Captain Josh Walker may have been responsible for one of a spate of engagements within the Edinburgh City squad, but the more immediate question is whether Gary Jardine’s team can marry an improved performance with three points against Cowdenbeath tomorrow.
Walker joined long-serving defenders Shaun Harrison and Jordan Caddow in successfully popping the question to their respective partners in recent days.
However, it was a red rather than congratulatory card Harrison received during last weekend’s 3-1 opening day defeat at home to Montrose.
The result is something Walker is keen to put right in Fife tomorrow as City’s new-look squad goes in search of a first competitive win of the season.
“You always want to start the season well and last week wasn’t good,” he admitted. “It’s a totally different team from last year really. We’ve had a big changeover in the summer and at the same time the club is still trying to establish itself as a League Two team.
“It’s just about taking our time getting the new lads bedded in but also getting things right on the pitch as quick as you can. That means getting the gaffer’s ideas on board as quickly as possible and it will happen. We’ve got good players here and lads who are keen to learn.
“You never win the league on the first day of the season nor do you get relegated either, but you learn a lot about your players early on in the season. We’ve all had a good chat about last week during training and we’re looking forward to Saturday.”
One of the summer changes was Walker’s appointment as club captain following Dougie Gair’s retirement. With a handful of competitive outings as skipper under his belt, the former Middlesborough midfielder explained that officially donning the armband hasn’t made any real difference to his approach.
“I’m enjoying it,” he said. “It was a real privilege and honour to be given that role. It’s something I’ve done before but something I try to be anyway, you know? Even if I don’t have the armband on I try and lead by example if I can and help lads out.
“At the same time, we’ve quite a lot of players in the team that could quite easily be captain as well. Just because I wear the armband it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have nine or 10 other captains out there. We’ve got a lot of experience within the team and lads who could take on the same role, which makes it quite easy.”
What isn’t likely to be easy is the trip to Central Park. Despite Gary Locke’s sudden departure in the summer, Walker expects Cowden, now managed by Billy Brown, to be much stronger than last season, when they avoided relegation to the Lowland League by virtue of a penalty shoot-out win over East Kilbride.
“If you look at Cowdenbeath in comparison to ourselves, three years ago they were playing in the Championship and Edinburgh City were finishing fifth in the Lowland League,” he reflected. “The turnaround in the teams has been dramatic.
“You’d probably expect Cowdenbeath to be challenging. I know they had a poor season by their own standards last year, but I’d expect them to be challenging for the size of club they are at this level.
“They’ll be expecting to do well this year and they picked up a point last week, but we’re just looking to establish ourselves and it’s all a learning curve for the lads, but one that we’re adapting to and hopefully things will fall in to place sooner rather than later.”
City’s squad will likely include more reinforcements from the Under 20s with players still out, and Walker revealed a more integrated approach from Jardine between the two squads. “The 20s train next to us on a Tuesday now,” he explained. “That’s good as we’ve all been young lads trying to break in to a first team, and if you’re not in sight of the manager, how are you ever going to get that opportunity.
“With them training next to us, there’s been times when he’s called a few over when we’ve needed extra bodies and the lads who’ve come across have more than handled themselves. Young Kyle McClung came in at left-back in pre-season and did really well and has probably become a squad player for the first team now. There are others who are looking at Kyle as someone to follow and stay involved with the first team too.”