Arbroath chairman Mike Caird hopes to welcome fans back to Gayfield next season to finally bask in the glory of the most successful period in the club’s 143-year history.
Red Lichties clinched Championship football for a third successive year with a 0-0 draw against Morton on Friday night as the history-making Dick Campbell era continues to break new ground.
Arbroath ended a 133-year wait for major silverware when former boss Paul Sheerin led them to the League Two title in 2011.
Current boss Campbell has since claimed two further trophies – winning both the League One and League Two championships before masterminding three seasons of Championship football.
However, their loyal fans – who raised almost £100,000 for Arbroath by purchasing 1,094 bricks on a supporters wall during the first lockdown – have been locked out for large chunks of their Championship games.
Arbroath’s first season in the second tier was curtailed after 26 games and no fans have been allowed to witness their second season in the Championship.
Caird is now praying restrictions are eased before the big kick-off at the end of July.
“The fans are the main reason we wanted to stay in the Championship,” said Caird. “The fans have missed a year and half of it.
“We’ve had some of the best times that a lot of our supporters could ever see but they’ve missed them.
“For the last 18 months they haven’t seen it live. I know they’ve enjoyed watching Arbroath TV and it’s been a fantastic set-up but they want to be back in the ground.
“They’ve missed so much. They weren’t here to see us beat Dunfermline and Raith at home or to see our credible draws with Dundee and Hearts.
“Our fans would have loved those games and would have been cheering us on right to the end.
“Who knows? They may just have helped us get over the line to win or draw a couple of games so we are desperate to see them back at Gayfield.
“Over the last three or four years there has been a massive buzz around the club.
— Chris Harvey (@ChristopherHarv) April 13, 2019
“People looked forward to coming to Gayfield with packed houses and a full hospitality.
“It’s great to see supporters enjoy themselves. Some have been coming for 50, 60, 70 years.
“My dad has been coming for 70 years and it’s the best time we’ve had at the club.
“The fans have really backed us. We raised almost £100,000 from the supporters’ wall and I’d love them to get back here next season and take the time to see their names on that wall.
“We also want to reward our season ticket holders. When we sold tickets to them we didn’t know they wouldn’t be back in and we’ll be discussing how we can reward their loyalty at a board meeting next week.”
Arbroath are making significant investments to improve ‘fan experience’ ahead of next term with work being carried out to replace two terrace roofs and an enhanced hospitality capacity.
On the park, Caird has heaped praise on Campbell for the part he has played in transforming Arbroath’s fortunes.
Campbell steered Arbroath to the League Two title in 2017 and followed it up with the League One trophy in 2019 before helping establish their place in the Championship.
“Dick’s been amazing,” added Caird. “What a motivator, what a character. The fan love him and we love him.
“When he first came in we were sitting near the bottom of League Two and we lost his first game 3-0 at Berwick.
“But he has got the right players in, with financial backing from us, and his backroom staff help him immensely.
“Some of the players he has had at the club will go down in years to come as club legends.
“We’re now going to sit down and plan next season. We don’t want to sit still, we want to get better players into the club.
“I’m not saying he gets everything he wants but he almost gets everything he wants!”