Bonnyrigg Rose captain outlines club's potential as he pokes fun at former Hearts team-mate
Jonny Stewart is under no illusions this season is going to be tough for Bonnyrigg Rose but he believes the sky is the limit for the newcomers to the SPFL.
The club captain will lead his team-mates out against Forfar Athletic at New Dundas Park this Saturday as the Rosey Posey begin life in League Two.
The Midlothian club won the Lowland League last season before defeating Cowdenbeath to seal promotion. They’ve since proven themselves to be no pushovers at this level with four points in a tough Premier Sports Cup group featuring Clyde, Hibs, Falkirk and Greenock Morton.
Compared with the likes of Cove Rangers and Kelty Hearts, Bonnyrigg’s ascension to League Two feels more organic with a supporters base that wouldn’t look too out of place in the Championship and a group of players who’ve been together for years.
Before dreams about going up through the divisions can become a reality, competitiveness is very much the aim in a league where literally every team should harbour hopes of promotion.
"There isn't really any set ambition,” Stewart told the Evening News. “We just want to take each game as it comes because there aren't going to be any easy ones.
"I can't see anyone being strong favourites and running away with it. But we've got a good group of boys who have been here six, seven, eight years now. We're used to winning and that'll be something we've got on our side. Hopefully we can take that into the league campaign.
"We went up through the play-offs last year and took about 1,200 fans through to Cowdenbeath. We sold out the game against Hibs and almost did the same against Falkirk. We take a decent away support to games as well now. They've also set up a Bonnyrigg Rose Supporters Club. It's a massive community club. Off the top of my head, there's about 700-800 kids involved in the community club. There's a lot of potential there.”
It’s a return to the SPFL for the midfielder who came through the ranks at Hearts during the days of the Vladimir Romanov era. It’s safe to say life at Bonnyrigg, whom he joined in 2014, is a bit simpler than his days at Tynecastle under the stewardship of the eccentric Russian.
“Aye, just a wee bit. At least I get my wages on time here. It's maybe a fraction of the wage but at least it's going in the bank on time,” Stewart laughed.
“It was a dream come true going into Hearts at 16. It's the team I've supported all my life and I still support them now. It was tough because there were some boys on a lot of money and when I first went in there were 70 players on the books.”
While at Hearts, Stewart played together in the same under-19s side as Ryan McGowan. The two have remained close friends and, as is customary in Scotland, there was a bit of fun to be had at his pal’s expense.
"Big Gowser! He trained with us a couple of times and I don't think Robbie fancied him. I dunno how he's got a move to St Johnstone. Callum Davidson must not have been watching our training,” Stewart joked. “But nah, it’s great to have him back.”