Edinburgh UNIVERSITY and Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale will be desperate for the three points which would lift them from Central Taxis Premier Division relegation danger when they meet tomorrow.
The men in charge, Uni head coach Douglas Samuel and Thistle boss Mark Lamb, have been firm friends since they played together as youngsters for the 23rd Company of the Boys’ Brigade in Leith.
“Our mums were, and still are, the very best of friends,” smiled Samuel. “Mark and me may not be actual ‘blood related’ cousins although I regard Mark as a cousin in every other way because we are so close. I always look out for his results and wish him well at Lothian Thistle, outwith the occasions that they face us.”
The students had won all five of their opening Premier Division fixtures at this stage of the season last year. However, this term, after playing five games, they have one win, one draw and three defeats to give them four points.
A perennial headache for managers is the loss of players, but this is magnified at a University and Samuel is building a new team because many of last year’s squad have moved on after graduating. “Already this season I have used 34 players,” said Samuel. “At this stage last season we had won all of our five games 1-0. This season we have lost our three league games by the exact same score.
“Sometimes, as a manager, you have to admit that you have been lucky and maybe this season Lady Luck has not been with us. However, no way are we making excuses or feeling sorry for ourselves because we are learning all the time and our underlying theme is to develop our young players and make progress with them.
“We have scored more goals this season but maybe we have been a bit too open. We are still trying to find the right blend and balance. That process had been hindered although now we are looking to put a wee run together before Christmas. What we want to achieve is to get some momentum going, register two or three wins, and lift ourselves up the table.”
Samuel has not seen Lothian Thistle this season but added: “I have spoken to a few people who have watched them and I have examined their team lines so I am not going into the game blind. At Edinburgh University we definitely have the youngest squad in the league although Lothian Thistle cannot be far behind us.”
To compound Samuel’s problems, he has seven players definitely out tomorrow including Mark Cathcart, Tim Rawlinson, Mike Gray, Jack Beacher and David Oswald, who are injured, while Andrey Kuzmenko and Roy Chatterjee are unavailable.
Thistle, meanwhile, are in a similar position to the students having collected four points from their five games. Their last match was against Gretna 2008 on Saturday, losing 5-0. “We had a player sent off just after half-time when the score was only 1-0 and then Gretna scored a dubious goal,” said Lamb. “We had to play a back four which had never played together before and we had four players missing but it was still disappointing to lose by such a scoreline.
“We have to bounce back against Edinburgh University who seem to be in a similar position to us having lost some experienced players during the summer and Douglas [Samuel] is in the midst of a rebuilding process. It will be good to lock horns with Douglas who I grew up with and we both played in the same Boys’ Brigade team. I passed the ball to Douglas and he scored!
“The University are set up well and get men behind the ball. Neil Irvine adds experience while they have pace in the wide areas. I’m sure that, like me, Douglas is trying to work out why his side are in the bottom end of the Premier Division.”
Lamb has signed goalscorer Nick Reid from Spartans Juniors while four players who were unavailable last Saturday – Jamie Hawkins, Alan McDonagh, Paul Crawford and Mark Kelly – return to the squad.
The game kicks off at Peffermill at 2.00pm with admission prices, adults £4.00 and concessions £2.00.