Returning Musselburgh Athletic boss Calvin Shand can’t wait for the new season to start as he’ll be able to put his sole focus into ensuring his squad get it right on the pitch.
Shand quit the Olivebank club at the end of last season – sighting things weren’t right behind the scenes at Premier League champions Burgh – but swiftly returned to his post less than three weeks later after an EGM in June resulted in previous chairman Charlie McGlynn stepping aside, with Karl Cleghorn appointed as his replacement.
Like many others, this is a season full of intrigue for the club as they begin life after the Juniors – the club a part of the seismic restructure of the non-league scene in which the East of Scotland League has boosted its numbers to 39 member clubs.
“Myself and Geordie [Kevin McDonald, assistant manager] are back in and it seems really positive so far with the new committee and the new guys who have taken over the club; it’s been all good so far off the pitch,” said Shand.
“Once I had spoken to the new chairman, I knew I was going back in. I had a chat and made my mind up there and then. Issues off the park are sorted which means we can now concentrate solely on things on the park.
“We’ve lost six players to senior clubs which shows the environment we create for players to try and progress their own careers. We just try to help them develop. To lose six players is never great but to lose them to senior clubs shows that we are trying to do the right things.
“For the younger players, they know they are in a good place and if they do well they might get that opportunity if they work hard.
“We are a youthful squad and at the moment we have nine new players in the changing-room, so it really is a complete rebuild. We still have quality from last year and we’re still looking to add one or two to it.
“We’ve also got the opportunity to dip in to our under-20s squad. There’s been a couple of them involved in every friendly so far. It’s been something I’ve been trying to get for a while at Musselburgh and I’m glad it’s now finally in place.”
While Musselburgh’s Conference A campaign doesn’t kick off until next month, the prelude to the hotly-anticipated league season begins tomorrow when they visit East Lothian rivals Preston Athletic in Qualifying League Section H. Comprising of ten sections, the ten winners and the best runners-up qualify for the Central Taxis East of Scotland League Cup first round, with nine section runners-up qualifying for the preliminary round, with the final to be held next May.
Preston Athletic boss Jack Lynch, whose side are housed in Conference C, has been able to retain the bulk of last season’s squad which achieved a third-place finish and reached the final of the King Cup, losing out on penalties to league champions Kelty Hearts.
His side will begin their league action next month at home to Blackburn United on Tuesday, August 21, but Lynch was hoping for more local action in a league which includes Stirling University, St Andrews United and Jeanfield Swifts.
“Last season we took a load of players from our under-20s and went for quite a youthful team with an experienced backline, which served us well to be fair,” said Lynch.
“Everybody has been in trying to tap our players left right and centre, but we’ve managed to re-sign 14 [of last season’s squad].
“We can’t go out like other teams and bring in a name who has played for Hibs, Hearts or whoever. We can’t afford that, so we just go with what we’ve got. I see Preston as a development club who can bring in a lot of local boys.
“It’s an exciting time ahead for the East of Scotland and Preston. We were just a bit miffed that we never got all the local derbies; the league hasn’t worked out brilliant for us. We were hoping to have the Haddingtons, Tranents and Musselburghs in our league.”