Edinburgh City captain Dougie Gair is preparing for a season of new experiences after promotion to the SPFL, but the re-formatted Scottish Challenge Cup will certainly be different for every lower league Scottish club.
The SPFL announced last week that Irish and Welsh clubs will enter the rebranded Irn-Bru Cup in the fourth round, while under-20 sides from all 12 Premiership clubs will be in the first-round draw.
Although he hasn’t had a chance to discuss it with his team-mates yet, Gair isn’t totally convinced that the changes were necessary the right ones, but acknowledged they have certainly renewed interest in the competition. “We’ve not really had a chance to discuss it, we’ve not seen each other since the Player of the Year night a couple of weeks ago, which is probably for the best!” he said.
“We’ve got a group chat [on social media] and it got put in there and it’s an interesting change they’ve made, bringing in the teams from other countries and good teams at that who have played Champions League and things like that. The under-20s is an interesting one as well. They’ll be in from the first round and the Irish and Welsh come in at the fourth round. We’ll hopefully still be hanging about then but you never know. It’s certainly interesting and it’s freshened it up – whether it’s right or not I don’t know.”
Gair also raised the issue of travel costs, especially relevant to part-time clubs like City, of which he believes the competition could be asking a lot.
“They’ll have to look at subsidising some clubs depending on who gets drawn where,” he said. “You can’t expect a club like us to fork out to go over to Northern Ireland for one or two days to play a game of football, so it has to be looked at from that perspective. They’re going to get a home tie at some point so somebody’s going to have to do it.”
The notion of an Irish or Welsh side winning a Scottish cup competition is one the City skipper also finds unusual. “It’s a bit strange,” Gair said. “It’s obviously something they’re doing to try and generate a bit of interest. It’s probably not the right thing, but it’s what they’re going with. I think it’s still to be passed by UEFA or whatever but we’ll see what happens. If they do end up winning it I’m sure there’ll be a bit of an outcry but there’s not much we can do.”
Despite some reservations, the midfielder explained the buzz following promotion means Gary Jardine’s players are eagerly anticipating every challenge that awaits them in the coming season.
“We’ll have enthusiasm for most of our games,” insisted Gair. “It’s never been a problem before anyway but with new surroundings for us, the buzz is still there and the guys are flying. Folk haven’t stopped on the chat since we finished up. We’re going in to it excited and looking forward to the challenge.”