SCOTT BROWN says he’s expecting a much closer contest when the 2024-25 Championship season kicks off at the beginning of August.

The full fixture list for the Championship, as well as for the Premiership, League 1 and League 2, was released by the SPFL on June 27, with Ayr United kicking off away to newly-promoted Hamilton Accies on the opening day.

Before that trip to New Douglas Park on August 3, Ayr have a busy programme of pre-season friendly matches to fit in, as well as four group fixtures in the Premier Sports Cup.

It all kicked off on Thursday night, when the Honest Men beat East Stirlingshire 4-2 in their opening friendly match to lift the John Sludden Trophy at the Falkirk Stadium.

The countdown is now on to the glamour friendly against Celtic at Somerset Park on Friday, July 5 to mark the official opening of the ground’s new North Stand.

Last season’s Championship campaign saw Dundee United stretch away at the top to win the title in comfortable fashion, while Arbroath were cast adrift at the other end and had their relegation confirmed long before the final round of fixtures.

But Brown says he’s anticipating the 2024-25 version will be much more akin to two seasons ago, when all but one of the league’s 10 teams, including Ayr, still had something to play for going into the last day.

Speaking to the club’s media team about his expectations for the new season, Brown said: “It’s a lot tighter this season, with Livingston coming down and Dundee United going up.

“It’s going to be huge for us, with all the new signings have come in, and hopefully the lads gel together really, really well.

“It’s been good for myself and Stephen [Whittaker, assistant manager] to get the lads in pre-season, push them through their paces, but also to see how we want them to play from start to finish.

“The lads have been excellent. We’ve got a lot of new signings, and hopefully a couple more to come, but the players that are here are here to make sure they fight for that starting XI place.”

Among the players staying on at Somerset is full back Paddy Reading, who signed a contract extension during the summer that will keep him at Somerset Park until the summer of 2026.

Reading missed the end of last season because of a knee injury sustained in February, but the full back says he’s now fighting fit and raring to go.

The 25-year-old told the club’s media team: “It’s the first time I’ve had a serious injury that’s put me out of action so it took a while to get used to being on the sideline and having to watch on.

“But I’m back  now and I’m feeling really good – I’m feeling fit and feeling sharp again so I’m looking forward to what’s to come.”

For more from both Brown and Reading see the club’s official website at