East of Scotland: Chris King on life as Newtongrange manager and his surprise at appointment

Former striker reckoned he'd have to start further down league ladder

Friday, 13th December 2019, 6:00 am
Newtongrange Star need points to start climbing the Premier Division standings - starting on Friday night at Linlithgow Rose. Pic: TSPL

Taking the reins at former club Newtongrange Star as his first managerial appointment came as a shock to Chris King – as he expected to start managing at a lower level first.

King started at New Victoria Park last month and, alongside his assistant Wes Mitchell, has already made an impact in his aim to get up the Premier Division table, with a win over Blackburn United and a point gained last week at home to Crossgates.

The duo arrived just 24 hours after co-managers Darren Smith and Kenny Rafferty resigned following a 5-0 defeat by Penicuik Athletic.

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King said: “It came as quite a shock. A lot of people were saying it was planned, but to be honest, I didn’t know anything about it until I got a phone call on the Saturday night after their defeat to Penicuik. Because I had left Dunbar and then this came up, everybody thinks I knew about it.

“I had went for the job before when Darren Smith and Kenny Rafferty got it, but I was close, and that’s probably what has made them phone me again after Daz and Raff had walked.

“It’s a massive job. Since I left Dunbar [as assistant manager] I have been waiting for something to come up. Myself and Wes were in talks that if a lower division club came up, we would go for it and try and improve them by getting in people that we know. We didn’t think a club this size would take a chance on us at this point. This came up and we realised they had a small squad and a number of issues which had to be ironed out quickly, so it’s been a busy few weeks.”

The ultimate aim is to ensure Newtongrange stay up this season, given they are just six points off the foot of the table with half of their games played. King reckons they will give themselves a chance of survival should they stop conceding silly goals.

“We went in for our first training session and couldn’t believe the quality of player that was there and where they were sitting in the league,” continued King ahead of tonight’s match at another of his former clubs, Linlithgow Rose. “The players that we have got shouldn’t be that low in the league.

“There were only ten-12 people at training before, which didn’t do a lot for morale. Our first Thursday after the Tuesday we had met them, we had eight new bodies at training, which was a bonus right away because it gave the players a lift. We’ve got a squad up to 24 now and we are quite happy with it. The training hours have been upped to longer hours because they weren’t training enough.

“Player for player, the standard is phenomenal. It’s just getting them a wee bit confidence to push up the league. Our main aim is to stay in the league. We have 15 games and we probably need to win more than half of them to give ourselves a chance, which we are more than capable of doing.

“We have conceded the most goals in the league, which isn’t good. We can score goals, it’s just keeping them out that we need to stop. Wes is defensive-minded – he’s been a top defender for years – so I leave the defending to him while I am thinking about how we can improve going forward.”

This weekend's East of Scotland fixtures

Premier Division (Saturday 1.30pm unless stated): Camelon v Hill of Beath, Dundonald Athletic v Broxburn Athletic, Jeanfield Swifts v Musselburgh Athletic, Linlithgow Rose v Newtongrange Star (Friday, 7.30pm), Whitehill Welfare v Bo’ness United, Blackburn v Crossgates Primrose (2.30pm), Penicuik v Tranent (2.30pm), Sauchie v Dunbar (2.30pm).

Conference A and B (Saturday 1.30pm unless stated): Haddington v Tweedmouth Rangers, Burntisland v Tynecastle, Craigroyston v Inverkeithing HS, Kinnoull v Hawick RA, Oakley v Coldstream, Ormiston v Stirling University (EOSFL), St Andrews v Arniston Rangers, Lothian Thistle HV v Edinburgh United (1.45pm), Dunipace v Glenrothes (2.30pm), Leith Athletic v Dalkeith Athletic (3pm), Heriot-Watt Uni v Preston Athletic (3pm).