Last season didn’t go to plan for Arbroath, with a ninth-placed finish in Ladbrokes League 2. But talented winger Bobby Linn told Ladbrokes News that the Red Lichties have everything in place for a title tilt and that mid-table security just won’t do.
Here’s Bobby’s take on everything from team spirit to new signings and his love for the “fierce” Angus rivalry with Montrose…
Ladbrokes News: Last season was a difficult one for Arbroath with a ninth-placed finish in Ladbrokes League 2. Would you be happy with mid-table security this season, or would anything below the play-offs be a disappointment?
Bobby Linn: Last season was a poor one – we all realised that. We needed big changes to the squad over the course of this summer, and we’ve had that.
There’s a feeling throughout the dressing room that we have the quality to challenge for the title. At the very least, we should be finishing in the play-off spots, and anything below that is not good enough for us.
LN: It was the Angus Derby on Saturday, and you guys drew 1-1 at Links Park. Were you happy with the result and performance?
BL: The performance at Montrose wasn’t our best, and we weren’t helped by having Ryan [McCord] sent off. By this club’s standards, we weren’t at the races, but there are still positives to take from the game.
Despite going down to 10 men, we still didn’t lose the game – and we’ve been unbeaten in the first two league games, and that gives us some momentum.
The issue is that when we’re on top, which we were at Links Park, we need to take our chances. We’re not scoring enough goals yet, but I feel sure Arbroath will come good – because we have some excellent strikers.
We’ve got a tough game up at Elgin on Saturday, but if we can win there, it’ll leave us in a really good position.
LN: Obviously it’s a game which means a huge amount to the fans. Do you feel that rivalry as players, too?
BL: Yeah, I do. I’m from Dundee, but ever since I’ve played for Arbroath, I’ve felt it through the fans. When you speak to them, they talk about what a great, fierce rivalry it is.
Because of that, I think we’re always very fired up to win it because you know how much it means to the supporters. We’ve got them back at Gayfield in January and we need to make sure if we go ahead in that game, we stay ahead!
LN: Arbroath have played some good football in both League 2 games so far – against Berwick Rangers and Montrose – but have let 1-0 leads slip in both matches. Is holding onto those leads something the squad are focusing on in training?
BL: Sort of. To be honest, I think you just have to be strong mentally as a team. It’s more a psychological thing, than anything to do with our ability.
The goals we’ve conceded could have been prevented.
We did talk about those goals in the first session after each game, but we know what to change. This squad has a lot of togetherness, and we’ll get it right sooner rather than later.
LN: Talking of squads – you obviously played in that talented Arbroath side who almost won the League 2 title under Allan Moore in 2014-15. How do you rate the current Red Lichties squad against that one?
BL: We’ve had different types of quality in those two squads. The earlier one had youngsters like Simon Murray, who came from a junior side – Dundee Violet – and he was fantastic. Simon was just one of several exciting youngsters in that side.
The current crop at the club are more experienced, and quite a few boys have played at a higher level, like Martin Scott and Ryan McCord.
That former Arbroath side started the 2014-15 season brilliantly, and then ended up in fourth-place. So that’s a reminder that we have to stay focused throughout this campaign, however well we’re doing.
The team spirit in our dressing room is excellent, but we need to start getting wins right now. There’s an expectancy on us because of the quality of players at Arbroath, but I feel we can start to match that with our results.
LN: Among the new faces in the squad are an exciting new pair of strikers in Steven Doris and Bryan Prunty. How are you finding those guys to play with?
BL: They’re both good lads on and off the pitch – and each of them has a lot of experience in the game.
Both of them need a goal to get them going. Any sort of goal, however scrappy, will give them that confidence boost.
But they’re contributing a lot to the team right now. They’re making good runs, finding the space, their link-up play is good. As soon as Steven and Bryan get among the goals, they’ll be up and running – and that will naturally give the whole team a lift.
LN: You guys are in action in the Challenge Cup tonight against East Fife. It’s been a few years since the club have had a good run in the competition. Is there a lot of motivation to change that?
BL: Tonight, it’s just a case of trying to win the game. We’re not focused on anything beyond that. We know that beating any side – especially one in a division above us – breeds confidence.
To be honest, I don’t really think ‘this is a league game’ or ‘this is a cup game’. But we’re at home, which is always an advantage – and hopefully we can give the fans a night to remember!
LN: And obviously, the Fifers are a club you know well, having spent five years there. You scored at Bayview in the 1-0 away win in September 2015. Would you say playing your old club makes you even more motivated to perform well than usual?
BL: Not anymore, to be honest. It’s a while since I left East Fife, so I just look at it as another game we need to win. I won the league with them, so I didn’t leave Bayview feeling like I had anything to prove to the club.
I’ve got a knock at the moment, so I won’t be out there tonight – but obviously I’ll be wishing the boys well. My focus is just on Arbroath doing well, though, whether we’re playing one of my former sides – or a club we’ve never met before.
DB: You’ve netted 11 and 13 goals respectively in the last two league campaigns. Did you set yourself a target ahead of this season, or do you only focus on the next game ahead?
BL: I never set myself specific targets. Personally, I prefer to just focus on the next game ahead, and if I prepare and perform well in that game, then I’ve met my target.
I actually feel I can and should score more goals, but as long as the team are winning, personal targets are secondary. If Arbroath are winning and my displays are contributing to that, then I’m happy.
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