It is a scenario that he didn’t think he would have to contemplate in his football career. However, Gary Jardine will take his place in the opposition’s dugout against Edinburgh City tomorrow.
Jardine takes his Lowland League side Civil Service Strollers to nearby Ainslie Park for their much-anticipated William Hill Scottish Cup second-round clash with the Ladbrokes League Two leaders – and his former club.
He was of course the figure who masterminded City’s promotion to SPFL League Two in May 2016, not to mention the back-to-back Lowland League titles he delivered during his time at the helm.
A former player and manager at the club spanning 15 years, Jardine brought the curtain down on his Meadowbank career last September citing personal reasons for his decision.
Having assisted Alex Cunningham at Christie Gillies Park in December, he took over the reins in the summer and the club have fared well in Scottish football’s fifth tier this season.
“I didn’t think I’d ever have to come up against them if I’m being honest,” Jardine told the Evening News. “I obviously spent a long time there but they’re also a top side just now and are firing on all cylinders. I think it’s the toughest draw we could have got to be honest.
“There’s only the likes of (Marc) Lairdy and Gareth Rodger still there from my time, so there’s been a wee bit of banter. I’m delighted to see how they’re doing just now but my focus is entirely on Civil Service Strollers. We have players that, on their day, are capable of playing at that level and hurting Edinburgh City if we get it right. We certainly don’t fear them but we know it’s a tough ask. The only chance we will have is if we put any fear or apprehension aside.”
Jardine, similarly to most football fans up and down the country, has been hugely impressed by the impeccable form shown by James McDonaugh’s men this season.
“To win the amount of games they have done so far at any level is a fantastic achievement,” he said. “But it’s where the club wants to be and something I’d spoken about with the chairman and Jim Jefferies (director of football) when I was still in charge.
“James has been a great appointment and he’s assembled a really good group. They’ve got a great balance with both youth and experience. I certainly expect them to be there or thereabouts towards the business end of the season.”
Jardine knows his players are huge underdogs and it will take an almighty effort to overhaul his former club.
“These are the matches the players enjoy and I know that from my time with Edinburgh City,” he explained. “We’re looking forward to it. We got a bit above our station after the win over Forres Mechanics in the previous round and we were brought back down to earth.
“They’ve won all their games at Ainslie Park this season, aside from the Betfred Cup, but it’s not unfamiliar surroundings as we train there once a week and we also play Spartans in the league.
“When any game comes round, whether that be in cards or draughts, you just want to win. It comes down to how you can gain an advantage and if your opponent you’re playing is better than you then it’s a lot more work.”