There is not one, but two Edinburgh derbies taking place across the city this weekend.
hile the SPFL clash between Hearts and Hibs at Tynecastle on Sunday may hold the greater pull-factor, tomorrow’s Lowland League encounter at Meadowbank involving Edinburgh City and Spartans will be just as intense.
City manager Gary Jardine is relishing the league opener against the Ainslie Park side, but admits his players couldn’t have been handed a more demanding 90 minutes.
He said: “Spartans have already had three competitive games so as much as we’re looking forward to it, we know how difficult it’s going to be.
“I would have rather have played them further on in the season but, if we perform to our highest level, then we’ll have every chance of winning the match.”
With the loss of some key personnel over the summer break, Jardine has had a considerable task in finding suitable replacements. He said: “Pre-season is about getting players in and getting them to gel with the squad. We’ve lost a bit of experience with Andy Howat packing football in, Robbie Ross joining Spartans and Ruaraidh Scott moving to London, so it was important we got in the right players to fill those gaps.
“I’m really happy with the squad though and I think we will be stronger.
“You never know what can happen, we are good enough and we should be able to make a challenge of some sorts – we’ll certainly be looking to be in the top three of four places come the end of the season.”
Opponents Spartans, meanwhile, will arrive having already contested three competitive fixtures, progressing over two legs against Threave Rovers in the Ramsdens Cup before eventually falling foul to SPFL Championship side, Queen of the South.
Manager Dougie Samuel is hoping this will stand his players in good stead. “Our last game against Edinburgh City was a cup final at the end of last season and we were on the end of a loss, so it’s certainly a match we don’t have to worry about in terms of motivation for the players.
“The players that were involved in the Ramsdens Cup have got that wee bit extra match fitness, but about one third of our squad are a bit under cooked – we’re still about a month away from where we would like to be as a whole.”
Reigning East of Scotland Premier Division champions, Whitehill Welfare, kick off their new campaign at home to Borders outfit, Gala Fairydean Rovers at Ferguson Park.
Manager Mike Lawson doesn’t believe his side’s 4-1 defeat to Junior side, Penicuik Athletic, on Tuesday night will have any bearing on the mindset of his players.
“We didn’t have a full squad out and I left most of the regulars out until the last half hour against Penicuik,” Lawson said. “But they are a good side though and it sets us up for tomorrow. We’ve played seven friendlies this pre-season and won five of them so it’s shaping up well.
“Gala have a real structure going and have got a bit of money behind them. People have been tipping us for an easy home win but I am not looking at it that way. We’re certainly looking to get the three points though and the boys are up for it.”
Former Livingston and Dunfermline forward David Bingham is hoping to lead his Preston side off on the right foot when they entertain Dalbeattie Star at Pennypit.
However, he admits the visitors are largely an unknown quantity for his squad.
Bingham said: “We know little about Dalbeattie so I can’t really make any concrete plans.
“But it’s a great platform for us to go and show what we’re capable of doing at this level.
“There might be some nerves from some of the younger ones but it’s an occasion to relish.
“It’s only the first game of the season so there is a long way to go, but hopefully we can get the ball rolling with a positive result.”
The inaugural campaign not only represents a new dawn for the East Lothian club, but a step in the right direction for Bingham on a personal note.
He added: “I’m grateful to be given this opportunity so early on in my managerial career.
“We had a mixed first year last season but finished mid-table, which for our first season in the Premier, was what we were looking to do.
“I want to prove I can manage at this level.”