The Warriors return to competitive action this week as we welcome familiar faces to Ochilview Park.
We last faced The Jags 12 months ago in our first game at Ochilview post COVID restrictions. Tam Orr gave The Warriors the lead on the day. However, the quality showed for the Visitors and they ended up 2-1 victors.
12 months is a long time in football though and Stephen Swift has saw a big turnover in his squad since that game. Ryan Marshall, Ross Lyon, Jamie Mills, Daz Christie, Dec Hughes and Cammy Graham all started that game, but have since left. And Stephen Swift will no doubt be looking at his new players hitting the ground running in this tough opening fixture.
The Players have been in pre-season training for a few weeks now and we asked the gaffer how he feels his preparations have gone.
“I think it’s been ok. We’ve shown glimpses of what we can do but, also, there’s still stuff that we need to iron out which will hopefully sort itself in the next week or so. It will be a tough game on Saturday. I think there’s been some pros and cons to our pre-season and, ultimately, that’s what it’s all about, finding what you want to do going forward but, also, iron out the creases as well.”
Looking at the last game of the season, the 0-0 game against Forfar, 9 of the 10 outfield players remain at the club and that consistency is rare at this level. Rather than having a complete overhaul of the squad, like last season, Swifty has identified his target men and got them early.
“I’ve said it all along, the fact that we’ve kept that team together and I think we’ve strengthened really well. I think with all that involved, we’re in a good place. I think the new boys have settled in well, but I think there’s a lot more to come from them and it may take a bit of time. So I think we’ll take it form there and see how we go.”
Another positive for Swifty is the relationship with his backroom staff and how important that is to the set up in the club and the importance of having big characters like Michael Moore in the dressing room.
“Michael is great for the all round ambience of the place and he creates a good vibe. The players respect him for what he’s done in the game and it’s great to keep everyone together and build on what we had.”
The Premier Sports League Cup Group B is a sore one on paper. Kilmarnock, Partick Thistle, Montrose and Fraserburgh all await The Warriors over the next few weeks. It’s a difficult group, so we asked Swifty what his expectations are from the games, starting on Saturday against Thistle.
“I think we know that it’s going to be really tough. They’re a top Championship side and we’re really going to be up against it. But, this is the real stuff starting. All the stuff that we’ve been trying pre-season all needs to come together and hopefully we can cause them a few problems. Ultimately, we need to be organised and don’t concede poor goals.
“This is the last chance that players have got before the League starts. We probably won’t rotate it as aggressively as we’ve done pre-season. There will be opportunities for guys but we’re starting to see things taking shape in regards to who’s grabbing the spot, so we’ll go from there.”
We also took the time to have a chat with Club Captain, Sean Crighton this week. We spoke about his pre-season preparations and how he feels the players have coped.
“I think it’s been worthwhile. For me, I don’t read too much into pre-season games, I say it all the time. I think you need to get your fitness, you need to get your base and build the relationships. But, for me, I think it’s important to get minutes in the leg. I feel as if we should’ve been scoring a lot more goals, which has been disappointing over pre-season, but we’ve been loosing sloppy goals as well, but that will all come good.”
Again, focussing in the consistency of a settled squad, we asked Sean how that felt for him and how the new boys have settled in the dressing room.
“I think it’s a massive help. Any team that I’ve been in that’s been successful has always had that nucleus of a team that’s stayed together. The new boys have come in and are pushing everyone to make sure that, on that day when the league starts, you’re in that team.”
Saturday is also the first chance to fans to take a look at the new playing surface at Ochilview. It looks good, but how does it feel to play on?
“The pitch is great. Obviously when it’s wetter, it moves a bit slicker. But it will definitely make a difference to us and helps with the style of football that we want to play.”
Finally, Sean told us the squads aim for the season…
“Promotion. It was our goal last season, and remains this season.”
Will Sewell and Dan Higgins remain on the sidelines with short term injuries. They should both return to the training pitch next week and should be able to get some game time in before the League begins.
Match Entry: Both home and away fans can enter via pay at the gate [cash] or you can purchase your ticket in advance by using Fanbase. Adult admission costing £12, concessions £6 and under 16’s just £5.
Getting Here: Click here for details of how to get to Ochilview by car or train.
Season Card Holders: Season Tickets are not valid for this match.
The Pie Hut: Food and drinks will be available to be purchased once again from the Pie Hut.
The Wee Bar: The Wee Bar is open from 12pm with all fans welcome.
Ochilview Matchday Guide:You can read our Matchday Guide here and ensure that you have everything that you need.