Derek Riddel has warned his Leith Athletic players they will need to get to grips with other teams in the division seeing them as a major scalp.
The Meadowbank-based club won their first East of Scotland league championship in May, preventing city rivals Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale from registering their third consecutive crown in the process.
Now Leith, who will be the league’s sole representative in this season’s William Hill Scottish Cup when they travel to St Cuthbert Wanderers next Saturday for their premilinary round-one clash, must become accustomed to being the team everybody wants to beat.
“Lothian have won the league the last couple of seasons and, before that, it was obviously Spartans and Whitehill that dominated the East of Scotland.
“When you were playing these teams you’d always raise your game because they were quite rightly champions of the league at that time,” Riddel explained. “Even towards the end of last season when we were sitting at the top of the table, we were there to be shot at.
“We’ve not made that many changes over the last five or six years and I think that’s how the success has come about.
“We’ve lost our own and the league’s player of the year last season, Sean Murphy to Musslburgh Juniors, and Gary Black who has played with me for about 12 years has retired to take up a coaching role with our under-19 side.
“But other than that we’ve kept everyone else as the guys obviously did well last season so they’ve earned the right for a crack at defending the title.”
Leith are in action against Tynecastle at Saughton tomorrow in a Qualifying League Cup Group B fixture. The visitors won their opening clash with Heriot-Watt University 2-0 on Tuesday night and can cement their place at the summit of the group with another three points this weekend.
Hosts Tynecastle, on the other hand, will hope to rack up their first points on the board after a 2-0 defeat by the students of Heriot-Watt in last Saturday’s opener at Riccarton.
In Group A, Lothian Thistle make the short trip to East Lothian to tackle Ormiston at Recreation Park.
Raymond Carr’s men turned in an eye-catching display down at Eyemouth last weekend scoring seven goals without reply and will go into tomorrow’s encounter in buoyant mood. Ormiston, meanwhile, lost out 3-2 to Peebles Rovers in their group opener on Wednesday night at Whitestone Park and will be hoping for a response.