Laird hails special Boro

Scott Laird

Scott Laird - Credit: Archant

Former Boro favourite Scott Laird speaks to The Comet ahead of facing Stevenage for Preston North End.

Scott Laird with the champagne after the League Two play-off final with Stevenage.

Scott Laird with the champagne after the League Two play-off final with Stevenage. - Credit: Daniel Wilson

Scott Laird is a happy man.

Scott Laird after scoring for Boro

Scott Laird after scoring for Boro - Credit: Daniel Wilson

Not that he is normally unhappy – he laughingly refers to himself as a bit of a ‘dipstick off the pitch’ – but speaking to the Comet the day after his Preston North End side moved into the play-off places following a win over Oldham, the former Stevenage full-back seems even chirpier than normal.

It has something to do with the previous evening’s result despite PNE not being at their best – “it was a good sign not to play at our best but to pick up three points,” he says – but it also has something to do with the game being just the third start he has made since he broke his leg last year.

Laird was one of a group of players who headed for Deepdale in the summer of 2012 following Graham Westley’s appointment at the club, and after a promising start to last season he was injured in a reckless tackle against Notts County in November and missed the rest of the season.

After a long recovery – Laird was told to ‘calm down’ by manager Simon Grayson after making a tackle in his first training session back – the former Stevenage man made his second coming in the Capital One Cup against Burnley on August 27.

He played 90 minutes in that match followed by 71 at Walsall the following Saturday, and he got a further 71 minutes under his belt against Oldham Athletic on Monday evening.

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“I’ve always said that when I get over the white line [I’m a pro], but off the pitch I’m a bit of an idiot, a bit of a dipstick, but the injury hasn’t affected me,” Laird said with his usual warmth.

“I’m still getting back, I’m still taking game time to get where I was. I’m not yet [as attacking] as I was, but I’ve been playing in these last three games and it has been good for me.

“I played through pre-season and the gaffer gave me as much time as possible and I had a few reserve games and now I’m back in the team.”

Laird is likely to face his old side this weekend when Stevenage come to town. For Boro boss Graham Westley and his assistant Dino Maamria, it is a chance to try to put one over their former employers.

Asked what sort of reception Westley may expect to receive, the former Boro defender said: “I don’t know. I hope it’s a normal game, just another game.

“The fans probably see it differently. It didn’t work out when he was here but that’s football: sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. It was a shame really, but on Saturday it’s just another one of those fixtures.

“A lot of people have their own opinions of [Graham] but what he did and we did as players was remarkable, to get to the play-offs in 2012. He was a massive part in that.

“He brought the team together and got them to knit into a team and the philosophy. I was just surprised it took him that long to get [a move to another club].”

For Laird – who is at Deepdale alongside former Boro players Joel Byrom, John Mousinho and Chris Beardsley in addition to former assistant boss John Dreyer – it will be a chance to pick up three points against a club where he enjoyed wonderful success.

“That was a special time, special seasons that we all shared,” Laird said. “Even now looking back we can’t get our heads around what we did. It’ll take 10-15 years before we can look back and see what we all did together.”

The unassuming Laird added: “We might not have been the most gifted of footballers, but the togetherness and the things we did was special. We were all best friends. It’s still hard to believe what we did and the manner in which we did it. It is something I’ll always remember.”

As well as Laird and Byrom and the like, Stevenage will have to find a way to keep former England striker Kevin Davies out of the game on Saturday – with the mouth-watering prospect of him and Jon Ashton competing to get the better of each other.

Asked what the former Bolton man has brought to the side, Laird said: “He’s been brilliant. When he talks people listen, he has a lot of knowledge and experience that he can spread as the season goes on.

“He hasn’t scored as many as he would have wanted or we wanted but the little touches he makes and his first touch, you know he has played at the highest level. He has that class, and that’s no disrespect to League 1.”

Laird was among a number of former Stevenage players who made the trip to Goodison Park on August 28 for Boro’s Capital One Cup tie with Everton.

Asked what he thought of the ‘new’ Boro side, the 25-year-old, who played more than 220 games in a four-year spell with the club having been signed by Peter Taylor from Plymouth Argyle, said: “It was good to go and see the team, they equipped themselves very well. They put in a good performance and were unlucky not to take it to penalties.

“They’ve got some good players, they passed it well and defended well. We’ll have to be at our best to pick up three points.

“[Graham] will be wanting to [take all three points] like any manager. When you come here it’s a very good club and a lovely stadium and people tend to raise their games like I did when I was an opposition player coming to Preston. I’m sure it’ll be a good game.”