July 29, 2022
Peterhead vs Airdrieonians
Airdrie’s cinch League 1 season gets underway with a trip to Peterhead on Saturday, and Callum Fordyce is hoping to help the Diamonds get off to a flyer.
Much has changed at the Excelsior Stadium since the sides fought out a 1-1 draw in the final match of last year’s league season, with the Diamonds going on to lose the play-off final in extra-time.
The departure of Ian Murray to Raith Rovers paved the way for Rhys McCabe to take his first steps into management, with club captain Fordyce taking on the role of player/assistant manager.
The 30-year-old defender is loving his extra responsibilities, even if it makes life that bit more hectic.
“It’s 100 miles an hour! It’s life-changing at times, having a young family, but it’s exciting.
“It helps that me and Rhys are cousins, we were always in constant communication and it was an opportunity that we couldn’t not give it a bash. We’re thoroughly enjoying it.”
While the core of last season’s squad was retained, a number of players also moved on - and recruitment has been a carefully considered process ahead of the new season.
The Premier Sports Cup group stage finished last weekend as the new management duo continued to shape their squad, and the Diamonds just missed out on qualification despite a memorable victory over St Mirren.
Fordyce says the final match, a 3-0 defeat at Arbroath, was disappointing.
“We gave ourselves a great opportunity, we put ourselves right in the driving seat and we just came up short. That’s football.
“It wasn’t pretty on our side - there was positives to take, and a lot of negatives, and there’s things that we’ve addressed and we’ll work on.”
Despite failing to qualify, Airdrie have impressed with their quick passing football, and Fordyce hopes that it can get the Diamonds off to a strong start in the chase for promotion.
“It’s been a good start, the way we’ve played football has been a joy to play in as well as being part of the coaching staff.
“You look at how we started the season last year, it probably cost us the league. We were a wee bit behind, which shows you the remarkable run we went on.
“Any player will tell you, if you start the season well it gives you that building block to just keep going.”
And so the Diamonds begin the league campaign with a trip to the north east to face Jim McInally’s Peterhead.
The Blue Toon finished seventh in last season’s table, but their record at Balmoor remained impressive.
Callum hopes he can continue his own run of good results there.
“It’s a tough place to go, they’ve got a good home record, but - touch wood - in my career I’ve had great results every time I’ve gone up there!
“We need to remain positive. Peterhead are a good side, they play a good style of football. It’s going to be an entertaining game.”
Player-manager Rhys McCabe echoes his assistant’s thoughts on the trip.
“It’s a tough place to go. You can’t really take too much away from the Premier Sports Cup because you look at a club like Peterhead, similar to ourselves they’re still trying to get players in and get the right players signed.
“We’ll be under no illusion, we need to go up there and it’s a very, very tough place to go. We’ve got to be on our A-game.”
The Diamonds boss adds midweek signings Lewis Jamieson and Ben Wylie to his travelling squad. Goalkeeper Josh Rae missed last weekend’s match with a shoulder knock and will face checks ahead of kick-off, with midfielder Dean McMaster returning to training and hoping to be back in contention soon.
Chris Fordyce is the referee for the League 1 opener.
Supporters travelling to the match should note that there is no cash gate at Balmoor, but tickets are available at the ticket office in the car park adjacent to the main entrance.
Saturday July 30, 2022
Balmoor Stadium, Peterhead
Douglas Ross, Sean Murdoch