Edinburgh City striker Ortega Deniran could be playing league football in black and white next season, but the Nigerian could have been doing so in the maroon of Hearts had circumstances been different.
City travel to Brora for the second leg of their play-off tie on Saturday to determine who will face Montrose for a place in SPFL League Two next season. Deniran, 28, who scored the Meadowbank club’s goal in last Saturday’s 1-1 draw, could have been playing league football in the Capital three years ago but for a change of manager at Tynecastle. “First of all I came to Edinburgh for treatment and then I came back for a trial with Hearts,” he said. “That was when Jim Jeffries, Billy Brown and Gary Locke were all there. I had a good time with them and good memories – they wanted to sign me but then the manager got fired.”
Despite that disappointment, the striker was struck by Edinburgh, and is delighted to be here with his family. “I just love the city. Since the first time I came from the airport I knew I had to bring the family over. They’re staying here now and I don’t want to go far from them. I could go farther in Scotland and get another team but I just want to stay here with the family.”
Deniran is keen to settle after a nomadic career that has taken him to Guatemala, China, Bulgaria and Armenia since leaving Nigeria, and has enjoyed his first season with the Lowland League champions. “I’ve enjoyed it – it’s a low level but it’s bringing me back to my normal fitness and I need to keep pushing hard. It’s a good team with good lads – it’s great. I don’t really know about next season because it’s football – you don’t know where it pushes you. For now I’m here and focused on Edinburgh City.”
This week Deniran’s focus in on Saturday’s second leg at Dudgeon Park. While the two-legged format is foreign to most players at this level, the front man experienced it in Europe’s premier competition with Levski Sofia, but his approach is the same “With Levski Sofia it was the Champions League and here it’s the [SPFL] play-offs – it’s two games, you just need to be focused. The way you play. You go there and give them a good fight and see what happens. You need to be positive.”
Many would expect a player of Deniran’s pedigree to be able to coast through matches in the Scottish Lowland League, but he insists the opposite has been true. “It’s a low level but it’s very difficult. Maybe people think it’s an easy game but no, it’s one of the most difficult levels I’ve played at in my life. Not just the physical side but the game itself – people are thinking differently from you and you need to match up to their standard. Because we are not training every day as a part-time team that makes it more difficult. This is the first time I’ve played part-time but it’s one of the experiences you need to get from football – I try everything!”