Edinburgh City’s transfer business in the last week has raised one or two eyebrows given the CVs of the players they’ve managed to attract.
After former Hearts defender Conrad Balatoni signed on for two years, he was swiftly joined by ex-Hibs midfielder Danny Handling.
Playing with Dumbarton in the Championship last term, on paper it seems quite a drop to a squad that finished second bottom of League Two, even after The Sons’ relegation to League One.
Handling, however, revealed the professional set-up and ambition at City, as well as his familiarity with manager James McDonaugh and assistant Colin Jack from their time at Easter Road, persuaded him his future lay at Ainslie Park.
“I had offers to stay higher up the leagues,” he admitted to the Evening News. “I thought at this time Edinburgh City was the best move for me though. They made a good offer and I know James and Colin really well, as well as most of the boys that are here already.
“I spoke to a few people and got a bit of advice which varied, but in my head this was the best place for me. The way that James and Colin like to play, I like to play in a team that can pass the ball right from the back and that’s what they like to do. I got good vibes when they made contact.
“It’s actually really surprised me how professional the club is for a League Two club – there’s Championship teams with less coaches than City and it speaks volumes for what they’re trying to do.
“The ambition to get higher up the leagues is another reason why I signed. I’ve had three relegations on my CV [Hibs, Raith and Dumbarton respectively] so I want to stay away from that now and hopefully move on to promotions. I was a bit worried about that to start with because they finished ninth last year, but I’m glad the ambition is to try and challenge to go up this year, which is exciting.”
From Handling’s point of view, it’s a step down the ladder to hopefully start moving up it once again. Still only 24, a return to full-time football remains a longer-term objective for the player, pictured. “That’s always been an aim, but I’ve been very unlucky with injuries,” he explained. “Teams maybe get put off a bit when they seen what I’ve been through. No disrespect to Scottish football but the money isn’t as good as it is in England, so it’s harder to sign players who have had long-term injuries as it costs to get operations and scans etc. So I can understand why I’m not full-time, but I still hope to be again one day and hopefully this can be a catalyst to get back to that.
“When I went to Dumbarton last year that was the plan but then I got injured again, which was my third long-term injury. It can’t really get any worse now in terms of injuries but I’m looking forward to being part of a good Edinburgh City team. I’ve trained once and it was good – passing from the start. We still got pumped with running right enough and my legs are still struggling a bit, but it’s enjoyable.”
The level Handling’s come from, it’s understandable that he’ll be expected to shine in the bottom tier. For him though, it’s about consistent game time without injury first and foremost. “Now I just want a run of games to show people what I can do,” he insisted. “There’s people that might believe I’m better than the league I’m in, but I just want to prove that I can play regularly and prove my fitness.
“You could say there’s pressure on me as people might look to see how we’re getting on and how I’m doing but it’s not about me. It’s about the team and how we do as a squad, so I’m going to forget all that.
“There’s a few names in our team alone that have been at a good level and guys like David Goodwillie in other teams, so it’s not a low performing league. It’ll be exciting.
“I was on loan at Berwick previously which gave me an insight as to what football was going to be like at this level so I know what to expect. I’m feeling good just now so fingers crossed it stays that way.”