Saturday’s appearance at the national stadium is one the players of Edinburgh City, and Chris McKee in particular, will be keen to forget.
Beaten 3-0 in the pouring rain by Queen’s Park in their Betfred Cup Group F match, McKee had the misfortune to inadvertently double the Spiders’ lead when he turned the ball into his own goal in the second half.
With Ladbrokes Premiership side Motherwell next up for Gary Jardine’s team at Ainslie Park tonight, McKee will be hoping for a more positive contribution.
“We were nowhere near it on Saturday from start to finish,” admitted the defender. “They were the better team and deserved the result so it’s given us lots to work on and I suppose that’s a good thing. We knew we had that already, though, so the sooner we can move on and get a positive result, the better.
“Hampden’s a brilliant arena, but the result definitely takes the shine off it. You don’t want to go and lose 3-0 anywhere, but it’s some place.”
Three days on, he’s taking the positives from scoring an own goal at such an historic venue. “As a Celtic fan, if you’d offered me the chance to score a goal at the Rangers end at Hampden, I’d have bitten your hand off!” joked McKee. “It kind of summed up my own performance. I was disappointed in how I played and to stick the ball in my own goal just compounded it, so one to forget. I’ll need to try and make amends for it at the other end in the coming games.”
McKee took up his familiar role on the left of a back three, alongside Shaun Harrison and Zdravko Karadachki, before the Bulgarian was stretchered off in the second 45, with fellow new signing David Verlaque slotting in as a central defender.
“It’s a different system to what other teams play, the way we try to approach games,” explained McKee. “There’s a lot of new guys coming in who are trying to get used to it, which will come over time. The gaffer was saying that quite a few new boys played on Saturday – not just the back three – so they’ll just need to get used to the shape. With boys being away and injures, we’ve not had the chance to have a settled team yet, but once we gel we’ll hopefully kick on.”
An injury meant Craig Beattie’s return to a ground where he’s produced some special moments was in a coaching capacity only, but McKee believes the former Celtic, Hearts and Scotland star will prove to be a valuable part of City’s defence, having been redeployed from a striking role last season.
“Craig’s been superb since he’s played there and his experience and his talking is exactly what we need,” said McKee. “I don’t know if he’s played there much professionally before, but he said he’d played there when he was in the reserves at Swansea. He’s got that presence as well so any ball in the air he’s going to win it. It’s good to have him back there and talk us through it.”
Beattie may not be available for the visit of the Steelmen, which McKee rates as the toughest opposition he’ll have faced with City. “They’re flying with the results they’ve had,” he said. “We’ll be doing well to get anything out it but it’s a good test.”
McKee will likely be tasked with stopping Louis Moult, the Motherwell striker heavily linked with Aberdeen following an impressive 2016/17. “I much prefer playing against players like that,” insisted McKee. “It’s about testing yourself and it’s good to see where you are and what you need to improve on. Moult had a great season last time but it’s not just him, they’ve got a few who will cause us problems.”
Being from Airdrie, McKee has at least one mate hoping Moult gets the better of him. “One of my mates is a Motherwell fan but I don’t think he’ll make it through tonight,” he said. “I think he’s going to try but I’ll hear him from the stands if he does because he’ll be shouting dog’s abuse at me! I’m just hopeful we can put in a good performance.”