Arbroath will go top of the Championship on Friday night with a win over Kilmarnock – capping off a stunning start to the season.
To casual observers, the sight of Arbroath leading the Championship pack could be a major shock.
Most will consider it a fluke.
Others will point to the failings of the ‘bigger clubs.’
I have covered my hometown team Arbroath for over a decade and witnessed all three of their title triumphs in 2011, 2017 and 2019.
I’ve watched their meteoric rise from the brink of the pyramid play-offs in 2016 to the cusp of the Championship.
— SPFL (@spfl) September 20, 2021
The current success hasn’t happened by accident and there are a multitude of factors behind it.
Here, Courier Sport outlines 5 reasons that make Arbroath the real deal.
Dick Campbell ‘runs Scottish football’
I’ve known Dick Campbell for over 20 years. His passion for the game has always been unrivalled.
He’s renowned for his cutting one-liners in both the dressing room and in post-match interviews.
He is a wind-up merchant but also a man who is not afraid to have a laugh at his own expense.
You saw that by his reaction to an advertising board falling on him in the summer.
“Watch your back!”
Seriously, though, well done Fermer & Arbroath for providing brilliant coverage for fans who couldn’t be there for @EastFifeFC
— Ewan Smith (@ewansmithpr) July 15, 2021
Anyone who thinks Campbell is just a friendly ‘figure of fun’ is sorely mistaken.
In 34 years as a manager Campbell has always been a born winner. He’s widely-respected within football circles and very few ex-players – if any – have a bad word to say about him.
Campbell thrives on the big game and is a great motivator.
He’ll pin up newspaper cuttings from disrespecting opponents and loves nothing more than making them eat their words.
Fortress Gayfield – More than just a wind machine
There’s no escaping the fact that Gayfield is advantageous due it’s unique proximity to water.
Arbroath’s ground is the closest stadium in Europe to a major sea.
The wind can often wreak havoc at Gayfield as Bobby Linn can testify.
Linn was left drenched by a North Sea wave that crashed over the Gayfield terrace as he lined up to take a corner.
🐡 Watching out for waves! 🌊⛵
Gayfield is a must-visit for Scottish football fans.
Find out why here 👉 https://t.co/lrkJA1v6ZN 👀
— SPFL (@spfl) January 12, 2018
Very few clubs enjoy the full Gayfield gale experience – just as Dunfermline who were battered by Arbroath during high winds in a 2-0 loss in February.
And in the 3-1 victory over Partick Thistle a few weeks ago, the visiting players looked like they wanted to go home after 60 minutes during a torrential downpour.
Arbroath – a club with community at its core
On Friday night, Kilmarnock will be treated to the drum-beating sounds from the Young Lichties fans zone as they warm-up.
Thanks to Arbroath Community Trust, the club have created a designated section specifically for their 200+ under-16 season ticket holders.
Players meet and greet the youngsters before and after every game. Fans favourite Joel Nouble spent 15 minutes posing for selfies after the 4-0 win over Hamilton.
Well, the fan zones are a hit! Here's a video DLR Media (thanks!) created of the first one ⚽ Next is Arbroath v Kilmarnock in a Friday Night Fan Zone on the 24th of September. We have so many surprises for this one, don't miss it 😁 pic.twitter.com/kG6m6Z2nwm
— Arbroath FC Community Trust (@ArbroathFCTrust) September 16, 2021
By investing in the journey of a young fan, Arbroath can – as midfielder Michael McKenna recently stated – convince them to snub Dundee or Dundee United for their local team.
Season ticket sales are at record levels, approaching 900.
A supporters wall sold over 1,000 bricks to raise £90,000 for the club.
Demand for hospitality pre-Covid was so high that Arbroath have twice extended their seating capacity in the last few years.
Arbroath are also investing in their future on the park.
Over 600 people from the town regularly participate in football with a Community Trust that was only formed in 2020.
A new ‘Arbroath Player Pathway’ has been established amongst the various football clubs in the town.
That could ultimately help Arbroath discover their latest Andy Webster, a proud Red Lichtie who was capped 28 times for Scotland.
Arbroath: A club with no ego
Without a doubt the biggest quality Arbroath have is humility.
There are no ‘superstars’ at any level of the club. This is a culture created by chairman Mike Caird and manager Dick Campbell.
Caird tookover as chairman in 2017 and has surrounded himself with people who are trusted and supported to do their job.
He regularly personally writes back to supporters and the club hold regular Q&A sessions with fans.
They have a board of directors that are community-driven, commercially-sound and diligent in the legalities of running a football club.
When Dick Campbell signs players, he is interested in their character as well as their ability with a ball at their feet.
Arbroath may be part-time but there won’t be a hard-working football team in the Championship.
Bobby Linn, now in his testimonial year, cited his lung-busting runs up the Dundee Law as the secret behind his supreme fitness.
And he’s not alone in going the extra mile behind the scenes to ensure he is fit enough to match the more-fancied full-time teams in the Championship.
Arbroath: A team littered with talent and experience
Don’t be fooled into believing this Arbroath squad is outperforming its potential.
There are players in the Gayfield squad who would grace any team in the league and some who would shine in the Scottish Premiership.
Defender Tam O’Brien has had opportunities to go full-time during his time at Arbroath.
But with a secure job away from the game and has a healthy football income.
Ricky Little has played almost 300 games for the club and is due a testimonial in 18 months.
McKenna is in a rich vein of scoring form with six goals in six games and Joel Nouble is simply unplayable.
Arbroath could lose Nouble in January if parent club Livingston choose to cut short his season-long loan deal.
Thought you forgot about this 🤣🥺 if only 💭 https://t.co/18bhtOBAej
— Joel Nouble (@OfficialNoubz) September 20, 2021
But if he keeps up his rich vein of form until then, Arbroath can try to secure their Championship status.
Then the real fun begins. Can Arbroath force their way into the Premiership play-offs?
I think they can.