Captain Josh Walker admits there’s a different feeling around the Edinburgh City squad this season, but is keen to temper a growing sense of optimism with a bit of realism.
Manager James McDoanugh has revamped the squad, bringing in some impressive names who are nowhere near the twilight of their careers, with Conrad Balatoni and Danny Handling being the prime examples.
Some League Two know-how and future potential supplements that, with some outsiders tipping City for a strong season.
Walker hopes that is the case, but is canny enough to realise that this is still a club that finished second bottom last term and is entering just its third SPFL campaign.
“There’s a lot of optimism, but there’s a lot of realism as well,” said Walker. “The club in its first season stayed up – comfortably in the end – and last season with a few games to spare.
“Yes, we’re making some good signings and really improving the team and squad, but let’s just see, take it game by game, see where we’re at it in a couple of months and assess it then.
“To be talking about running away with the league and stuff like that – that’s nowhere near our thoughts. Our thoughts are about improving on last season, being competitive with every team we play against and I think if we do that, we have quality within the team that will hopefully start shining through.”
The skipper hopes his own quality will be more prominent after managing a case of patella tendonitis for much of the last campaign. That meant he sat out the remaining games after safety was secured and is now he feeling the benefits.
“It was something I was in desperate need of,” he said. “This summer I’ve worked really, really hard in terms of rehab and getting things right. Hopefully now I’m going in to games and not just playing but dominating. Sometimes last season I was just there.
“There’s nothing more frustrating than playing with an injury and holding yourself back. I’m getting myself in to the shape that I know I can and I’m on course for that and I’m really looking forward to the season starting.”
The begins at Broadwood against Clyde tomorrow in the Betfred Cup, which for a club like City can sometimes feel like something in between a cup competition and an extension of pre-season.
“You’d obviously have to ask the gaffer how he sees it but we haven’t had as many friendlies as we had last year,” Walker explained.
“They’re competitive games and you want to win them, but our main priority is the league season. It’s great to get these games against the likes of Motherwell and it’s a good test for ourselves, but at the end of the day our bread and butter is the league. We want to be in peak condition come August when it kicks off.”
The Bully Wee only just missed out on a play-off berth last season after spending the first few months as potential relegation candidates. Walker however, sees it as a chance for new-look City to demonstrate their improvements.
“They had a strong finish and were unlucky not to make the play-offs,” he reflected. “They’ll be wanting to push on again this season and will be one of the favourites to be up there. It’ll be a tough start, but it’s a game we go in to with no fear and it’s a chance for our boys to really go and put a marker down.”