There is another Capital football team who are seemingly on their own relentless march to a league title.
While Robbie Neilson’s men were racking up the goals at Tynecastle, Edinburgh City were notching up their 11th straight Lowland League victory with a 1-0 win 45 miles away at East Kilbride. Like the Gorgie club, City have lead their division since early in the season and are now just two wins from the title, still unbeaten having dropped only four points all campaign.
A big factor in their remarkable run has been the experience and dominant displays of centre-back Joe Mbu. The former Cowdenbeath and East Fife man only joined Gary Jardine’s men in the summer, and now finds himself potentially on the brink of a return to league football after he had planned to give up the game entirely. “I’d pretty much made up my mind not to be playing this season,” said the Cameroon-born defender. “Gary asked me to come along and help him in a few pre-season games and I just enjoyed the enthusiasm of the boys. The work rate and seeing the talent that was within the team already convinced me.
“It’s local – just up the road so I get a chance to come home first before training. I’m not straight in the car and not getting home until well after ten. It just all made sense. I just didn’t want to travel any more – I was so tired of it. I had plenty of offers that would have meant even further travelling than I was doing at East Fife and I just thought, ‘naw, the money’s not even worth it to still be doing it’.”
When City win the league – it is surely now a case of when rather than if – they will not only make history in taking part in the inaugural Lowland/Highland League promotion play-offs, it will be their first league title since winning the East of Scotland Premier Division in 2006. Despite being somewhat surprise leaders – let alone champions in waiting – Mbu insists the quality he saw early on convinced him City could achieve this season.
“When I played a few pre-season games I could see the potential in the team. I thought we would be there or thereabouts but everybody had discounted them as being challengers at all. I said that to the boys, that they had matched full-time teams in Raith Rovers and some of Dumbarton’s players and exceeded levels where they created loads of chances, so you can step up; that they could actually play in the SPFL themselves, that it’s a possibility. There’s a few guys that could do it with other teams so hopefully they’ll want to do that with City if we get promotion.”
Aside from league positions, another parallel to be drawn between the Meadowbank side and their Gorgie neighbours is in the make up of squads. Both have a nucleus of young players who have been at the club for several years, now flourishing with the addition of experienced campaigners like Mbu. “That’s exactly what it is – local boys who have been here for six, seven years – some of them even longer than that. They’ve come through the youth set-up, played and done themselves proud. They’ve not been given a look-in from other senior teams but they’ve shown they’re capable of playing at that level and it can only go from strength to strength for Edinburgh City from a youth point of view. Other people will be taking notice that six or seven have come through to the first team and are doing well.”
Only Stirling University and Whitehill Welfare have managed to hold City to league draws this season, and Mbu feels they maybe haven’t received the credit they’ve deserved. Despite that, he is happy to continue flying under the radar, and without making any bold claims, believes they have the correct attitude to end the campaign unbeaten. “I don’t think we have had the credit we’ve deserved this season but that’s fine by us – we’re happy going about our business, picking up victories and progressing well throughout the season. It doesn’t matter to us what anybody else says – any negative comments add fuel to the fire.
“In terms of going the season unbeaten, I don’t see why not. The work rate of the boys in that team is unbelievable and I think any team that comes up against us is going to find it very hard to beat us. It reminds me of the early days I’ve had in other teams – it’s unbelievable to see at times how hard they all work for each other.”