East of Scotland League president John Greenhorn says he expects to be inundated with applications from Junior clubs next season following Kelty Hearts’ recent admission to the set-up.
The Super League champions made the switch to aid their dream of playing in the SPFL and will now pursue their move up the leagues via Scottish football’s pyramid system.
Greenhorn, who is also a club official at Ormiston, views the addition of Kelty as a major coup. And, although he accepts they don’t intend to hang around too long – the Fifers will be targeting promotion to the Lowland League at the first time of asking – he does anticipate others opting to negotiate a similar route.
“I’d be really surprised if we don’t get quite a few applications next year from a number of Junior clubs,” Greenhorn said. “We do appreciate that Kelty’s ambition is to play in a bigger league than the East of Scotland but they’ve been honest with us from the start and went about it the right way.
“We had a few other clubs showing an interest, none more so than Bo’ness but, for one reason or another, it was only Kelty who formally submitted an application. But of the clubs who were interested, Kelty were much further down the line in terms of gaining their licence and they expect to have that in place some time this year.
“Kelty will definitely go in as league favourites. They’re going to have the same team that has just won the Super League and whoever else they add so they’ll be very strong.
“There were no descending voices whatsoever about accepting them. This had been bubbling along under the surface for a while. At the minute, we are trying to get the total number of clubs in the league to 16 and we’re at 13 at the moment.
“We will also be opening negotiations with the Lowland League soon regarding potential promotion places. One of the reasons we don’t think we had any more Junior clubs applying this year is because there is only one way out and that’s as champions.”
Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale manager Raymond Carr welcomed the move by Kelty with open arms. Lothian, who won the championship last month having beaten Leith Athletic in a final-day league-title decider, will no doubt see Kelty as a major threat next season. That said, Carr says the stiffer competition the league has to offer the better.
“I think it’s a good thing as it will strengthen the league because you want competition,” he said. “Players will want to stay in the league if they know it’s competitive. I’m really looking forward to it. I wish two or three more could have joined.
“The stiffer the competition, the better it is. The players know they have to raise their game every week. Kelty are going to have a strong team but players like to win and they like to win on merit.”