too unhappy that his old club had picked up something to assist with their battle for survival. It was one of those days when there was something for everyone.