Penicuik Athletic may be riding high at the top of East of Scotland Conference A with a 100 per cent record, but it has been a far from perfect few weeks for the club.
If losing the man who guided them to their highest-ever finish in the Super League and silverware in their final season in the Juniors wasn’t hard enough, three key players then walked out of the club last week, choosing to activate a release clause in their contracts.
Newly-installed captain Aaron Somerville describes the past few weeks as one of his toughest in football, with manager Johnny Harvey leaving for Berwick Rangers followed by previous captain Craig Hume, Lewis Barr and Andy Forbes opting to exit on a free. Two of the three played as trialists for Berwick in their 4-2 defeat of Elgin City last Saturday.
“It was a big shock for the boys,” said 31-year-old Somerville. “It’s a tough one. Personally, I think you can’t stand in boys’ ways that want to go on and play in a bigger league and, on paper, a better club but at, the same time, there’s ways and means to go about it. I think it was handled really badly, just with timings and the way it happened; that’s not just with the three players that are away but with the manager as well [Johnny Harvey] – it’s been a tough few weeks for the club.
“We didn’t find out until the Tuesday night that they were gone. I never got the chance to say anything to them face-to-face, group chats and stuff followed. Credit to Lewy Barr, when he left, he came round all the boys and wished everybody all the best and vice versa. All the boys explained their decisions after training.
“I’ve seen it all before, boys move on. You can’t stand in people’s way that are looking to move on. I just think that timing and the situation could have been a lot better. Personally, I think it is madness that they have left at the start of November when they can only play their next three games as trialists. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that that doesn’t benefit anybody.
“If you look at the three players, their performances over the last couple of years have earned them that right to go to Berwick.
“I wouldn’t say the rest of us are disappointed with the players on an individual level.”
Striker Somerville, who has netted 16 goals so far this season, was asked by new boss Kevin Milne to take over as captain in the wake of Hume’s exit. It is a role he isn’t familiar with and one he would have refused had circumstances been different.
Ahead of hosting in-form Newtongrange Star tomorrow, he continued: “It was a bit of a shock to be asked, but I think Kev and Tony [Begg, assistant manager] wanted one of the senior boys, one of the boys that have been about the club for a few years to take it on, I think that was the reasoning behind them asking me.
“Normally I would’ve turned it down; I’ve been asked a couple of times in the past and I just don’t think it’s really me – I didn’t wear an armband on Saturday.
“With the changes at the club the last couple of weeks, I felt like once I was asked I couldn’t really say no. We’ll see how that goes, I am sick of the boys calling me skip already; that’s got to change or I’ll be handing my resignation in! I think a captain is meant to be central figure, there is a lot of responsibility there. I’ve just never done it before, so I’m a wee bit apprehensive about it.”