James Craigen insists football has finally come home now he can celebrate in front of the Arbroath fans at Gayfield.
Craigen and his Red Lichties team-mates are thriving as they play to crowds again after 16 months of closed-doors football due to the Covid-19 lockdown.
Due to the shutdown, the Preston-born star has been limited to just four appearances in front of Gayfield fans since a permanent switch from English side AFC Fylde last summer.
Arbroath are riding high in fourth place in the Championship – after back-to-back wins over Craigen’s former clubs Partick Thistle and Dunfermline.
And the midfielder is loving life in Angus.
“The game is a million times better with fans in the stadium,” said Craigen. “Football is properly back now.
“I enjoy playing the game no matter where I am and I felt privileged to still play it during lockdown.
“But as players we all thrive on hearing the noise of the fans. The sound of an empty stadium just isn’t the same.
“I want to celebrate with fans and I want to hear the roar of anticipation as we run up to take a corner.
“Our fans are great. They are good, honest football people who appreciate a team that works hard.
“I’ve only been able to play in front of them four times but they give us great backing.
“We’ve also added a new dimension to the crowd with so many young people coming via Arbroath FC Community Trust.
Great way to welcome the players out for their warm up. Next fan zone will be back on the 11th of September and we'll have a few surprises. More updates as we get closer to the game ⚽ pic.twitter.com/4kmJ6aN1Iz
— Arbroath FC Community Trust (@ArbroathFCTrust) August 29, 2021
“You could hear them banging their drums in our warm-up before the Partick game and that was brilliant.
“I’ve also enjoyed celebrating with fans. The manager often reminds us that these are the best days of our lives so you should enjoy every single second.”
James Craigen: Survival is still our goal
Arbroath are certainly enjoying their football right now.
As Scotland’s highest-placed part-time club, they have collected seven points from 12 – with a narrow 1-0 defeat to leaders Inverness their only blip.
But with boss Dick Campbell insisting Arbroath players have ‘achieved nothing yet’, Craigen insists survival remains their goal.
“If you think back to December 29th last year we were only on five points,” said Craigen. “I know the season kicked-off later but we have made a much stronger start.
“We know we are capable of competing with every team in this league but we will stay focused and grounded.
“The Championship is very competitive and it can easily turn the other way.
“But we have a core group of players who have been here for a number of years and are hungry for success.
“Success is staying up. It’s only natural that some people will want to look up but we’ll never get ahead of ourselves.”