Jim Jefferies senses something special building at Edinburgh City and he wants more people to come along and embrace it.
The upwardly-mobile Ainslie Park club sit two points clear at the top of League Two and have an Irn-Bru Cup semi-final against Welsh club Connah’s Quay Nomads to look forward to in February after Saturday’s stunning quarter-final win over Alloa Athletic.
On Sunday, they will try to topple another Championship team when Hearts legend John Robertson brings Inverness Caledonian Thistle to the Capital on Scottish Cup business. City, having finished in the bottom half in each of their previous two seasons in League Two, are currently operating with so much confidence that a victory over a side of relative prestige is not deemed beyond them. Some subtle tweaks throughout the club, allied to the shrewd management of the burgeoning James McDonaugh, has got City motoring and Jefferies, overseeing it all in his role as director of football, is hoping the Edinburgh public turn out and jump aboard the bandwagon.
“After struggling away for a couple of years as the new team in the league, suddenly there’s a huge difference in terms of the way we’re going about things,” he told the Evening News. “A lot of people work hard behind the scenes and the reward for them is for the team to do well, which then hopefully encourages more people through the gate and gets us more sponsorship to help us improve in the years ahead. The club’s heading in a good direction and hopefully the more we get talked about, the more people will come along and support us. If Hearts and Hibs are away, their season-ticket holders are allowed in [to league games] for half price so we’d urge them to come down to Edinburgh City and watch a team that’s doing well.”
The legendary former Hearts manager is enjoying acting as a sounding board for McDonaugh, whom the club headhunted last year following his impressive work as Falkirk assistant manager under Peter Houston, a former colleague of Jefferies.
“When Gary Jardine left us, we had quite a lot of applicants that the chairman and I went through,” said Jefferies. “James didn’t actually apply – I spoke to Peter who had just left Falkirk and I knew James had left at the same time. It was an opportunity for him to become his own man and it’s been a good decision to bring him in.
“I’m always there for advice but I always say that James doesn’t have to take my advice. At the end of the day, it’s his call. If my advice can help him, fine, but if he doesn’t use it, there’s no comeback on my side. Managers are judged on results and James is doing a fantastic job. He’s very good at what he does in terms of training and organising things on the pitch. The proof’s there that the boys have responded to him. We brought in a lot of new players in the summer and James deserves enormous credit for putting them together and making them gel. A lot’s been said about Hearts bringing in a lot of players and gelling quickly. We’ve been the same and we’ve made a really good start.”
Jefferies is buoyed by the character and confidence within the City squad as they bid to maintain their surprise start into the new year. “We’re not getting carried away but the players are doing great,” he said. “If we can stay clear of injuries, and maybe strengthen in January, hopefully we can keep it going. We need to remember that last season we only stayed in the league with three games to spare and now we’re suddenly at the top. Anything around that area and it’s going to be a very different season for us. We’ve started to gain the belief that we can do well. The boys have got a lot of confidence at the moment. In the last two rounds of the Irn-Bru Cup, we’ve won 4-1 away to an Arbroath side who are doing well in the division above us and we’ve beaten Alloa, a Championship side, after going 2-0 down within 15 minutes. That speaks volumes about the spirit of the team.”
The visit of Robbo and Caley Thistle on Sunday represents a clear step up in quality, not that City will be intimidated. “John was at our golf day just after we had been drawn against Inverness so we were winding him up about that,” said Jefferies. “They’re going well in the Championship, so it’s a big ask for us but Alloa was a big ask as well. John will have noted that we did well against Alloa and will see it as a warning sign that his team can’t take things lightly. It’s an intriguing fixture but we know we’ll have to play really well to progress. When you’re at home in a cup tie, you just never know.”