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Scottish Championship Player Focus: Ayr United's Shankland

Updated on 12:21pm GMT 5 October 2018
Scottish Championship Player Focus: Ayr United's Shankland

Ayr United have been a bit of a yo-yo club in recent years, dipping in and out of Scotland’s lower divisions for the better part of a decade. The club would endure a 4-season stint in League One, before finally managing to make it back up to the Championship. However, the Honest Men weren’t able to survive those 9 months in Scotland’s 2nd tier, prompting their relegation once again. Their return to League One is where things would really start to change for the Ayrshire club.

This change came in the shape of Lawrence Shankland, who signed for the club in September 2017 as a free agent. As is the norm with lower division players, Shankland was relatively unknown, but that would soon change. Shankland was born in Glasgow in 1995 and was part of the youth system at Queen’s Park, where he would also be teammates with future Liverpool star and Scotland captain, Andy Robertson. After amassing a huge tally of goals at the club, he was then promoted to the club’s senior team. Shankland would then leave school, and the club was able to find the youngster a job, as being a part-time football player for Queen’s Park wasn’t enough to live off.

After further impressing at Queen’s Park, the young striker caught the attention of Aberdeen in 2013, but due to lack of experience as a professional he was placed in the Dons’ under-20 squad. His consistent performances and goals at Dunfermline- where he was sent out on-loan- earned him a promotion to the senior squad at Pittodrie, where he would regularly play as a substitute. Aberdeen would offer a new contract to the youngster that would end in September 2017, and he didn’t hesitate to sign it.

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Despite the new contract, Shankland would yet again end up on-loan at two different clubs for the duration of it. His first spell after signing was at St Mirren, as the Paisley club fought for promotion, with the striker managing to find the back of the net an impressive 10 times before returning to Aberdeen at the end of the season. The Dons would send Shankland out once again to St Mirren, but the loan was cut short and the striker found himself at their rivals, Greenock Morton, helping them to a 4th-place finish and providing 4 goals.

That season would bring an end to Shankland’s time as an Aberdeen player. That summer would see him sign for Ayr United, and that’s were his story really started to flourish. It was an incredible season for the Honest Men. They would end up winning League One by a single point- but it was thoroughly deserved. However, the stand out performer was, without a doubt, Shankland himself. After wanting to prove himself for so long, the young striker finally did just that, as he netted an incredible 29 goals for his side, aiding them in their quest to return to Scotland’s 2nd tier. Shankland performed so well that he was awarded with League One’s PFA Player’s Player of the Year.

The question everyone now faced was whether or not Shankland was ready for the bigger league, as the difference in quality between one division and the other is night and day. In a word, yes, Shankland has so far proven to be the real deal up until now. In just over 2 months of competitive football, the Glaswegian has found the back of the net 17 times- which is already more than half the goals he scored in all of last season. Not only has the payer’s performances been good, but the Ayr United team itself is doing extremely well for a club that just over a year ago was relegated back to League One.

The Honest Men are currently in 1st place in the Championship with a cool 16 points, just 2 ahead of Ross County. Other than a 5-0 thrashing against Queen of the South and a 0-0 draw at Inverness, the club has won every single Championship game. Ayr United also made their way into the latter stages of the League Cup, where they unfortunately lost 4-0 in the quarter-finals at Ibrox to Steven Gerrard’s Rangers.

It will be interesting to see just how Lawrence Shankland evolves over the course of the season, and if the striker continues his form and manages to stay clear of any injury problems he should make in to the Scottish Premiership without any trouble, and it won’t be long before a big club comes calling for him- and only then will he be able to prove himself once and for all for the world to see.

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