Proud chairman Jim Lumsden believes Edinburgh City will take the step up to League Two in their stride because his club have grown accustomed to making significant season-on-season improvements.
After replacing Spartans as the dominant force in the Lowland League over the past couple of years, the Meadowbank side made history on Saturday when they became the first team to win promotion to League Two via the pyramid play-off. A penalty from long-serving City player Dougie Gair just three minutes from the end of the second leg at a sun-kissed Ochilview was enough to earn the Capital outfit a 1-0 win on the day and a 2-1 aggregate triumph over East Stirlingshire, who were demoted to the Lowland League.
Lumsden, a devoted supporter of the club for the last 20 years, has been chairman for the last three years and is humbled at the prospect of City playing in Scottish football’s fourth tier. Although he admits their first target must simply be survival, he and manager Gary Jardine have overseen enough steady progress over the past few years to be encouraged about their prospects of continuing to flourish when they make the step up.
“We’ll just have to raise our game on and off the park,” Lumsden told the Evening News. “When we left the East of Scotland to join the Lowland League we all had to up our game in terms of club licensing and things like that. We’re making another step up but we’ll organise ourselves and we’ll manage.
“Season on season we’ve improved every year that Gary’s been in charge. In the first season of the Lowland League, there was no play-off and me and Gary said from the start that we would use that season to build the squad to the point where we thought we could win the league.
“In the last few years we’ve taken quite a few friendlies against League One and League Two teams because those teams are a step quicker and we wanted to get up to that level, and we’ve managed to do that.”
Lumsden insists that they have achieved their dream through having a clear plan rather than by having any financial advantage over their rivals. “We haven’t thrown the kitchen sink at it money-wise. We targeted two or three players to augment an already-strong squad and they have helped us get to this point.
“I don’t know what other clubs in the Lowland League spend, but we won’t be the highest spenders. We pushed the boat out a wee bit to get Joe Mbu in but most of the squad are players we’ve brought in from our own set-up. If you’ve not got it, you can’t spend it. That’s the way we work and that won’t change.”
After 13 years with City – five as outright manager – Jardine was overwhelmed at being the man to lead them into the league for the first time in their present incarnation.
“It feels surreal. It means everything to me. It’s my best achievement in the game, without a doubt. I’ve won the league twice and won a few cups, but to make history and become the first team to be promoted via the play-off is mind-blowing. It seems crazy that Edinburgh City could be playing in the fourth tier of Scottish football, but we’re there.
“I joined as a player but had to retire due to injury. I’ve been coach, assistant manager and joint manager, and this is my fifth season as manager in my own right. The club’s fantastic. I really love the way everybody here goes about their business.
“We’ve always had loads of ability but the main factor in our promotion has been our togetherness. We’ve added a few new players but we’ve kept the same nucleus of guys who have been with the club for a long time. I think that shone through – we had nobody asking about bonuses or anything like that.”
One of those long-serving players was Gair, who kept his cool to score the only goal of the second leg after Shire’s Reece Donaldson had been sent off for hauling down Ross Allum as he burst through on goal. It ensured a deserved victory for the visitors, who came on strong after an even first half, and Jardine insists every player currently at the club will be given the opportunity to make the step up.
“We’ll have to strengthen but that’s something we do every year anyway,” he said. “These boys have worked ever so hard to get where they are and every one of them will get an opportunity. Some will find it’s their level, I think some are better than League Two level and others might not make the grade, but they’ll certainly get their chance.”
One man who might not be around to continue the adventure is right-back Aaron Dunsmore. The on-loan Hibs right-back is hopeful of forcing his way into the first team of his parent club but has loved the experience he has had at City.
“When I got the chance to come on loan, I knew there was a chance to get to the play-offs, so I was delighted to come here,” said Musselburgh boy Dunsmore. “It’s been great for me playing alongside guys like Joe Mbu who have played higher up the leagues.
“It’s massive what we’ve done – you never know what could happen over the next ten years. I could end up playing for Hibs against Edinburgh City in the League Cup in a few months’ time. I’ve got a year left on my deal at Hibs so hopefully I can go back in pre-season and stake a claim for a first-team place.”