Aug 3 2012 by Andrew Burns, Dumfries Standard Friday
Palmerston duo Johnston and Clark relishing promotion battle
ALLAN Johnston and Sandy Clark only have one thing in mind going into the new season – promotion.
The Doonhamers’ dynamic duo will lead the charge as the Dumfries side aim to bounce back into the Scottish First Division at the first attempt.
Johnston, 38, said: “Our target this season has to be promotion. That is our aim and we are certainly capable of achieving this.”
Palmerston number two Clark, 55, added: “The fact that the club has been able to remain full-time is a tremendous benefit to us.
“Now we must repay that benefit by fulfilling the potential and that potential is to win the league.
“We know that's what we have to do and that's the target.”
Ex-Hearts and Rangers star “Magic” Johnston was appointed player-manager in May following Gus MacPherson's departure and he quickly named former manager Clark as his assistant.
The two, who worked together at Tynecastle in the 1990s, have been working tirelessly since in an attempt to build a title-winning squad.
Queens’ Scottish Second Division campaign will kick off in Dumfries next weekend when Dick Campbell's Forfar side travel to Palmerston.
Three of the Doonhamers' first four games are at home and former Hearts and St Johnstone boss Clark insists that home form will be vital in their chase for promotion.
He said: “Our home will be massively important.
“The pitch is looking great and we really enjoyed getting on the park for the training session.
“We need to win our games and ensure that we have the right set-up for certain away games.
“For example, the same team that plays Brechin at home in the summer might not necessarily be the same team that plays Brechin away in the winter.
“At the end of the day, it's horses for courses and we need to get that balance right.”
Johnston and Clark retained a large number of last season's squad while adding experienced stars such as Willie Gibson and talented rookies in Mark Durnan and Chris Mitchell.
Queens won all but one of their pre-season fixtures and opened the competitive season with a win at Dumbarton last weekend in the first round of the Ramsdens Cup.
Johnston has been completing his UEFA Pro Licence coaching badge in Ireland throughout the summer alongside familiar faces such as Neil McCann and ex-Celtic trio Chris Sutton, Jackie McNamara and Alan Thompson.
And he said that fans can expect plenty of attacking football on Palmerston's newly refurbished pitch this season.
He said: “I think we have plenty of attacking options and I am expecting plenty of goals this season.
“Re-signing players like Danny Carmichael and bringing in Willie Gibson is crucial to that and I really do believe that we have great options in the forward positions.
“We conceded the most goals last season and scored the least and this is something we are looking to reverse this season.”
The Doonhamers have been priced as second favourites to take the second division crown this season behind Ayr United, also looking to bounce back from relegation.
Newcomers Alloa Athletic, who romped to the title in last season's bottom tier, and big-spenders Arbroath have also been tipped for a shot at promotion.
Clark, dad of last weekend's Queens goal hero Nicky, revealed that he has been very impressed with the team’s attitude in pre-season, while gaffer Johnston has challenged the younger Doonhamers to seize their chance this season.
Clark said: “I think that the lads have a lot of spirit about them.
“There's a real freshness about the place which you often find with a new manager.
“All I can say about the guys in pre-season is that their attitude has been great and they have responded well to everything we have tried to implement.”
Johnston added: “We have a lot of the same players as last year but the attitude has been first-class.
“We have a very young squad in general but it's not a huge squad and a lot of the younger boys will be involved this season and they need to step up to the plate.
“They will definitely get their chance and it's important that they take it.”