SPARKS will surely fly at Inveralmond Stadium this weekend with the opening fixtures of the Jack High Insurance-sponsored Indoor Bowls Premier League headlined by defending champions West Lothian’s clash at home to fierce rivals East Lothian.
Home carpet advantage is usually counted as a major asset but less so in a first match of the season and especially when the visitors to the Livingston venue are as strong and experienced as East Lothian.
East Lothian may have dipped over the last three seasons but prior to that they had reigned supreme on the national scene, having captured the Premier League crown four times in succession between 2006 and 2009.
Their hopes of getting back to the top, however, are hindered by the likely absence of internationalists Alex Marshall MBE and Derek Oliver for most of the campaign.
The Garden County will also campaign without two of their Midlothian-reared players in Brian Wyllie and John Stevenson, while Andrew Jeffrey and Alan Young can’t make Saturday’s opener.
These dark clouds do have a silver lining, though, and it comes in the shape of international star Billy Mellors, who is set to return to action and will do so at skip, with fellow caps Scott Kennedy, Willie Wood and Graham Robertson also at the helm for the visitors.
Robertson, with 78 caps to his name, will captain an East Lothian team that, despite the missing stars, can still boast formidable back-end partnerships in Dougie Berwick/Robertson; Mark Johnston/Wood; Jamie Higgins/Kennedy; and Stuart Bebbington/Mellors.
West Lothian launch their A Section campaign with the benefit of no immediate team issues and a settled line from last season that continues to be captained by Thomas Mann. The make-up of the A section is extremely competitive as reflected in the other opening fixtures which see Bainfield host Midlothian and Coatbridge welcoming Falkirk.
WL team: Rink 1: Paul Lynas, Raymond Logan, Stuart Johnston, Mark Allison. Rink 2: Bryan Cooper, James Greenock, Des Hagart, Neil Speirs. Rink 3: Jamie Gracie, Blair Mackie, George Sneddon, Calum Logan. Rink 4: Cameron Greer, Ian Drysdale, James Speirs.