Reigning Super League champions Bonnyrigg Rose start the new season with a bang tomorrow at home to fellow title favourites Kelty Hearts.
Last season’s top two go head-to-head at New Dundas Park in a mouthwatering opener to herald in the new Junior campaign.
Rose were outsiders for the championship crown last season, a raft of new players and a new manager appointed in mid-June, but their march to the title was a procession in the end as they topped the table by nine points.
Expectation is something they’ll have to deal with this season. Many teams will visit New Dundas Park quite happy to sit back in the hope of taking a point as Rose no longer have a surprise factor about them.
“Pressure does come with it because we’re champions and teams will look at us as champions and see us as a scalp,” said midfielder Jonny Stewart.
“That’s something we’ve just got to deal with; we’ll just play our usual game. It was the manager’s first season and he came in quite late with a lot of new players. It maybe wasn’t ideal preparation for him but we took everyone by storm.
“We believed in ourselves, we knew we had a good squad and everyone worked hard for the manager. Maybe we took people by surprise as they thought we weren’t as good as what we were, but I don’t think that will happen this year.”
Manager Robbie Horn has been able to keep almost all of last season’s tight-knit squad together, with former captain Ross Archibald and on-loan defender Ross Drummond the only departures.
Sean Jamieson, top goalscorer at Musselburgh Athletic last season, has been brought in to add to an already potent frontline while midfielder Alex King returns for his second spell at the club from Linlithgow.
Former Hearts youngster Stewart has been made captain in the wake of club stalwart Archibald retiring at the end of last season. The 26-year-old is honoured and is looking forward to a three-game week which could set the tone for Rose’s season, with tomorrow’s match followed by a midweek derby away to Newtongrange Star before Rose compete in the William Hill Scottish Cup for the first time since 2012 when they face Glasgow University in preliminary round one at Airdrie’s Excelsior stadium next Sunday.
He added: “It’s great to be named club captain. I was captain a few times when Ross was out injured, but to be officially named captain is something I’m proud of and I’m looking forward to the responsibility.
“Ross was here for a good few years, he was a great captain and everyone at the club loved him, so I’ve got big boots to fill.
“This is a big week. It’s great to be involved in the big Scottish Cup and hopefully we can get a good run.”
Expect Bo’ness United to be up challenging with Bonnyrigg and Kelty for top spot this season. The BUs ended last season by securing the East of Scotland Cup and they’ll be eager for more silverware.
Manager Allan McGonigal has recruited well with brothers Ruari and Roddy MacLennan making the move from fierce rivals Linlithgow Rose along with striker Colin Strickland.
The Newtown Park men have been made joint 3/1 favourites alongside Bonnyrigg, Kelty and Linlithgow with league sponsors McBookie.
Up the road at Prestonfield, boss David McGlynn has brought in former Arbroath boss Todd Lumsden as his new assistant while he has also gone down the Senior route with new signings – ex-Hibs kid Bradley Donaldson brought in from Cowdenbeath, experienced goalkeeper Richard Bernard picked up from East Stirling and former Berwick Rangers midfielder Ross Gray arriving at Linlithgow.
Newtongrange, Musselburgh and Penicuik Athletic all have new bosses at the helm in Stevie McLeish, Calvin Shand and Johnny Harvey. Their squads have all taken on a new shape with many of last season’s Musselburgh side linking up with McLeish, while Shand has brought in several ex-Star players.
It promises to be another enthralling campaign.