Promotion to the Super League wouldn’t be enough for Musselburgh Athletic defender Chris Gray – he’s intent on securing a Premier League winner’s medal to complete an east region treble.
The 32-year-old has already lifted the Super League title with Bonnyrigg Rose and later went on to win the South Division crown with Haddington Athletic. Now he’s desperate to complete the full set, with current club Burgh in pole position to do just that.
Calvin Shand’s side have bounced back remarkably from the bitter taste of relegation last season – a shock given the Olivebank men only crept into the bottom three in the latter weeks of the campaign – and now sit seven points clear at the top of the second tier having gone their opening 14 games unbeaten.
They are still smarting from the 1-0 defeat away to Kirriemuir Thistle in their last league encounter which ended that fine run, with tomorrow’s match at home to East Lothian rivals Tranent the ideal game to blow off some steam according to Gray, a former captain of his hometown team.
“The last game against Kirriemuir was a nightmare,” said Gray. “We absolutely battered them but we never really created much. It wasn’t good losing that unbeaten run, but that’s off our back now so we can concentrate on winning this league now.
“I don’t want to just go up, I want to win the league. I don’t think many have won all three. It puts a lot of pressure on you when you go that many games unbeaten. Teams were fired up to end that run, but I didn’t expect us to lose it there. The Tranent game has come at a perfect time after that result. I’m delighted we’ve got this game.”
Gray missed out on the encounter at Foresters Park earlier in the season due to suspension, so he’s been waiting for the reverse fixture to come around for some time. Changes have been stark in the intervening three months at Tranent with a new management team in place and several high-profile signings, including that of former Hearts and Rangers midfielder Ian Black, who has yet to make his debut for the club with red tape regarding his cross-border transfer putting that on hold.
Gray, who came out of retirement to sign for Musselburgh after he found a way to combine playing with spending more time with his daughter Lola, is glad to be back involved and is certainly confident he can be on the winning side tomorrow.
“I don’t think I’ve played so well or enjoyed football as much in years. I’ve got my daughter and she had dance and stuff before, and I felt I didn’t want her to be missing out because of me playing football.
“I’ve been building this game up for a while. I’m on the Tranent Facebook page and I was stirring the pot a bit for ages, but when I couldn’t play the first time, I was sick. I’m buzzing to play this game.
“Eck [Christie] their captain is one of my best mates, and I am friends with Toye [Craig Wojtowycz] too – I like to wind them up.
“I was hoping Blackie [Ian Black] would be playing as he’s one of my oldest mates – I’ve been winding him up for the last couple of weeks too.
“All my mates are all Tranent fans and I’m a Tranent boy; I need to be winning this game or I’m going to get destroyed. I’ll be the only person walking about with a smile on my face in Tranent after it, though, that’s a fact. I’ve told them all I’ll be doing the Conor McGregor walking down the high street!”
Midfielder Ryan Gay could make his debut for Musselburgh after signing this week, while his former Penicuik Athletic team-mate Ryan McCallum could line up for Tranent in his first start alongside new signing Jamie Devlin, brought in from Lothian Thistle, up front.
Belters boss Max Christie said: “I’ve really enjoyed it since I’ve gone in. We’ve had one game which was a complete disaster but what is evident is the ambitions of the club are there and we’ve got a great committee working hard to do their best.
“We’ve tried to get reinforcements in very quickly to make us a bit more competitive.”