Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale midfielder Connor McGregor has admitted the club are finding it tough in the revamped East of Scotland leagues – but they won’t give up.
Lothian have made an uncharacteristically sluggish start to this season’s East of Scotland Conference B, with the migration of more than 20 ex-Junior clubs having knocked them off their perch as one of the association’s leading clubs.
For McGregor, who is used to winning silverware with the club he first started out with at four-years-old, it has been incredibly difficult. He reckons they need to show better fight if they wish to move up the table, with Raymond Carr’s men currently sitting tenth in their 13-team league.
“We are finding it really hard, myself included. We just aren’t the same and it’s due to the new teams coming in,” said McGregor.
“If it was the same league, we would be winning 10-0 again every week. All the new teams are good, and it’s hard to match them with some of the money they are throwing about. We don’t get much; we play because we are all Hutchie boys. We have toiled and maybe it’s an end of an era for Lothian to be honest; we’ve had our chance to get up – not to get up through the leagues, but every time we won the league we never got anything out of it. Now we get our licence, 20 odd teams come into it and I don’t think we’re going to get up now. If only we got it two years ago, we might have been in League Two by now.
“We’ve still got the nucleus of a squad which has been around a few years, but it’s just not working. Losing Scotty [Taylor-McKenzie] to Kelty was hard because he was a big personality in the changing room; maybe we need people like that to come in and pull us out the s*** because there’s not enough of us like that in the changing room.
“I knew what to expect. I’ll be the first to admit I’m not the best footballer, but I’m up for a fight every week and I give my heart and soul for a Hutchie jersey because I’ve been there since I was a four-year-old, apart from a couple of years away.
“Now I am back at Hutchie, I love it, although we’re not winning every week, I’ll probably end my career here.”
McGregor, older brother of Commonwealth boxing champion Lee, aims to lead by example tomorrow when he hopes to come face to face with former Hearts midfield star Ian Black in their visit to Tranent.
A Hearts fan, 23-year-old McGregor can’t wait to play against a player he once looked to model his own game on and believes they can even spring a shock against Max Christie’s men.
He continued: “This week there has been a bit of a change. Chris Scott [former Tynecastle manager] has come in from Tynie and training has been lifted this week.
“I’m looking forward to Saturday, I think we might shock everyone. Training has been different, it has been the best two training sessions we’ve had this season. It’s going to be tough, they have a big crowd and they are physical team, but we’ll be up for it.
“Ian Black is there and I’m looking forward to the fight against him in the middle of the park. He’s a player I looked up to for years as a Hearts fan; I loved him and tried to base myself on him. To come up against him, I will relish the challenge and I’m hoping to play in the middle against them. You want to challenge yourself against the best and Blackie must be one of the best at this level, easy.”
Lothian boss Carr has led the Saughton-based outfit to two East of Scotland titles and two runner-up places in his four years in charge and McGregor insists his boss has the full backing of his players.
He added: “Raymie is a top manager who I love playing for, and all the guys love playing for him too. It’s not his fault why we are losing, but when teams start going down a bit, all the outsiders start looking at the gaffer.
“That’s not the case and the boys will be the first to tell you that; Raymie is the same as what he was when I first played for him five years ago. He’s maybe not getting the best out of the boys just now, but he’s a top manager to play for and his name speaks for itself in the lower leagues.
“The boys are all right behind the manager.”