Following his League One title winning success with Ayr United last term, Paddy Boyle is hoping to make it back-to-back promotions with his new club Peterhead. Boyle spoke to jordanburtfootball.com early on this week about the season ahead.
The former Ayr United defender was a part of the Honest Men’s League One title winning squad last term.
“At the start of last season we knew it was likely to be between ourselves and Raith Rovers, and that it would go all the way; we were prepared for that. We had a belief in the changing room that we had a stronger squad, particularly as the season progressed, but, it went right down to the wire and we nearly threw it away! Luckily for us they dropped points on the last day of the season, so, it was definitely a relief for everyone at the club, to be honest with you. It was probably one of – if not thee – best achievement in my career to date.
I was hoping to stay [ay Ayr] after being there for 3 years, but, if I am honest with you, I knew that if we won the league, that there was a chance I would be moving on. I thought the gaffer [Ian McCall] may want to bring in a few younger players and address the balance within the squad, which is fine. I am disappointed not to be staying: I would be lying if I said anything else, but, staying in full-time football long-term was not in my plans, so, while it has possibly came a year or two early, I have moved on now and maybe it will be for the best in the end.”
The defender has been part-time before with Airdrieonians and has transitioned comfortably back into a routine.
“I know what this level is all about. I have been working on loads away from football for a few years now: I have a University degree and I have been working towards other things as well, so, going back down to part-time football didn’t phase me. You always want to play at the highest level and be given the best contract, but, sometimes when you haven’t experienced it before, it can become a bit of a culture shock to those who have maybe been professional for 10 or 12 years, whereas, I have been there and done it all before, so, I knew what to expect this summer. Some players can struggle with the fitness aspect of it – if you were at peak fitness and then you only train for 2 days a week because you have work commitments and things like that, then it can take its toll. Let’s be honest here too, a player will likely be getting a smaller wage and that brings another type of pressure with it. In terms of myself, I have been preparing for this moment for the past 5 or so years, so, it is normal to me now. Going full-time with Ayr last year was a wee bonus for me as I wasn’t looking to leave the club last summer; playing football every day is the best job I could ever have. If you play in Scotland though, going part-time is something that realistically is going to happen sooner rather than later for most guys.
I had spoken to Peterhead last summer before I signed on again with Ayr as they’d shown an interest in me, but, I wanted to stay with Ayr as I felt we could go on and do stuff last year and that is what happened. Dropping down to League Two doesn’t bother me – I could have stayed in League One if I wanted to, but, the attraction of Peterhead was to join a team who wanted to win the league title this season: I went for that over ‘status’ if you like – some players want to stay as high as they can in football, which is fine, but, I want to win things; I am 31 now – I want to look back on my career and have a few medals sitting there.”
Once Boyle makes his debut for the Blue Toon in League Two this campaign, that will see the left-back having played in all 4 SPFL divisions.
“Every division you play in, as they go up, it gets slightly better, if I am honest. Sometimes it seems that clubs have a good basis of a team or a good starting eleven but the lower down the leagues you go, they sometimes don’t have the depth there. The higher up you go, the players are fitter and stronger, so, you don’t get away with as much as you would in the lower leagues. You’ll get punished as the players are more ruthless and I would say that is the main difference: each league probably has a 10% increase in standard, I would say. Teams in Scotland can’t afford big squads anymore, so, that means good players need to go and look for where the contracts are and that may mean you need to play a little bit lower than you want to play or your ability – I am not saying myself, but, there are certainly players who are dropping lower than they should because there are very few contracts out there waiting for them. We have got a strong squad at Peterhead – it is undeniable that we have players playing below their standard, but, there are a lot of other good players and teams in our division, too, so, it isn’t as easy as having a group of players who are supposedly better than the league you are playing in: you need to go out on to the park and prove that.”
With the experiences Boyle has gained throughout his career, he can add some more nous to an already well-established outfit in which Jim McInally has built at Balmoor Stadium.
“I think to win the league has got to be the aim. I think this situation is similar to what the aim was last year with Ayr; if we don’t win the league, then winning the play-offs and getting promoted is a must! I think when you look at the other sides, such as Clyde and Edinburgh City, they have recruited well and are looking strong, so, it definitely won’t be easy. There are a good core of experienced players there already, but, myself and a couple of other boys they have brought in can maybe add something different too to help them over the line this year around. Sometimes it can just be about steadying the ship if you have 3 or 4 bad results. If you can guide the younger players, then, hopefully your more talented players at the top end of the pitch can win you games of football.
I knew a few of the boys before I came, but, pre-season has been tough: there has been a lot of running, but, that is what you expect at this time of the season. We have a good group in place right now; we have a lot of young players who have ambitions of playing at a higher level and are doing their own thing outside of the football club in their own time, such as topping up their fitness, so we are all really fit and raring to go. It isn’t sometimes as you’ve got boys who are from Aberdeen and boys who are from Glasgow, but, with the games coming thick and fast, that will make sure we are ready for the league starting.”
Following a 0-0 draw with Brechin City on Saturday. The Blue Toon will now travel to Fife to face Boyle’s former side, Dunfermline. However, the full-back will miss the match through injury.
“Unfortunately, last Saturday I hurt myself in a friendly match. Hopefully I won’t be out for too long, but, the most important thing is the team. We are all enjoying the BetFred Cup so far and testing ourselves against higher ranked opposition. We want to try and progress in this competition but it is very difficult for teams from the lower leagues. I think we were maybe a little bit better than Brechin in the first-half on Saturday and then dominated the second period without really creating too many chances. To win the game on penalties, that is good. We never lost a game during pre-season so to continue that unbeaten run and build more momentum up can only be a good thing. We have a tough match coming up against Dunfermline now. We fancy ourselves against any part-time side so this will be a good test for us and see how we are faring.
The boys have actually spoken and laughed about the fact last season we played alright there but got hammered 6-1. Dunfermline can do that to you though as East End Park is a big pitch and if you aren’t on it, they will punish you. You find out more about yourself and your team-mates when you play in these types of games and I am sure the manager will take a lot from it. It can sometimes be a wake-up call for some players as it shows them the standard they must reach if they are to go up the leagues. I think the league is our priority though as promotion is paramount, anything other than that and this season will be a failure. We have to be looking to go up and i think that is achievable with the squad we have put together.”