From humble beginnings with Spartans, running out at City Park, Alloa Athletic’s Omar Kader will head to the more salubrious surroundings of Easter Road and Ibrox as part of Danny Lennon’s squad in his first full season in charge of the Championship outfit.
Kader penned a one-year deal with the Clackmannanshire club in the summer after three years with Forfar Athletic. The midfielder turned out against his current employers in last season’s SPFL League One promotion/relegation play-off final, netting the opener in a 3-1 first leg win for Dick Campbell’s Loons. However, the Wasps’ 3-0 triumph in the return leg put paid to Forfar’s promotion hopes, although Kader clearly made enough of an impression to persuade Lennon to add him to his ranks over the summer.
The former East of Scotland League player will now test himself at a higher level than he has ever played before – a prospect that made the decision to join Alloa an easy one.
“I played against Alloa at Forfar and was pretty gutted after the play-off games when we didn’t go up,” said Kader. “It was on the back of those games that Danny Lennon got in touch and asked if I was interested in making the switch to Alloa. After speaking to him, he’s very enthusiastic and he spoke highly of Alloa and laid out what he wanted to do, so the club and the league they’re playing in kind of sold itself with the teams in it this year.”
Kader moves into a Scottish Championship still featuring big names in Hibs, Rangers and St Mirren, but is just as enthused at facing the so-called lesser lights in what will be a whole new experience.
“At 29 you don’t get many chances to keep progressing and playing in higher leagues so that was obviously a good opportunity for me,” said Kader, whose team begin their campaign against Queen of the South at Palmerston tomorrow.
“I played against Rangers quite a few times a couple of seasons ago with Forfar but it’s obviously still going to be a huge game to go back and play in. Then you’ve got the Hibs games and even other games – you’ve got St Mirren, Falkirk, Livingston and Raith Rovers – all big clubs at this level so it’s a good opportunity for me.
The 29-year-old saw first hand how much staying in the division meant to Lennon’s players in last season’s play-off escape, and believes the part-timers can retain their Championship status again this season. “There’s not many part-time teams in the league so I guess the first aim is to stay up,” he admitted. “We need to do that first and foremost and then see how it goes.”
Despite his rise through the leagues and increased profile, Kader is quick to acknowledge the club where he began his journey. The wide player left Spartans in 2012 after seven years with the north Edinburgh club, and revealed his initial exposure to the bigger games there aided his development into a professional player.
“It was good to be involved with Spartans,” he said. “I was there from I think 17 until I was about 25 or 26 so it’s quite a big part of my football career. Mickey Lawson and Sam Lynch were the co-managers when I was first there. I played a couple of years with the under-19s then for a few years in the first team.
“You got that kind of insight into some of the bigger games – obviously you had your East of Scotland games but the opportunity to play in the Scottish Cup gave you a taste of playing those big games. Playing the likes of St Mirren gave you a teaser of the types of games you wanted to play in so Spartans have been a big part of my career.”
At the time of Kader’s move to league football, there was no pathway to league football for East of Scotland clubs – something that has now changed with the establishment of the Lowland League and pyramid play-offs and the Spartans old boy hopes the current crop can make the step up.
“The frustration back then was that there was no opportunity for Spartans to progress like there is now.
“They’ve got all the facilities and coaches in place. I think last year the cup run might have hindered their league form a little bit but I imagine this year their number one aim is to do what Edinburgh City did last year then hopefully go up through the play-offs.”
Kader will need to be content with a meeting in the Scottish Cup if he is to face his Spartans this season, but the charted accountant revealed he’s well placed to stay abreast of goings on at Ainslie Park through his day job. “I actually work alongside chairman Craig Graham so I still get regular updates!”