2019 provided a feast of flowing football for the Fir Park faithful. The year started with young guns thrilling and ended with the team third in the league. Not bad for a fan owned outfit.
We entered the New Year struggling in ninth place. A change of direction was needed and it arrived with youthful flair and style. Stephen Robinson switched from direct physical methods to a team full of blossoming young talent happy to use passing and pace to thrill the claret and amber support.
Ryan Bowman, Gael Bigirimana and Andy Rose had left during the winter transfer window as Gboly Ariyibi, on loan, and Ross McCormack arrived. Much hope was invested in the return of our ex-striker but it was the tricky winger that proved to be the better signing.
David Turnbull cheered us by accepting a two year extension to his contract ensuring that the club’s interests were protected. Jake Hastie had spent the first half of the season with Alloa but on his recall he soon became headline news. The pair joined Allan Campbell and Barry Maguire (on loan to Queen of the South) for a pair of Scotland U21 appearances in Spain.
Before the season end more home grown youngsters joined Chris Cadden in the first team. James Scott, Jamie Semple, David Devine and Dean Cornelius made appearances to give us a glimpse of the future.
Football resumed with a Scottish Cup exit at the hands of Ross County but that disappointment was soon forgotten as we set up a season saving run of six league wins.
Starting with Hamilton at the Hamilton end we added Hibs, Dundee, Livingston, St Mirren and Hearts to gain 18 valuable points. There was even talk that we might reach the split in the top half of the table – remarkable, given that there was concern about the play-off stop a few weeks earlier.
Our young guns became the centre of transfer talk and eventually Hastie chose to agree a pre-contract with Rangers. Liam Grimshaw chose to extend his stay by another year. Speculation grew about the fate of David Turnbull and the saga dragged on well after the season ended.
The post-split games offered a chance for early preparations for the new campaign. Declan Gallagher, Liam Polworth and Jake Carroll agreed to join in the summer while Curtis Main and Tom Aldred looked elsewhere.
The season ended with a 3-2 win over Livingston in front of almost 6,000 fans. Free tickets for kids swelled the crowd and they got to see enough to encourage many to become Fir Park regulars in years to come. We finished the league in 8th place.
Before the sun set on the final day tractors were on the pitch lifting the grass. The new surface was in place for the Betfred Cup in July.