Skelly seals switch to Gayfield

Arbroath have secured the services of Josh Skelly, after the youngster was released by managerless Dundee.

The forward isn’t unfamiliar to surroundings at Gayfield though after spending time on loan with the Angus club over the past two seasons.

Speaking about his first loan spell at the club, Josh said:

“It got a couple of games into the Under-20’s and Paul Hartley took me into his room – he told me he was trying to get me out on loan to Elgin. We had a game against Celtic on a Tuesday night up at Morton and I got an injury in my back, which kept me out for a month. The Elgin move then fell through. I got back playing again and about half way through the season, he took me into his office again,” explains Skelly, “he told me Arbroath was wanting me. With it being so close by, I was always going to accept it. It came as a bit of a surprise to me, I wasn’t expecting it.”

The then 18-year old had a successful first spell at Gayfield, despite a disappointing season in League Two for the Red Lichties.

I just wanted to get games and play professionally. I then hoped to go back and push and get into the main Dundee team. [On scoring his first senior goal] I remember big Greg Rutherford running down the line; I just got myself into the box and called for it. He cut it back and I just opened up my foot and thankfully it went in.”

For me, personally, playing games was a success,” continues Skelly. “For the team – where we finished wasn’t great, but, with the change of manager [Todd Lumsden replaced by Dick Campbell], that was a big change. He changed things around and it got a bit better.”

With the youngster unhappy with his lack of opportunities in the first team, he once again requested for a loan move away from Dens Park.

There was no point playing for the Under-20’s when I had already been out on loan, so I went in and asked him [Paul Hartley – Dundee manager] what was happening and he told me they were trying to get me out on loan again until January. There were a couple of teams interested in me – Montrose and Arborath, again. They came and watched a game and they both wanted me so I had a choice, but having worked with Dick [Campbell] before then I knew I wanted to go back on loan there, for a second time.”

Skelly had his most prominent season in senior football, featuring in 25 matches and scoring 5 goals.

Dick [Campbell] had a big massive clear out and brought in his own players. There were only four or five boys [that Skelly knew] from when I was there the first time, but, everyone made me feel welcome. When I spoke to Dick [Campbell] he said that promotion is what they were going for, so, that made my decision a bit more easier.”

The first game, I was on the bench, but then I went on a run and scored three goals in a row,” says Skelly, who agrees he is a versatile forward. “When I was playing up front I was scoring more goals, but, when I went wide, that is when I started to create more goals than I scored but as long as we are scoring, it doesn’t really bother me to be honest.”

Winning the League Two title was the best achievement of Skelly’s career to date.

We got beat by Forfar, at Gayfield – that put the [points difference] to 11 points and that was in January. But even then, the belief in the camp was still there that we were going to go on and win it. We knew that wasn’t the end, as we still had to play them away. We knew that all we had to do was look after ourselves. I got a wee knock, so I missed it [the match vs Stirling Albion which clinched the title]. I was sitting in the dugout and sitting there watching it, I was so nervous so I don’t know what I would have felt if I was actually playing!” claims Skelly. “The gaffer was asking for the score, every now and then, but, the Arbroath fans that had travelled through and gave us a brilliant support helped us as you knew when something had happened as the atmopshere changed or they’d start celebrating but I was keeping my eye on it [the Forfar score] as we just wanted to get it over the line and done.”

With Skelly’s contract not being renewed by the Dees, he knew exactly where he wanted to be, for season 2017/18.

The gaffer was asking what my situation was – but I didn’t really know with Paul Hartley getting sacked and Neil McCann taking over temporarily. Dundee were telling me other teams, such as Forfar, were interested in me, but, Dick [Campbell] was keen for me to stay and told me if I was being released, to come speak to him first. Being there for almost a year and a half, I was always wanting to go back there.”

After promotion to League One, it is a new challenge ahead Skelly.

For me, personally, it’ll be my first time playing in League One. It’ll be tough, but I think the gaffer will bring in some good players. To be fair, though, we have got a lot of players in the squad that already have the experience of previously playing in this league: Ryan McCord; Colin Hamilton; Ricky Little…they’ve all played in it so I think this team is strong enough to go challenge [for the title].

It is going to be a tough league, with Raith and Ayr coming down,” says Skelly, before concluding, “At the start of every season, your expectations are always to aim high and I’d like to think we will be challenging for a play-off spot.”


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