Ruari MacLennan couldn’t refuse Linlithgow manager Mark Bradley’s offer of a swift return to Prestonfield because he felt he still owes his old boss big time.
The midfielder has linked back up with his hometown club along with brother Roddy after they spent last season at Rose’s derby rivals Bo’ness United. MacLennan never thought he’d return to the club he exited along with his brother under a cloud last summer after Roddy was offered a derisory contract offer having just returned from a career-threatening Achilles’ injury.
They both felt their bridges were burned at Prestonfield where they had spent six long years and established themselves as part of the woodwork in the home dressing-room of the royal burgh.
But when offered the opportunity to go back, MacLennan jumped at the chance, having still felt guilty from when Bradley sensationally quit in March 2014 after a 6-0 away loss to St Andrews after leading the club to a treble the season previous in a 50-game unbeaten run spanning a year and a half of football.
Both brothers had verbally agreed to sign an extension with Bo’ness but reneged on that agreement when Bradley came calling, Ruari said: “We beat them on the Monday night in the cup and we heard rumours that he was going back, but we didn’t think he’d take us back after everything that had happened. It got announced straight after the game then I had a text from him on Tuesday morning.
“I just phoned him straight away and he asked if I was interested in coming back. As soon as we could get signed, we were in. I told him I kind of felt like I was due him one after the way it ended. We went a full season unbeaten, a year and a half of football. I was a sub the day he got sacked against St Andrews, I had been dropped the previous couple of weeks. We were 3-0 down and down to nine men when I came on and we ended up getting beat 6-0. I felt instantly as if it was fault after he left, because my attitude wasn’t exactly great back then, but you live and learn from that and you grow older.
“We got beat maybe two or three games in a row and it was as if we were expecting to win games. We had been up there [St Andrews] four or five times and never been beat. Expectancy levels were so high and the fans were getting on our’s and the manager’s back.
“I definitely didn’t think I’d be back, especially after joining their biggest rivals. I thought that was me for the rest of my Junior career. Bo’ness was perfect for me, they treated us brilliant and the committee was brilliant. If it wasn’t for Mark Bradley we wouldn’t have been back, we would’ve still been at Bo’ness. I’m buzzing to be back at Linlithgow and Roddy is the exact same.”
Bradley has masterminded a much-needed rebuilding job at Prestonfield over the summer after a disastrous campaign last season which almost saw the club relegated for the first time. Joining the MacLennan’s from Bo’ness are Colin Strickland and Robert Sloan, while three west-based players – Iain Gray, Owen Ronald and Aiden Malone – have signed up alongside promising former Albion Rovers left-back Kyle Turnbull.
The new-look side get their first outing in a competitive fixture tomorrow in the season curtain raiser when they visit Penicuik Athletic, who have also made a raft of changes over the summer, despite enjoying their best-ever Super League season last term with a fourth place finish.
Manager Johnny Harvey is hopeful of repeating last season’s feat in his second season as boss, but recognises his side punched above their weight to sneak into the top four.
He said: “The goal is to match or better what we achieved last season but we’re realistic. In terms of infrastructure of Super League clubs I don’t think Penicuik is in the top four in the east, however, on the playing side we have built a good squad which is capable of challenging. Finishing in the top four would be a massive achievement for us. I think we punched well above our weight last season.
“If you finish above Linlithgow this season you won’t be very far away from winning the league. That’s how big a challenge we’ve got. It’s massive game for us and they’ll bring a huge support.”
Elsewhere, league title favourites Bonnyrigg Rose visit newly-promoted Forfar West End who beat Newtongrange Star in last season’s relegation play-off. Star, who remain in the Super League due to Kelty Hearts leaving for the East of Scotland League, host Dundonald Bluebell. Bo’ness United entertain Carnoustie Panmure at Newtown Park while Broxburn Athletic take on Jeanfield Swifts at Albyn Park.