AYR UNITED chairman Lachlan Cameron admits star striker Lawrence Shankland will leave the club in the summer even if they win promotion to the Premiership.

Last season’s League One champions take on Inverness Caledonian Thistle tonight in the first leg of their play-off quarter-final as they aim to reach the top flight for the first time since 1978.

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Shankland’s 34 goals for the season means he won’t be short of offers once his contract expires in the coming weeks and Cameron revealed Ayr won’t stand in his way even if they go up.

He said: “I can’t see any situation where we would be able to hold on to Lawrence, even if we win promotion. Part of the deal when he signed again last year was that we would help facilitate a move for him come the end of this season, and we’re getting towards the end of the season and that’s still the plan.

“We won’t stand in his way. He’s done well by us and we’re prepared to back him and I think it’s only a good thing for us as a club. If we want to be able to attract players like Lawrence we need to help them eventually get to a higher level.

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“If we can continue that steady stream of talented players coming to us at the start of their careers then the better chance we have of moving forward as a club. And once we’re in a stronger position we’ll have more of a chance of holding on to players like Lawrence. But right now we’re not in a position to do that.”

Cameron revealed the club has been preparing since January for the possibility of top-tier football coming to Ayr for the first time in 41 years, with defender Michael Rose also set to leave for Coventry City.

He added: “It would be a huge summer of change if we went up but we’ve been preparing for that possibility since the winter.

“It’s been so long since we were in the top league I don’t know how that would feel. It would be a totally different world for us but it would be exciting.

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“Everything would change. The jump from League One to Championship was huge but to go up again to the Premiership would be astronomical. We’re excited just to have that opportunity to hopefully get there.”

Cameron admitted Ian McCall’s men have surpassed expectations just by reaching the play-offs following promotion last season. But the American was also disappointed that they couldn’t maintain their early-season form that saw them top the table just before Christmas.

He added: “If someone had said at the start of the season we would finish in fourth place and reach the play-offs then I wouldn’t have believed it. But then expectations change because we were playing so well. At one point finishing first or second wasn’t an unrealistic projection. It seemed conceivable.

“But then the form fell away and that chance went. But anything can happen in the play-offs so that’s what we’re hoping for. The talent is there in the squad but we just need to quickly regain that form we showed in 2018.

“The play-offs are a big challenge for us and everything is favoured towards the Premiership club. It would be fairer if everyone had to play six matches but it is what it is. We will give it our best shot and see where it takes us.”