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Elgin City manager Gavin Price sees the success of part-time clubs like Montrose and Arbroath as an indication of what can be achieved at Borough Briggs in the future

By Craig Christie

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THE recent rise up the Scottish football ranks of Angus neighbours Montrose and Arbroath can be an inspiration to Elgin City in their struggle to make an upward move.

Elgin City manager Gavin Price. Picture: Daniel Forsyth..
Elgin City manager Gavin Price. Picture: Daniel Forsyth..

That's the view of City manager Gavin Price who sees the success of the east coast pair as something he is striving to achieve at Borough Briggs.

Both clubs were staring relegation to the Highland League in the face within the last six years, until they appointed current managers Stewart Petrie - who has just signed a contract extension at Montrose - and Arbroath gaffer Dick Campbell.

Under Campbell's reign, Arbroath have risen two levels to the Championship, where they are comfortably holding their own.

Montrose are in form contention to join them in Scottish football's second tier having narrowly missed out in last season's play-offs.

Price says many of the players who were at both clubs when they were struggling at the bottom of League Two stayed on to be part of their considerable progress over the past few seasons.

"I have looked at Arbroath and Montrose as a blueprint for success," said Price.

"If you look at their squads over the last while since Stewart became manager - around the time I started - it was a lot of the same players that he took over who finished near the bottom of the league when he took over.

"He has not chopped and changed the squad too much, and Dick Campbell is the same at Arbroath.

Dick Campbell.
Dick Campbell.

"They have both added to their squads to strengthen things but kept the nucleus of players and those players have settled."

Elgin have been stuck in the bottom tier since they gained entry to the Scottish League in 2000.

Montrose were with them for many of those years and indeed spend 22 consecutive campaigns in the bottom league before finally being promoted in 2018.

Three years earlier, the Links Park outfit came within 90 minutes of being relegated to the Highland League when they faced Brora Rangers in a League 2 play-off over two legs.

Montrose maintained their survival by the skin of their teeth, defeating the Cattachs 3-2 on aggregate.

In December 2016 they appointed former Dunfermline and Forfar player Petrie as their boss, and within 16 months he took them to only the second major trophy success in their history when they won League Two.

Stewart Petrie.
Stewart Petrie.

Similarly, Arbroath were hovering around the League Two relegation zone when they sacked then-manager Todd Lumsden and replaced him with the enigmatic Campbell.

The following season he led the Red Lichties on the promotion challenge and although they trailed leaders Forfar by 11 points in February, they finished strongly to pip their neighbours to the title.

A year on, Arbroath reached the play-offs and just missed out on back-to-back promotions, but made up for it in 2018-19 by winning the title and climbing up to Scottish football's second tier for the first time in two decades.

Price's efforts to bring similar success to Elgin saw him retain the nucleus of his squad and make a promotion push in each of the last two seasons.

Although this term his team has struggled to pull away from the lower reaches, it hasn't disheartened their manager in his quest to bring progress to the Moray outfit.

"You could see I’ve tried to do similar things here," he said. "It is more difficult because of the geography but I believe in not chopping and changing squads if you don’t need to.

Gavin Price would love to emulate the success of Montrose and Arbroath at Elgin City. Picture: Daniel Forsyth..
Gavin Price would love to emulate the success of Montrose and Arbroath at Elgin City. Picture: Daniel Forsyth..

"People get used to your way of working and your way of playing and you build up relationships.

"I think there’s a good culture at these clubs (Montrose and Arbroath) that has given them success.

"To a certain extent I think we were going in that direction over the last two seasons, finishing third.

"Just because of what has happened this season it doesn’t mean that we are now getting it wrong.

"I’m sure both Arbroath and Montrose have gone through dips in the last five years as well, but over the piece they have come out very strong."

The City boss believes his own club shares similar qualities to those that have driven the Angus teams up the divisions.

"It's continuity, it’s trust, good relationships with boards - I think we’ve got a lot of these things in place already.

"It’s maybe just being able to attract players to take us to the next level, which financially and geographically is quite difficult for us.

"But there's no doubt that these clubs are an inspiration to Elgin City and what can be achieved at part-time level."

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