Edinburgh United are on the verge of securing the South Division title but, under ambitious boss Johnny Harvey, they have already set their sights on winning promotion to the top flight next season.
United secured their place in the Premier League two weeks ago with a routine 2-0 win away to title rivals Dundonald Bluebell. A point tomorrow away to Whitburn will gain the Paties Road side their first league crown in 28 years, since they won the old Division 2.
Centre-back Chris Gordon has been instrumental for United this season, playing a key role at the heart of a defence which has conceded just 20 goals in 25 league games. However, just last season, Gordon was ready to throw in the towel.
The former Musselburgh Athletic player was set to quit until best friend Harvey took over as United boss last season, after leaving Tranent Juniors where he was interim manager.
He said: “I was actually going to stop playing at the end of last season. It was only because Johnny and Gary Small [assistant manager] were taking over and they persuaded me to play. I’ve really enjoyed it this year. The last few years I wasn’t really enjoying my football, but now at United it’s like a new lease of life.”
And Gordon can cap his first season at United with silverware tomorrow afternoon – just a year on from when the city side finished bottom of the pile in the South Division.
Dundonald are the only side who can pip United to the title, but they’d have to win their remaining five games and hope Edinburgh’s sole junior club take nothing from tomorrow’s match.
Whitburn aren’t going to simply let United turn up and win the league, though, as they have a slim chance of promotion themselves. And having not lost at home all season so far – the only team in the league to hold that record – they aren’t going to give that up easily.
Gordon admits it’s going to be hard, but if they play the way they have been, United will avoid the nightmare scenario of waiting for Dundonald’s remaining fixtures to be played before they find out the destination of the South Division trophy.
He said: “It’s just a point we need, but Whitburn haven’t been beaten at home this year. It’s going to be really hard, but we just need to go into it thinking we have to win it.
“That would be unthinkable [waiting on Dundonald]. We are just going to go out there and play the way we have been playing and hopefully get a point.”
One of the more experienced members of United’s squad – he was part of the Musselburgh side that reached the Junior Cup final in 2011 and won the Premier League title with the Olivebank outfit – Gordon knows what it’s like to be part of a successful side.
He believes this United group are just as good as the Musselburgh side which lost out 2-1 to junior giants Auchinleck Talbot three years ago. He said: “I think the team we have just now at Edinburgh are as a good as the Musselburgh team which got to the junior cup final.”
And a successful United is in a result of the hard work put in by Harvey and his assistant Small.
Gordon said of the secret to United’s turnaround from bottom club to title challengers: “I think it’s the way Johnny runs things. He is strict but fair and he has the respect of all the players. He does a lot of organising before each game and it’s not always the same routine and I think that helps.
“He puts loads of effort in to the job. I think he drives his missus mental!
“He’s always on the computer looking at drills etc. It depends who we are playing against, he will set up different drills and formations.
“He goes to watch a few games as well – it’s just not just a case of turning up and playing. He puts a lot of thought into it.”
Harvey isn’t the type to rest happy in the Premier League either, with Gordon revealing that his young boss has already targeted promotion next season. He said: “Johnny is looking for us to get promoted again next season and go straight into the Super League. He reckons we only need to bring in four of five players to do that, because the team is doing so well at the moment.”