If it’s been a long season so far for Edinburgh City, it’s seemed even longer for Chris McKee.
The defender has been out for nearly three months with a torn abductor and only made his first league appearance of the campaign as an early substitute in the weekend’s 1-0 home defeat by Annan.
He is now keen to make up for lost time and help City start climbing Ladbrokes League Two. “It’s been a while now,” said the former Stirling University player. “I think I first picked up the injury back in February or March but it didn’t really get diagnosed until after the Queen’s Park game at the end of July.
“I don’t think I’ve been fully fit since then and then had to spend some time out of training completely. It’s been tough and I’ve missed playing so it was good to get back on the pitch, but it would have been in better circumstances had we won the game.”
McKee has been a regular spectator at Ainslie Park when out injured, and readily admits he hates every minute he is forced to watch his own team from the sidelines. “I absolutely hate watching us,” he said. “I’m alright watching games like the Champions League or whatever, but when you’re watching your team when you’re out injured, knowing that you could be on the pitch helping, I absolutely hate it.
“Hopefully I don’t have to go through much more of that and I can be part of the squad. Any player will tell you that it’s torture.”
McKee has seen the manager who brought him to the club go and one come in during his time out. While there’s regret over Gary Jardine’s departure, first impressions of James McDonaugh have been good.
“It was obviously sad to see Gary go, he was brilliant for the club,” said the 27-year-old. “Him, Ross [Macnamara] and Rossy B [Ross Ballantine] did a fantastic job and it comes down to the fact that us as players haven’t been doing our job as well as we can. We have to take the blame for that.
“The new manager’s been great since he’s come in; training’s been good – it’s been hard work as well but I think the boys are responding to it. It’s high tempo stuff and he demands a lot from us. He wants us to be fit and to press teams and put our stamp on games.
“It’s good and it’s enjoyable. Given the run we’re on, it’s what we’re needing. We need to put a shift in to turn things around.
“Whether it was under Gary or the new gaffer coming in, the quicker I’m able to get myself back to full fitness the better and hopefully I can challenge for a place in the team.”
Although City have lost both of McDonaugh’s games in charge so far, there’s been more solidity about them, and discovering a scoring touch should result in more points put on the board.
“I’ve no doubt it’ll come,” said McKee. “We’ve definitely got the quality, there’s no doubt about that. We just need to keep ourselves organised and take our chances when they come. The only way we’ll do that is through hard work in training.”
With a quarter of the season gone, City have now played everyone once ahead of tomorrow’s trip to Montrose, who won 3-1 at Ainslie Park on the opening day.
Second bottom on six points is a better return than at this stage last year, but McKee knows a long unbeaten run that got them back in contention last term can’t be relied upon again. “The start we had last season was pretty dire,” he recalled. “We’ve got some points on the board which is a good thing but the players know we haven’t performed anywhere near like we can do.
“We can only look ahead now. We don’t want to be looking over our shoulders, we need to kick on, get as many points as possible and get ourselves up the table. I’m sure it’ll click sooner rather than later.”
It will have to soon if they want to take anything from Links Park. “They’re a good team,” McKee insisted. “It was always difficult against them last season and they’ve improved their squad so it’ll be a tough afternoon.
“We got our first league win there last season though so a similar result on Saturday would be ideal.”