Ryan McCord. Right now, that’s the name striking fear into defences across Ladbrokes League 1. The Arbroath ace has netted six times in his last three games, with the Red Lichties climbing to fourth in the table, just five points off top spot.
We caught up with the Gayfield ace to talk about everything from his recent goalscoring glut, to life under manager Dick Campbell and facing his former club Raith Rovers next weekend. Here’s Ryan’s verdict on all that and more…
Ladbrokes News: You’re well on the way to your highest ever goalscoring total in a season, thanks to six goals in your last three games. What do you put your fantastic recent record down to?
Ryan McCord: I think I’ve been good with my movement and made it into the right areas. Being on the penalties also helps! [*Laughs*]
I’ve been playing further forward in the past three games – essentially in a striker role, meaning I’ve also had more opportunities. The boys behind me have been excellent in creating chances as well, so credit to them. The team are playing really well as a whole, at present.
I’m happy in that role, but as long as I’m playing, I don’t really mind what position it is. I’ve always scored goals from midfield, so it’s been a good test for me playing up front, but the main thing for any player is just being in the side.
LN: Arbroath as a whole have been very impressive of late, winning 5-0 at Forfar and 6-2 at Stranraer in recent weeks. What’s been the key to really dominating in those matches, and is it something you’re confident of continuing?
RM: We’ve been good away from home over the past year. I think a lot of sides come to Gayfield and sit deep against us, and that can make them difficult to break down.
On the road, we’re facing sides who are at home, and expected to come out and attack. Arbroath have a lot of pace, especially in the wide areas, so we can really hurt teams on the break.
At the other end, we don’t tend to get caught out too much. The likes of Tam O’Brien, Ricky Little, and Colin Hamilton have all been very reliable and well-organised. I think we’ve got a really strong base, and it’s something which has really clicked away from home.
LN: You were part of the side that won the League 2 title last season. How big of a step up is there between the leagues, and who would you say is the toughest side you’ve faced so far?
RM: We’ve not faced Raith Rovers yet, and I think they could well be our toughest test yet. However, I don’t think it’s a huge step up from League 2 – there are some really good sides in that division.
When I was at Alloa Athletic, we did the double bounce from the fourth tier to the Championship [from 2011-13]. That was something we achieved with largely the same squad in both divisions, so I think that proves there’s not a massive gap between the leagues.
There are a few differences. Obviously, there’s a couple of full-time teams at this level, with Ayr United and Raith involved, and maybe there’s a bit of a step up in fitness generally. But it’s certainly not one we’re struggling with.
LN: Your manager Dick Campbell knows this league well, having won promotion from this level with three different sides. What’s he been like to work under, and do you feel your game has continued to develop at Gayfield?
RM: He’s been different class, as have his backroom staff. Everything’s geared towards the team unit and building a good relationship on and off the pitch. We work well as a side, and there’s a great team spirit at Arbroath.
It’s a nice working environment. I find the training enjoyable, but we also know that if you don’t put the graft in during those sessions, you won’t play. The gaffer is a good laugh to work under, but he also expects a lot of us players. So it’s a good balance.
I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some excellent managers, and he’s definitely one of them.
LN: You’re just five points off top spot, and only two behind second-placed Ayr United. Do you think this Arbroath squad have what it takes to produce another title challenge?
RM: I don’t want to look too far ahead yet because it’s still only October. But having players in the squad who’ve been there and done it obviously helps. And the same with the manager.
We’ve got a good blend of youth and experience here too, so I’m upbeat about what this club can achieve. But for now, we need to just take each game as it comes. If we’re still in a strong position come February or March, then I might start talking about titles!
LN: Arbroath have a break this weekend, but you face your old club Raith Rovers on the following. What can we expect from that game? And how are you feeling ahead of your first game back at Stark’s Park since leaving in 2016?
RM: I think you’ll see a good, open game. Raith are undefeated at their place in the league, and we haven’t lost away from home. So I definitely think it’ll be one for the neutral.
Personally, I’m looking forward to going back. I’ve got a few friends in the squad there still. It didn’t quite work out for me during my time there – the football just didn’t quite suit me. But it’s not something I’ve dwelled on, and I’m looking forward to going back there and representing Arbroath!
Ryan won’t be drawn on a title challenge just yet, but if you fancy Arbroath to win a second successive league crown this term, they can be backed at 16/1.
And last but not least, congrats to Ryan on winning the Ladbrokes League 1 Player of the Month award for September!
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing