Edinburgh City boss James McDonaugh ready to battle rising expectations
Edinburgh City boss James McDonaugh admits expectation levels have risen at the League Two club following a season in which they found themselves very much in contention for the title.
Ultimately, the Citizens finished third and lost out on possible promotion via the play-offs after being beaten home and away by Clyde.
However, McDonaugh insisted any sense of disappointment should be tempered by recalling just how far the Capital outfit have come, pointing out that this will be only their fourth season in the SPFL.
“It’s that Scottish mentality,” he claimed, “People always say the glass is half-empty, but at the end of the day, we’d more than doubled our points tally from the previous season and to be in that race for promotion was an absolute credit to everyone at the football club.
“We played more than 50 games and were really stretched going into the last league game when we had 12 players out. I don’t see many full-time teams in the country being able to cope with that, far less a part-time club like us.
“It was great to be up there. Expectation levels have risen, people around the club expect higher, which is interesting considering we’ve only been in the league three years. People have to keep their feet on the ground, everyone wants to win and make progress and that will be our aim.”
Having won three pre-season friendlies, beating Gala Fairydean, St Johnstone’s Under-20s and an East of Scotland (City) Cup final, held over from last season, against East Kilbride, the serious action for McDonaugh’s players begins tonight when they face a trip to play Premiership side St Mirren as they open their Betfred Cup campaign in Paisley.
“It’s tough right away,” said McDonaugh. “The League Cup is a bit of a disaster for part-time teams to be honest. Everyone seems to share that opinion.
“It’s too early for teams like us. There’s a few injuries from last season which we can’t do anything about, boys just back from holiday and one who can’t make the game because he can’t get time off work, so we’re already scraping up a team to play.
“Having said that, the other side is that there have already been one or two surprise results in the competition.”
One such surprise was Championship side Dunfermline racing into a 3-0 lead by half-time against the Buddies at the weekend before the Pars held on to win 3-2 in their opening Betfred Cup match, one witnessed by McDonaugh, who cautioned: “We have to be careful not to have a false sense of optimism that they can be got at or are poor.
“They are still a team three leagues above us with better players than us, but we’ll try to come up with something.”
Further cup matches against Dunfermline, East Kilbride and Albion Rovers follow but, insisted McDonaugh, it is the league that matters, City’s first match away to League Two newcomers Cove Rangers, who signalled their intent by appointing former, Hearts, Celtic, Hibs and Scotland star Paul Hartley as manager.
And, in quick succession, McDonaugh’s side will take on Brechin and Stenhousemuir, the two clubs relegated from League One at the end of last season. He said: “I think Cove will be one of the fancied teams, but there are five or six who could win it. It’s a very hard league to get out of when there is only one automatic promotion place.”
Injuries ultimately hindered City last season, McDonaugh reckoning that over the course of 36 league games there was a total of 196 missed by his players, meaning that at least five were out at any one time.
He said: “We’ve invested a bit in the back room staff to try to reduce the number of injuries if we can. It obviously helps getting our best team on the park as much as possible.”