SPFL Fans’ Preview: Alloa can challenge for the League 1 title

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Welcome to the latest in our series of Ladbrokes SPFL Fans’ Previews. Which teams will win their respective leagues and which players will shine and what is there to get excited about?

We’ve gathered together a selection of passionate fans to tell you how they think their team will fare ahead of the 2016-17 football season.

This time we have Brian Roach as he previews the season ahead for his beloved Alloa. He follows his team religiously home and away, as well as being one of the main men at the The Duffle fans’ forum.

The Club:

If you could sign one star from the past…

The Ghost himself, Spurs and Scotland legend John White (who played for Alloa early in his career) is probably the answer.

However, to make it a bit more realistic I’ll stick to players still in the game. The obvious one is Scott Bain, our former outstanding goalkeeper now at Dundee. But seeing as he is well on his way to imminent international honours and worldwide acclaim,

I’ll go for Liam Buchanan – who will unfortunately face us this season for Livingston.

Buchs was absolutely terrific for us in the Championship two seasons ago scoring 17 goals, and is still revered by the Alloa support. I would have him back in a heartbeat, but alas he is tied to the Livingston juggernaut for another season.

Fingers crossed for next summer then. I’ll drive to Edinburgh and pick him up myself.

I’m most excited about this season because… 

Manager Jack Ross has worked tremendously hard in the summer months to ensure the club has put together a very talented squad of players in order to challenge for promotion.

Alloa’s performances in the League Cup have demonstrated not only team spirit, ability and strength in depth, but the manager is also beginning to show his tactical awareness with a squad of players he’s far more comfortable with.

This is in stark contrast to the rather haphazard player recruitment drive of last summer which did not work out.

It has been a brilliant spell for the club in recent times with three consecutive seasons in the uncharted waters of the Championship, taking some big scalps along the way.

However, it will be great to return to some previously popular haunts such as Peterhead, Stenhousemuir and Stranraer. Expectation is that we will also notch a few more wins too and challenge at the right end of the table.

That was impossible in the Championship given our comparable resources to the more prominent clubs.

I’m least excited about this season because…

I honestly don’t think there is any factor as it stands that I would consider a downside. Perhaps the lack of full houses at home Alloa have experienced recently against the likes of Hearts, Hibs and Rangers.

The profile of the club nationally will also diminish in a lower division, but hopefully our residence back in Ladbrokes League 1 is a relatively short one.

Two songs that define your side? 

After a fairly long spell out of this league, I’ll go for AC/DC – Back in Black (and Gold!). And with a beautiful brand spanking new surface laid in summer, the Tom Jones hit The Green Green (Artificial) Grass of Home may also be apt.

Actor that would play your gaffer in a film and why? 

As we are well into the 21st century with a modern outlook on life, I have no problem admitting that our manager Jack Ross is a handsome, stylish devil of a man.

The women want to be with him and the men want to be him. If football was judged on a manager’s appearance, Alloa would undoubtedly be a top four Champions League club.

So on this basis, as a casting director I would seek go for Steve McQueen, or Brad Pitt if I am forced to opt for a living actor.

The Players:

Key Player?

I feel obliged to mention two here. Our main problem last season was finding the net, and striker Greig Spence will be relied upon to replicate his form of last season at Cowdenbeath and achieve an impressive tally of goals upon his return to the club.

He’s certainly capable of doing so, and we are very lucky Greig has a previous affiliation with the club.

Also, in midfield Iain Flannigan has had his fair share of injury problems in his three seasons so far at the club. But his ability has never been in question. When he signed a new contract in the summer I felt that he had the potential to be League 1’s top player this season.

And from the League Cup campaign so far, I haven’t seen anything to change my mind – Flanny has lit up games with some outstanding displays so far.

Weak links? 

Not too much to be concerned about at the moment, although a near entirely new back four (minus the excellent Jason Marr) and goalkeeper will need to time to adjust and gain familiarity as a unit. Going by past experience, a solid back four is a vital key to success in this league.

It would have been beneficial to retain a couple of the defenders from last season, but that was out of the manager’s hands. The players signed appear to be of high quality but it might take us a bit of time to get the best out of them though. Time will tell.

Headline Generator? 

Easiest question to answer- Jim Goodwin. The big Irishman has been our marquee summer signing, and shall we say he likes to play on the edge of the rules at times. I’m sure he’ll be the target of opposition fans’ attention in the majority of games.

In Alloa colours he has already made a real statement of intent by slide tackling referee Craig Charleston at a recent pre-season friendly and is likely to court a bit of controversy at times. However, his experience and knowledge of the game will be a huge asset. And at Alloa we love a bit of a character. Jim can certainly provide that.

Young player to watch this season? 

Striker Isaac Layne is likely to obtain a lot more game time this season, and has looked hungry and determined to do well in the games so far.

After a recent pre-season game, we met him in one of the local bars and he declared he will score 30 goals this season. Admirable self belief, but with two League Cup goals so far he only has 28 to go to achieve his target.

ALLOA, SCOTLAND - JULY 26: Jon Robertson of Alloa Athletic celebrates scoring during the Betfred Cup match between Alloa Athletic and Ross County at Recreation Park on July 26, 2016 in Alloa, Scotland. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

League Predictions:

Your position?

It’s difficult to say with any stonewall accuracy. After a fairly lengthy absence from League 1, I’ve not been able to take a real look at the other clubs really to see how they’ve progressed or regressed.

There’s a few very decent sides on paper, as well as Livingston and Airdrie being full time clubs.

However, I would expect we will make the top four based on what I’ve seen so far of our team.

Title winner?

I think it’s between four team – ourselves, Livingston, Airdrie and Stranraer. But if put on the spot I would say the title winner will be the team who manages to finish above Alloa, if this were to occur.

Bottom?

At present it looks like maybe either Queen’s Park or Stenhousemuir. If that were the case, I would really hope it’s the former. Stenny manager Brown Ferguson is an Alloa legend who I still keep in touch with fairly regularly.

Top Goalscorer pick?

A shootout between our own Greig Spence, Iain Russell at Airdrie and Rory McAllister at Peterhead. Livingston will ruin Liam Buchanan, thus paving the way for a triumphant January transfer window return to his beloved Alloa (fingers crossed)

Surprise team of the season?

I think East Fife may be fairly formidable this season. On the back of a very successful title winning League 2 campaign, Gary Naymith is demonstrating his ability to put a team together and embark on a good career in management

Keep checking back for more Ladbrokes SPFL Fans’ Previews!.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing

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Paul Fulton

Paul is a sporting all-rounder with a particular penchant for tennis, football and golf. He has contributed to a number of publications, including the Edinburgh Evening News. Is most at home with a scotch pie and bovril in hand watching his beloved Hibs.