A few eyebrows were raised when Edinburgh City signed Jesus Garcia Tena on a short-term deal in September.
A defender coming straight from the Scottish top flight, having spent three years there with Hamilton following their own historic promotion, would have been an impressive capture for any League Two club, never mind the still relatively new boys.
Having established himself as a regular fixture in the back three under James McDonaugh so far, the 27-year-old is delighted to be getting regular action after an injury-hit final season at New Douglas Park.
“When you’ve been doing this [playing football] for nearly 20 years, you miss it when you can’t play,” he said. “You just want to get back playing. I’m enjoying it because it was hard for me being out for so long. I’m just really glad that Gary [Jardine, previous manager] and Edinburgh City gave me the chance to start again. I’m really happy.
“Going part-time, it’s been hard not being with a team and training every day, but you just need to get used to it. There’s days when you train with the boys but on your days off you need to do something on your own.”
Despite that, Tena’s longer term aim is to return to full-time football. “That’s top of my list,” he admitted. “I would like to back to being full-time and try and go as high as I can again. That’s my plan.
“As for staying at City past January, why not? I appreciate them giving me the chance and if things work out, we can always reach an agreement and finish the season. It’s a great bunch of guys here and it’s been really easy settling in. If you want to work hard, they make it easy to do that.
“The new manager has come in and he’s obviously got a professional background being at Hibs and also Falkirk. He’s got a lot of coaching experience. He’s really got the boys working and I’m sure soon enough we’ll start getting more points.”
As evidenced by the fact that the Terassa-born Tena’s accent is now as Scottish as it is Spanish, he’s well-settled after five years in his adopted home.
Staying was his preference in the summer, but having been on the books at Juventus as well as playing in Spain, Tena wasn’t adverse to moving back overseas had an opportunity arisen.
“To be honest, my wife and I have always spoken about the fact that we wouldn’t have any problems if I did want to go abroad again,” he explained. “Obviously I myself am from Spain, I’ve come to Scotland but have played in Italy as well, so it wouldn’t be a problem. We’re pretty much based here now though, so I was always looking for something in Scotland.”
His arrival here is in part thanks to Hearts’ Scottish Cup winning midfielder Stefano Salvatori, who sadly passed away earlier this week. Tena paid tribute to the Italian and expressed his gratitude at easing his path into Scottish football, initially with Livingston.
“It was through my agent at the time, who knew him,” Tena recalled. “He knew John Collins and John Hughes and spoke to them about me. I went in on trial for a couple of training sessions and a game with the under-20s, and they signed me after that. He knew people in football so it’s thanks to him.
“It was really sad when I heard he passed away on Wednesday. He was a really nice guy, really friendly. He and my agent gave me the chance to come here, so I’ll always be grateful. We lost contact when he went to Australia, so it was a shock – he was so young.”
Tena was forced off towards the end of last week’s 1-0 loss at Montrose, but is confident he’ll be fit for Stirling Albion’s visit tomorrow. “I should be fine,” he said. “It was just a wee knock on my calf but I didn’t want to risk pulling it and then being out for three or four weeks.
“I can see in this league, and even higher, any team can beat any team. Some teams probably come to Ainslie Park thinking ‘aw it’s only Edinburgh City, we’ll score two or three goals, win the game and go home’ so we’ve got something to prove.
“If Stirling Albion turn up thinking that way, then hopefully, we’ll prove them wrong.”