Edinburgh City: A club going places in 2021-22, and not just back to Meadowbank
Edinburgh City are hoping 2021-22 is a season on the move, in more ways than one.
Competitive games kick off this evening when Hamilton Academical visit Ainslie Park to begin the Premier Sports Cup group stage, but it’s a trip they are unlikely to make again with the changes in progress this season.
City’s plan to move into their new-look home ground at Meadowbank Stadium is still on course for later this year after plying their trade at Spartans’ pitch since 2017. That move co-incided with their promotion from the Lowland League to the SPFL and another step up the divisions would be welcome as they make the switch back to their traditional home.
It is far from an unachievable goal after a near-miss for promotion via the play-offs last season.
Gary Naysmith was deep in preparation for tonight’s visit of relegated Accies yesterday, sifting through video analysis to ensure his new-look team is set for the season opener.
Since their last promotion, City have taken to the senior set-up in their five years and are now eyeing a place in League One.
"There is a lot to look forward to with the new ground and we have a new manager and really a new team,” said James McDonaugh, the club’s sporting director. “You can see the work that has been put in by the owner, the chairman and the board to take the club forward.
“Since I have been involved with the club we have played at Ainslie Park and it has been great but off-the-pitch the club has been working really hard to get their own home. Obviously they were in Meadowbank before and we are just now looking forward to getting back there and playing somewhere we can call home and making it our home, where teams find it tough to visit.
"A lot of money has been ploughed into it, the facilities look great, so it is certainly something to look forward to. Hopefully it brings a boost and we are competing at the top end of the table and can continue to do that for the rest of the season.”
McDonaugh is already familiar with moves. He moved ‘upstairs’ in March with Naysmith coming in to take over team matters.
It’s been the first time in 16 years that McDonaugh, former assistant at Falkirk and well-regarded head of Academy coaching at Hibs, hasn’t been preparing players for a new season on the pitch – but he’s been doing everything else off it.
"I've been a big part over the past couple of months which has been great but you do miss the football side and the training but I am delighted to be in such an important role within the club.
"It's been really different to what I’m used to, but I’ve really enjoyed it. Usually in football you get a wee break at the end of the season and I do miss being on the grass and around the players – but that’s not this role.
"I have worked all the way through the close season and obviously we now have the Hamilton game upon us. That is a bit strange and it doesn’t feel so long since we were last playing, but that’s how it has been with all the stoppages with covid over the past year.”
McDonaugh has had a hand in many of the signings coming to Edinburgh this summer, ironing out the details with agents, working on logistics, contracts and administration rather than tactics, formations and drills. But City could line up tonight with a new look midfield after the summer signings of Lewis Kidd and Callum Tapping to take on an Accies side with ambitions of returning to the top flight.
"Lewis is a good lad who I know from my time at Falkirk. He’s a good type and through the pre-season he has shown he is comfortable to play a few positions, so I'm sure he will be a good addition to the squad.
“Same with Callum, he is right good signing, has a bit of everything in the middle of the pitch and has played at a right good level with a good pedigree behind him, and he’s a good age.
“It is great Gary has brought him to the club as well – they're both good additions.”
Striker Ryan Shanley has joined on loan from Hibs and Livingston back-up Brian Schwake has come in to provide competition for the gloves with Ryan Goodfellow.
There’s also been a recruitment drive with Naysmith adding his own stamp on the team to bring Brechin’s Scott Reekie, Stephen Bronsky from Elgin, James Hilton of Stranraer and St Johnstone pair Michael McFarlane and Alex Ferguson, the latter on loan.
McDonaugh added: “In terms of recruitment I am just a support to the manager. He is still the one who decides who he wants to sign and who he wants to pick on the match day. I do a lot of work with the agents, facilitating the discussions, setting it up and agreeing the deals but it is Gary who decides.
“I just take a bit off and support him in that sense but in the close season it’s been relentless with the amount of calls and work needing done to get ready. I do community work as well so there have been holiday camps the past few weeks – loads going on.
“We've got 400-500 kids playing football every weekend with Edinburgh so it’s a big programme and a lot of work goes into that, making sure that keeps going along and looking at how we can get them involved moving back to Meadowbank and show there is a pathway to first team football with Edinburgh City as well.”
Whether it’s youth development, Meadowbank or League One, Edinburgh City is a club going places in season 2021-22.