Todmorrow’s trip to the Paisley 2021 Stadium represents something of a novelty for the majority of the Edinburgh City squad, but for Nico Gibson it’s return to the venue where he made his bow as a professional footballer.
City face St Mirren in the Betfred League Cup, Group A, kick-off 3pm.
The City striker progressed through the ranks as a youngster at Aberdeen, and was handed his one and only first-team appearance by Mark McGhee in a last day 1-0 win over the Buddies in May 2010.
Having endured a difficult time off the pitch over the last two years, Gibson is excited to be playing at a ground that holds fond memories. “I’m really looking forward to be going to back to pretty much where it all began for me,” he said. “When the fixtures came out it was the one that I was most looking forward to, so I’ll be loving it when I go back.
“I didn’t know I was going to be starting that day. Mark McGhee came up to me when I was out looking at the pitch. I was thinking that I’d be on the bench so I was actually looking at that! He came up and said ‘you’re going to be starting today’ and it was one of those moments I’ll never forget. It was amazing.
“I was up front with Steven MacLean, who’s at St Johnstone now, he was my strike partner. There were a few other decent players playing too – [Charlie] Mulgrew, Darren Mackie, Mark Kerr, Clark Robertson who’s at Blackpool now, Stuart Duff, who played against us for Cove in the play-off last season and Ricky Foster, so quite a few.
“I did well and I nearly scored, but that was the last game of the season and I couldn’t build up any momentum so it was probably bad timing in that sense. I was in a few squads up until then and nearly made my debut at Pittodrie. I was warming up to go on against Kilmarnock but they just scored, and the manager was like ‘naw’. The same thing happened against St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park. Those were missed opportunities but I was actually quite happy I got to start a game. It was a really good experience.”
After a serious hip injury, Gibson never thought he would get the opportunity to play league football, let alone return to stadiums that seat thousands. “With what’s happened the last couple of years, I never thought I’d even have the opportunity here at City so I’m over the moon,” he admitted. “Even last Saturday at Ayr, just the whole feel of warming up before in a really nice ground, a good pitch, it’s amazing to have the feel of being part of a proper football team again.
“I’m feeling good after pre-season. I’ve been doing quite a lot of extra work as well which is important. I’m not feeling any sort of niggles or anything so I’m quite optimistic at the moment.”
Former Scotland international Craig Beattie became Gary Jardine’s latest and highest profile recruit this week, along with former Hibs and Wales U19 goalkeeper Calum Antell. As a Hearts fan, Gibson is excited to be working with a man who’s goals he used to celebrate from the stands. “I’m really looking forward to him coming in to the team,” he enthused. “I’ve been at a few games where he’s scored a few important goals. I was at Hampden for that one [last minute Scottish Cup semi-final penalty against Celtic]. He’ll bring a lot to the team and we’ll need that experience so what he’ll bring will be really, really valuable.”