Ayr United suffered a difficult season last term, being relegated to the Scottish Second Division after a playoff defeat against Airdrie.
Then manager Brian Reid opted to depart the South Ayrshire club following the heartbreak of relegation, citing that he felt he had taken the club as far as he could.
During his five year reign at Somerset Park, Reid twice guided Ayr into the First Division but relegation this season triggered his decision to walk away after admitting that financial restraints had made it all but impossible to revamp his squad on a ‘shoestring’.
The 41 year old told the Daily Record: “I believe I have taken the club as far as I can and it’s an amicable agreement for me to leave.”
However, under the stewardship of former player Mark Roberts, ‘The Honest Men’ are hopeful of bouncing back once again.
“I can’t wait to get started,” Roberts told the BBC.
“I’m looking forward to the opportunity and I always relish a challenge and the chance to be the manager of Ayr United is one that I couldn’t pass up.”
And their preparations for the new season have got off to an impressive start.
New signings Darren Brownlie and goalkeeper Ally Brown have settled well into the squad, and pre-season results would suggest that good times are returning to Somerset Park.
A resounding 4-0 victory against Motherwell in Robert’s first game in charge, followed by an impressive high profile draw against Bolton Wanderers has left the new coach in an optimistic mood, with both his new recruits and his teams on field performances.
“It was a great result (against Motherwell). Everyone did what we asked and the enthusiasm the boys showed was brilliant,” he told the Official Ayr United website, www.ayrunitedfc.co.uk.
“I didn’t for a second think we would beat Motherwell 4-0 but fair play to the boys. Some of the goals we scored were excellent and they were all things that we had worked on in training so that was pleasing.
“I said to the players after the game that we aren’t getting carried away with the result as things can go downhill if they take their foot off the gas a wee bit.”
Following his sides draw against Ayr on their pre-season tour of Scotland, Bolton manager and former Scottish League player Owen Coyle had nothing but praise for Roberts’ side.
Speaking to the Official Bolton Wanderers website, http://www.bwfc.co.uk, the Scot said: “I thought the match was terrific. It was a great working exercise for my team against a great, hardworking Ayr United side.
“Marko has put a good side together and played well against us. We knew Ayr would be fit and that they would work hard. My only disappointment was that we conceded a goal as we had the game in the bag and had numerous chances to score.
“I love coming to Ayr United. It’s a great club with great people and we’ll certainly be back again.”
Since then Ayr have impressed whist progressing into the second round of the Scottish Communities Cup, annihilating Clyde 6-1 at Somerset Park to set what will prove to be something of a grudge match against St. Mirren in the next round.
The two sides will face each other in Paisley at the end of the month, and St Mirren coach Danny Lennon has urged his players to use the hurt from last season as motivation to progress into the next round.
Last season Ayr caused an upset by beating The Saints in the quarter finals, and Lennon told the Press Association, www.google.com/hostednews/ukpress, that he can’t wait to return the favour against Mark Roberts’ side.
“It still hurts to this day. Not so much that it was Ayr United; just that it was a wonderful missed opportunity.”
Lennon added: “We’ve got to capitalise on the hurt that we felt last season but we are under no illusions. It’s Ayr United once again and we are really looking forward to the challenge.
“Since being here, that’s the third time we’ve drawn them in one of the major competitions. It’s eachy-peachy at the moment – one for us in the Scottish Cup and one for them last year in the quarter-final of the League Cup. It’s got the makings of a great game and we’ve got home advantage once again.”