Friendships will be put to one side when rivals Newtongrange Star and Arniston Rangers clash in the second round of the East of Scotland Cup at New Victoria Park tomorrow.
Newtongrange boss Alan Miller and Arniston manager Jock Landells go back more than 25 years having competed against each other in their playing days, while Miller is a former assistant manager of the Gorebridge club.
The connections between the two clubs extend to the pitch as well with six former Arniston players plying their trade for Nitten: Blair Tolmie, Jordan Cropley, Craig Thomson, Lewis Coult, Brian Murray and Stevie Noble, while former Star defender Guy Kerr moved to Newbyres Park in the summer and young striker Kieran Somerville, currently on loan from Livingston, spent a short time at Newtongrange at the start of this season.
Despite their local rivalry, Arniston get use of Star’s astroturf training facilities on a Thursday night with Nitten’s players making their way off the surface just as the Gorebridge club begin their session. Both sets of players regularly chat with each other in the passing.
Landells admires what his old adversary Miller has achieved in management, the two having come up against each other in the late 80s when Landells played for Bonnyrigg Rose and Miller starred for Linlithgow Rose, but he’s desperate to follow the lead of their Premier League rivals Thornton Hibs, who knocked Star out of the Fife & Lothians Cup earlier in the season.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for Windy and what he’s done over the years, but I’d love to get a result on Saturday against them,” said Landells.
“They are favourites so we’ll go there under no pressure and enjoy the occasion. We’ve got nothing to fear, we’ll just go there and play our own game and hopefully get through to the next round. We’ll give them respect but we’ll go there with confidence that we can win the game.
“We use their training facilities on a Thursday and they are coming off as we go on, so there’s always a bit of banter between the two teams – the players always have a wee chat with each other.
“They go up and do their set pieces on the pitch and the gates are all locked, so there’s not much chance of me finding out what they’re up to!”
The East of Scotland Cup is realistically Star’s last chance of silverware this season given they are 14 points off Super League leaders Bonnyrigg Rose, while they are out of the Junior Cup as well as the local Fife & Lothians competition .
Miller is desperate to avoid another cup slip-up after their surprise exit to Premier League bottom club Thornton earlier in the campaign although he isn’t expecting an easy afternoon if Landells shows the same commitment from the touchline as he did on the pitch.
“Nobody has to remind us of that really poor result; it’s our job just to make sure that it doesn’t happen again,” said Miller. “Football regularly throws up shocks at any level and we understand that can happen when you’re not on your mettle. We just have to make sure that it doesn’t happen on Saturday.
“It will be a tough one on. I know Jock well; we’ve crossed paths and crossed swords over the years. I know the type of guy he is, he is 100 per-cent. He puts that into his playing days and he’ll put that into his management style no doubt.
“There’s absolutely no doubt that as manager of Arniston and as a player that played for Bonnyrigg for years that Jock will be trying to get his players fired up for this one. It’s a local derby and everything that goes with it; we’ll be prepared for that.
“There are connections all over this one and it will be good to see some of the old faces that are on the committee as well. It’s quite funny; the last time we played Arniston up at Newtongrange around two or three years ago they were pleading poverty and they turned up in a horse and cart with their kit! I’m pretty sure they won’t be doing that this time.”
Newtongrange are without midfielder Kevin Motion due to work commitments while youngster Kevin Hamilton has been released. Arniston’s Declan Brady and Mark Aitken are both cup-tied.