GRANT CARNIE tasted success as manager of Whitehill Welfare last season when he led the Rosewell club to victory in the Central Taxis East of Scotland League Cup.
Now, as manager of Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale, he is determined to put one over on his previous club when they meet tomorrow in the Premier Division at Saughton Enclosure.
Carnie parted company with Whitehill almost immediately after picking up the silverware, and admitted: “I have very good memories of my time at Whitehill Welfare. There are very good people running the club and I had a bond with the players, so it was very hard to leave.”
However, Carnie’s allegiance now lies with Lothian Thistle and, since taking over on the eve of the current season, he has already faced Whitehill Welfare in a League Cup qualifying game and came away from Ferguson Park with a 4-1 win.
“Mike Lawson had taken over from me and was still finding his feet when we beat them 4-1,” said Carnie. “He is the most experienced and successful manager ever in the East of Scotland League and he will definitely be wanting revenge for that result.”
Lothian have not played a Premier Division fixture since mid-November, but Carnie has absolutely no concerns regarding the fitness of his players, who are well looked after and monitored by fitness coach Mike McQuire.
“We have been training and managed a couple of friendlies and even had some boxing training sessions, all of which have kept the players interested, especially during the festive period.
“In fact, Kevin [Twaddle, assistant manager], Mike and I were pleasantly surprised as to how fit the boys were.
“Mike has always maintained that they have good core fitness and it has just been a case of topping it up.
“However, it has been frustrating not playing competitive games because, prior to the bad weather and postponements, we were on a five-game unbeaten run, were playing well and scoring goals.
“I reckon that with the squad of players we have here we are capable of beating any team, including Whitehill Welfare tomorrow. Our attitude will have to be right and the players will need to be in the correct frame of mind because in no way do we fear Whitehill. The way we were playing up until the bad weather I can guarantee that no team would like playing against Lothian Thistle.
“Mike Lawson will have done his homework on us and while we think that we are capable of picking up all three points, we will have to play very well. No doubt Mike will be thinking the same in respect of his team.”
Carnie has vastly experienced players, including goalkeeper and captain Kevin Swain, central defenders Matt Costello and Richie Wilkes, along with Kevin Lee and Ross Elliot, while new additions to their squad include John McDonald and Craig Stevenson.
Lawson is also bemoaning the fact that his side has played only one competitive game in the past eight weeks.
“It’s like pre-season all over again, with the difficulty of arranging friendlies on all-weather surfaces,” he sighed.
“After such a break, some players and teams hit the ground running, while others do not. A huge bonus for us is that over the past two weeks all of our 15 outfield players have trained together.
“Therefore, because our last two games were so long ago, Mike [Irving, assistant manager] and me are starting with a blank sheet of paper in terms of team selection for tomorrow.
“Lothian played really well against us earlier in the season when they beat us 4-1, although there were mitigating circumstances. I have never found Saughton Enclosure a happy hunting ground, but if Whitehill Welfare want to keep on the shirt tails of league leaders Spartans and Stirling University, then it is a game we need to win, although we know that it will not be easy.”
Lawson has no absentees for any reason tomorrow and admitted: “With a squad of seventeen there will be five unhappy players who will be listed as substitutes and one very unhappy player who will not be stripped.”
Wayne McIntosh, along with Stevie Manson and Aaron Somerville, were all in goalscoring form before the break, while Willie Kidd has fully recovered from illness.
The action kicks off at 2.30pm, with admission prices of £4 for adults and £2 for concessions.