Inside the fairy tale of Arbroath when Scott Stewart says that Dick Campbell is keeping high-level conversations to a minimum

Scott Stewart can’t even think about it.

If your mind wanders to Ibrox, Celtic Park, Tynecastle or Pittodrie, you quickly have to stop imagining it.

And much less talk about it.

Especially since there will be a lot to pay if your boss Dick Campbell finds out you’re getting ideas above your position.

But it’s hard for any Arbroath player not to dream after Friday night’s win over Championship title favourites, Kilmarnock, sent them further to the top.

That’s what you’re supposed to do as a footballer, right?

And for every part-timer at Gayfield, it’s almost impossible not to wonder what can be accomplished this season.

Son of former Airdrie stalwart Sandy, Stewart is a physical education teacher at Trinity High School.

But on match day he is one of Campbell’s key cogs in the Arbroath engine room and Stewart was named man of the match in that massive win over Killie at Gayfield.

If the Red Lichties are promoted to the Premiership, it will be one of the greatest stories in the long and rich history of our game.

Given their resources, they have no right to compete for a place in the top flight.

But they seem likely to be in the mix come May.

And as much as Stewart & Co. wants to think about playing in the big stadiums, in front of big crowds next season, their manager won’t let them.

So far, the secret to Arbroath’s success has been as much his humility as his skill.

Stewart almost has to control himself if he feels like he’s in danger of getting carried away.

He said MailSport :: “Suddenly, at Christmas, we find ourselves first in the league.

“We were thinking, ‘What is going on here?’

“At the beginning of the season, everyone thought we just had a little purple spot.

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“But we just picked up result after result and we’re still up there. It has been amazing.

“Strange things can happen in football. Leicester City won the Premier League and Greece won the European Championship.

“But we can’t get ahead of ourselves because things can change very quickly.

“When you start as a child, you dream of playing at the highest level.

“When you are young you think you are going to play in the Premiership.

“But as you get older, you realize you may not meet that standard.

“This season, I’m trying as hard as I can because I’m thinking, ‘Well, where can my career take me now?’

“Our mantra this season has been to just take each game as it comes. That has taken us to the top of the league.

“It would be huge to be promoted, especially at a club like Arbroath. But there is still a long way to go before we start to think about it.

“Nothing has been achieved yet. It would be a great achievement for us because we feel that we are doing it for the community and for everyone in the club.

But I still can’t think about it. The boss won’t let me, he’ll curse me if I do!”

It wouldn’t be a Campbell team if Arbroath didn’t have unity, resilience and an indomitable spirit.

But can you really make it to the top of a division that includes Kilmarnock, Hamilton Accies, Inverness Caley Thistle and Dunfermline on that alone?

As much as Stewart is proud of the bond the Arbroaths have, he acknowledges that his skill has so far gone unnoticed.

He said: “When people look at us, the first thing they will say is that we work hard and have a good team spirit.

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“And don’t get me wrong, it’s a great group of guys looking deeply into each other.

“The manager has us grafting for the cause. But we also have quality and we have shown it this season. When you go to Inverness, Killie and Partick Thistle, and you get results, you need quality.

“Team spirit will only get you so far. The gaffer’s expectation is that we work hard, that’s the basics. We have done that.

“But we also have guys with real ability and they’ve shown what they’re capable of.

“The coach has played an important role in this. He brought a great core of guys and pushed us forward.

“He has standards. He makes sure we defend as a team, but he also allows our strikers to express themselves.

“His input is massive, in terms of making sure we’re ready for a Saturday. He makes sure we don’t slip up.

“He is unlike anyone I have ever worked with. People comment on his management style, but he brings out the best in people.

“Being a part-time team in a full-time league, you need it. He’s getting the best out of the players he has.”

When Stewart signed for Arbroath from Airdrie in 2019, he expected to battle relegation every season.

Even his father, who currently trains in India as Owen Coyle’s number 2, has been surprised by the progress of the Gayfield team.

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If it continues and the impossible becomes reality, the club may have to make a decision.

Do they stay part-time or push the boat forward by becoming a full-time Premiership side?

Stewart and others with jobs may also have to reevaluate their careers.

But they are not thinking about that yet. The 25-year-old said: “When I signed here, I never imagined us in this position.

“Along with Alloa when they were in the Championship, it was just supposed to be about surviving.

“And even this season, our main goal was to stay awake.

“When I got here, I thought it would always be like this, staying in the league.

“You always hope to have one of those seasons where you don’t know where it’s going to take you. That is what we are doing now.

“This season has been great, but did we expect it? Probably not. My dad is amazed at how well we’ve done. But they all are!

“A lot of full-time guys go part-time, get a job and settle down. It is the security of having a career.

“I have a good job as a teacher, which I enjoy. It works perfectly for me, being at school full time and playing football part time.

“I have not thought beyond what is happening now. I’m just trying to focus on the season and see where it takes us.

“It will be difficult, but we will try to keep it going. If we are successful, it will be because we have kept our feet on the ground.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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