Manager Derek Riddel announced earlier this week of his decision to leave Leith Athletic upon the conclusion of this weekend’s King Cup final and now it’s the turn of goalkeeper Iain Gordon to announce his departure.
The 35-year-old has been a mainstay of the club for the past 11 seasons but has decided now is the time to follow his boss through the exit door.
Leith meet arch-rivals Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale at Ferguson Park tomorrow, a week on from the 3-2 defeat that clinched Raymond Carr’s men the East of Scotland League title.
But, whilst the majority of his team-mates have spent this week plotting their revenge, Gordon admits he had been plucking up the courage to tell Riddel of his decision only for his manager to get in there first.
“I had been thinking a lot about what I’d been doing next season lately,” Gordon said. “I would have signed for Derek and then if he’d ever needed me then I’d have stepped in. But I wasn’t going to devote my time week in week out, especially with my wife having had a baby in March. I wasn’t looking forward to telling Derek as I felt as if I’d be letting him down.
“But with him telling us on Tuesday before training that he would also be leaving, that made my conversation with him so much easier!”
Gordon revealed Riddel’s admission that tomorrow’s match at Rosewell would be his last came as a real surprise to the club’s tight-knit squad. However, he says the onus is now on the players to ensure he gets the send off he deserves.
“It really caught us off guard to be honest and one I don’t think any of us saw coming. He’s not just the manager as he does a lot of work behind the scenes as well and has been one of the ones trying to progress and get us moving towards the Lowland League.
“I don’t know if the disappointment of last Saturday might have influenced his decision, who knows. He’s put in a lot of time these past few years so he might just feel he needs a wee break. He is ambitious, though, and deserves his chance.
“There are a lot of players who have had other opportunities to go to other clubs but have chosen to stay because of Derek. With regards to myself, I’ve kept playing until I’m 35 because I like working under Derek so it would be a great way to celebrate in the changing room after and sing a few songs about him if we can get the win. From my own perspective as well it would be great to finish my career on a high.”
Gordon continued: “We always knew winning the league was going to be a long shot. We didn’t get the first goal last week which was going to be so important, so it was a disappointing changing room afterwards.
“But It would be a nice way to finish this season off with a trophy for a number of reasons.”
Lothian boss Raymond Carr, meanwhile, commended the impact Riddel has made at the Meadowbank-based club but is determined to see his players end the campaign with their fifth trophy. Lothian have already secured the East of Scotland League crown, Alex Jack Cup, East of Scotland Cup and South & East Cup Winners Shield.
“Leith will want to finish on a high, especially with Derek finishing up so I’m sure they will want to go out there and win it for him,” Carr explained. “He’s put a lot of time and effort into the club. It’s sad to see him go and I do know he is looking for another challenge. Whatever he does, he is a determined young coach and I think he will do very well.
“But we have to take care of ourselves. It’s the players that do it. We give them the platform and point them in the right direction. It worked for us last week but tomorrow will be a completely different game altogether.
“We have a really close group and their desire to win is as strong as ever. We don’t want to end a really good year losing a cup final.”