Musselburgh Athletic boss Stevie McLeish has vowed to give it everything they’ve got in the Super League title race but he admits their chances of championship success are slim given a lack of squad depth.
Having had to assemble almost an entirely new squad in the summer after a host of key players earned moves to Senior clubs on the back of their run to the Junior Cup final, the Olivebank club suffered another blow with captain Brian Martin departing for Berwick Rangers earlier this month.
That has left Burgh boss McLeish with a group of just 16 to choose from for the remainder of the campaign, with attempts to bolster his squad so far having proved unsuccessful.
With just 12 points separating league leaders Bonnyrigg Rose down to Newtongrange Star in seventh, McLeish is expecting the battle for top spot to go down to the wire but doubts whether his side can go the distance with a paucity of players at his disposal.
“I think the league will be given to somebody this year rather than somebody running away it, that’s how I’m looking at the league just now, because teams are cutting each other’s legs off,” said McLeish.
“Bonnyrigg are the form team and they are doing really, really well at the moment. They’ve not had a bad patch like other clubs have had that are around them and I’m sure like everybody it will come.
“We’ve got 16 players that are turning out week in, week out and you’re saying to yourself you need to add to that but sometimes you can only add if the quality is there or the opportunity to add is there and I’m not just going to bring in anybody just to make up the numbers.
“That’s what will do us in, is a lack of numbers. We’ll be a team that will be competing, but can we win it? It’s doubtful given we only have 16 players. That’s just the challenges you have as a manager, we’re happy to give it a bash.
“We’ve got a lot of good quality players as it is so we’re obviously a forced to be reckoned with. You never know your luck, it could be your year or it might not be your year, you just do what you can.”
Many were tipping Burgh to get relegated after a slow start saw them languishing at the bottom end of the table with just two victories from their opening eight league matches. However, they have since turned that form on its head and go into tomorrow’s Super League match at St Andrews on the back of nine league matches without defeat – form which has put them in contention for the league crown.
One worry for McLeish was how to replace 42-goal striker Jordyn Sheerin who earned a full-time contract with Livingston following his exploits last season. That void has been filled by Sean Jamieson, the striker picked up from Newtongrange has so far bagged 20 goals.
“He’s been absolutely fabulous,” said McLeish. “Everybody said how are you going to replace Jordyn Sheerin’s goals and you know what, I was saying that personally. But we’ve done not bad, Jamieson has scored the bulk of them and there is others chipping in as well.
“Everybody was tipping Musselburgh to be relegated after the first three games. In our changing room we’ve got eight Super League medals, you don’t have players like that and get relegated. We’ve got enough points now that I’m pretty sure we are safe, so I think it’s a case of seeing how high we can get this team We’ve got no expectations whatsoever, we aren’t setting any goals; we’ll just try and win as many games as we possibly can and see where it takes us.”
McLeish takes his side to second bottom St Andrews tomorrow for their first match of 2016, their last game having been a 6-1 victory over Sauchie before Christmas with two call-offs leaving them waiting to resume their season.
Elsewhere, Newtongrange, Bonnyrigg and Bo’ness United are all on the road with visits to Sauchie, Broughty and Fauldhouse while Broxburn entertain champions Kelty Hearts. In the Junior Cup, Linlithgow host Irvine Meadow while Arniston Rangers travel to Kilwinning Rangers for a place in the last 16.