Joe Mbu is raring to go for Edinburgh City’s Petrofac Training Cup first round tie against Queen’s Park tomorrow, but there’s also a tinge of regret that the teams aren’t facing each other on league business.
The Meadowbank tie will be City’s first competitive game since their agonising SPFL pyramid play-off defeat to Brora Rangers on penalties back on May 2. While Mbu is anticipating the chance for the home side to test themselves competitively against league opposition, he admitted there is a sense of “what might have been” about tomorrow’s fixture.
“That’s the level that we’re trying to attain” said the Cameroon-born defender. “Queen’s Park being our opponents gives us the feeling that we could been playing them regularly if we’d gotten through the play-offs, but it’s a test for the boys to see where they can play, if they can play at that level and if they’re happy playing at that level. Fingers crossed after the game they’ll have that bit between their teeth to say ‘I can play at that level’ and it spurs us on for the rest of the season.”
Despite their play-off heart-ache, Mbu believes his team-mates possess the mental strength to use it as a catalyst for another successful season in the Lowland League and potential crack at promotion to the SPFL. “I can only see the boys, who have that pain on missing out on penalties, using that to drag them on the following year,” he said. “I’ve been in that situation before [with Cowdenbeath] when we lost out in the play-offs – the following year, we won the Second Division to go into the First at the time. The pain of losing out can only drive us on.”
Manager Gary Jardine lined up fixtures almost exclusively against SPFL teams in preparation for the coming season – something Mbu believes should serve the Champions well for tomorrow’s encounter.
“The idea when Gary gets us these games is for the guys to see what they’re capable of doing and to push themselves to the levels they’re capable of attaining,” Mbu explained. “Hopefully we can continue that all the way through so it keeps that pressure on. We played well against Cowdenbeath last Saturday and were probably unfortunate not to come away with a victory.
“We’ll be looking to try and build on that, keep the tempo that we’ve been playing at high and continue doing what we did last season. We’re taking nothing for granted, all we’ll be trying to do is play our game which is to press our opponents, squeeze high and try and get some goals while keeping it clean and tidy at the back.”
As for his own longer-term ambitions, the 33-year-old is happy to play on for as long as he enjoys doing so. “As long as I keep enjoying my football I’ll just see how it goes,” he said. “Hopefully this year might lead on to another year but I’m getting on a bit – I’ll be 34 next year so it might be time to call it a day then. That was the main thing in coming to Edinburgh City. I didn’t want to travel anymore, I wanted to stay local and enjoy it and that’s exactly what I’ve done. As long as the enjoyment’s there I can’t see a problem with me continuing.”