For a man who’s won league titles, Scottish Cups, played in the Champions League and netted a last-minute winner for his country at Hampden, signing on at part-time, League Two Edinburgh City might not get Craig Beattie’s juices flowing on the face of it.
But that’s exactly what it has done, according to the man himself. The former Celtic and Hearts striker became boss Gary Jardine’s “biggest ever signing” this week on a one-year deal, along with former Hibs and Wales Under-19 goalkeeper Calum Antell.
Having sampled life in Scotland’s bottom tier with Stirling Albion last season, Beattie is ready for more with a club that he feels has provided one of the stories of Scottish football in recent years. “I’m as excited as I’ve been in a long time,” he admitted. “You always get butterflies. See this whole pre-season thing? You just never know what it’s going to hold. I’ve had 16, 17 pre-seasons and every time you drive up you’re still nervous. I’ve never failed a pre-season yet, but you still get the nerves, that’s for sure
“I can’t wait to get going. I think Edinburgh City have attracted a lot of attention because last year was the first year that the restructuring actually brought about a promotion. There has been that underlying issue in Scottish football where East Stirlingshire have finished bottom for several years and there was no real pressure because they couldn’t get relegated. But, after playing in the league last year, that has all changed and there will be a few clubs looking at it thinking ‘we know what can happen here’, so this club has caused a real stir. You can see with the amount of cameras that come here, with interest from Sky and the newspapers, there is something happening. I don’t think that would have been the case at any other club in League Two. It speaks volumes for what is happening
“Also, the fact we have a third team in Edinburgh coming into the football league; I think it is all eyes on Edinburgh City to see how we get on.”
Beattie was unveiled before his first training session with his new teammates at Riccarton – a familiar environment for the former Hearts man. The 32-year-old holds Edinburgh in great affection – as one half of the capital does for him after his exploits in maroon. Whilst acknowledging the good times enjoyed previously, he is more concerned with making new memories in black and white. “It’s nice to be back in Edinburgh, and particularly back here [at Riccarton],” said Beattie. “I had a great time here. I didn’t play too many games but I somehow managed to turn myself into a fans’ favourite, which I don’t think is ever going to go away. I’ve got new focus now, which is doing well with Edinburgh City.
“I always get invited back to Tynecastle and the fans welcome me back with open arms. Those are memories I will look back on and cherish further down the line and I am thinking about what I have achieved. However, I’m professional enough to look forward and hopefully create some more great moments here.
“It’s a split group, a few Hibs and Hearts fans! But I’ve dealt with that through my career – once you have played for one half of the Old Firm any stick you get is water off a duck’s back. I can handle myself in the dressing room! Thursday was my first session so I’ll size up the lads and see who will take a ribbing!”
Family and work commitments mean the former West Brom man’s role will strictly be a playing one, but he accepts that his experience will essentially render him an on-pitch coach. “I’ve played with players in the past who can boss games and have made very good careers from being able to communicate. They’re maybe not the most talented, but it’s amazing how well a team can do with people that talk, communicate, and organise.”
Despite the increased profile that comes with signing a player with such a CV, he was at pains to emphasise it won’t be the Craig Beattie show at Meadowbank. “I’m here now, the boys can look to me all they want but I can’t do anything without them. I need them more than they need me.”
Jardine cryptically hinted that he wasn’t necessarily bringing Beattie in primarily as a striker. Asked if he was re-inventing himself a la Wayne Rooney, he was jovially non-committal.
“Is that a number ten or a number six? I don’t know,” he laughed. “We’ve just signed goalkeeper so that’s that ruled out! We’ll have that discussion when it happens. If the manager thinks I can do a job in other positions, then great.”
No matter where he plays, should Beattie score, there’s a handy running track at his new home ground should he wish to replicate that famous celebration. “Just not as quick this time,” he warned. “Ryan McGowan’s still chasing me!”