Ryan Wallace knows what it takes to win promotion from Ladbrokes League 1. A regular source of goals and slick passing in Dunfermline Athletic’s title-winning side last season, the talented midfielder has made the switch to Albion Rovers this summer, and he’s targeting more promotion glory at Cliftonhill.
Ladbrokes News caught up with the Wee Rovers’ newboy to discuss counter-attacking football, team spirit, an opening-day return to his former club East Fife and much more…
Ladbrokes News: You’ve made the switch from East End Park to Cliftonhill this summer. How are you finding life at Albion Rovers so far, and working under manager Darren Young?
Ryan Wallace: Life’s good at Albion Rovers. We’ve got some great players here, and in the short-term, I’m just enjoying pre-season.
Working under Darren has been fantastic, he has a lot going for him and was one of the main reasons I joined the club. So I’m really enjoying being here so far, and I’m sure there are good times ahead this season.
LN: Good to hear. So what style of football will we be seeing from the Wee Rovers this season?
RW: The gaffer likes us to get the ball down and play to feet, which is the style I think every footballer prefers. There’s a big focus on us counter-attacking teams and using our pace to hit them on the break. I think it’s a very effective system and one I’m enjoying playing in.
LN: Rovers had a solid season last year after winning promotion, finishing sixth in Ladbrokes League 1. From what you’ve seen so far, do you think this squad can push on and make the play-offs this time out?
RW: Yeah, definitely. There’s no reason we can’t make the play-offs. I’m not going to say we’ll certainly make the cut because it’s a tough division, but there’s no doubt we have the potential to do so.
Finishing level on points with Airdrieonians in fifth place and just two points off the play-offs last season was a great achievement.
And I think with the current squad, if we play at anything near our best, we have a great chance of getting into that top four.
LN: You obviously played a huge part in Dunfermline’s League 1 title win last season, netting eight times from midfield. Do you think that experience will help you if Rovers are challenging for top spot during this season?
RW: I think it will definitely help. Winning titles is a massive part of football, and the more experience you have in doing that, it’s beneficial for your game. It’s also something I want to experience again, because it’s just a wonderful feeling!
I think the boys here have it within them to be champions. You can feel that there’s a real winning mentality at Albion Rovers. I’ll try and pass on my experiences of winning promotion from this league, but the outlook from the coaches and throughout the squad is already very good – that’s the key thing.
LN: As well as that experience, what else can Albion Rovers fans expect from you in the coming season?
RW: Hopefully some goals! I managed to hit double figures last season, and chipped in with 14 assists, even though I was coming off the bench a lot at Dunfermline last season.
I think I can excite the fans at Cliftonhill. I’ve been called an enigma before, because I can do something really good and then something very frustrating. Hopefully I can do more of the former next season. [*Laughs*]
We’re going to be exciting to watch next season, and I’m sure we’ll put on performances which Albion Rovers fans will want to watch.
I think my game will only improve if I’m playing regularly, and after the last couple of seasons where I’ve had injuries and been in and out of the side at East End Park, it’s great to be playing under Darren and having the chance of more regular first-team football.
LN: There are some really exciting games ahead for yourself and Rovers in the early part of the League campaign. Your former club East Fife on opening day, a first Monklands Derby against Airdrieonians in September. How are you feeling about those matches?
RW: I’m excited about them already. I’m delighted for East Fife getting back to Ladbrokes League 1, but that goes out the window on matchday! The focus will just be on trying to win, and getting the first three points under our belt.
Airdrieonians are another of my old clubs, and considering the rivalry, I’m sure I’ll be in for a bit of stick! But it’s a game where this club always puts up a real fight, so hopefully we’ll send the fans home happy after the derby.
LN: And finally, which of your teammates have really impressed you in training so far? Who (aside from yourself, of course) is going to be a nightmare for opposition defenders or a thorn in the side of attackers across League 1?
RW: To be honest, I think we have real quality throughout the squad. I grew up playing against a lot of these guys at youth level [in North Lanarkshire] and then for Dunfermline, so I know what they’re capable of.
I really like Gary Fisher, he’s a very talented player. He obviously spent time at Kilmarnock and has a huge amount of skill.
I think most importantly, though, we’re looking good as a team. We’ve played a few games so far in pre-season and as a whole, I’d say we look a very, very good side. So don’t bet against us pushing on this season and doing something special!
You can back Albion Rovers to win next season’s Ladbrokes League 1 title at 16/1, while it’s 21/20 they win away at Berwick Rangers in the Scottish League Cup tonight, having won 2-0 on their last visit to Shielfield Park.
However, they’ll have to find a way to shut out the Borderers’ prolific striker Darren Lavery. We found the 24-year-old striker in optimistic mood, when we chatted with him here about Berwick’s promotion hopes for the upcoming League 2 campaign.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing