It’s been a summer of change for Whitehill Welfare and winger Stevie Manson believes that will be evident when they meet old rivals Spartans at Ainslie Park tomorrow.
Both clubs have reshaped their squads over the summer, with Manson just one of four players remaining at Ferguson Park from last season. He played in Welfare’s 3-1 win in last season’s corresponding fixture but admitted that tomorrow will possess a different dynamic.
“It’s probably going to be entirely different” he said. “If you look at both our starts to the season, it’s been pretty indifferent. Certainly for the standards that Whitehill and Spartans set themselves, it shows that we both have new squads. We’ve got two wins and two defeats and they’ve had a win, a couple of draws and a defeat so it’s showing it takes time for squads to gel.”
Traditionally two of the top teams in East of Scotland football, tomorrow’s encounter is of the mid-table variety. Despite that, Manson believes it will still bring the old intensity and pressure that comes with wearing the claret and blue.
“No matter if it’s a friendly or a cup final, you’re expected to win when you put that Whitehill strip on,” he said. “The whole philosophy up there is if you’re playing for Whitehill Welfare, you should be winning every game. They don’t accept going out as underdogs or playing for a draw and that’s how it’ll probably always be.
“Of course, it’s a much more competitive league than what the East of Scotland was. For example Spartans v Whitehill – I know we’re only four games in – will be a mid-table clash, but historically that would be a top of the table clash. It’s not just us and Spartans, look at Stirling Uni as well – three of the top teams from the East of Scotland league – Gretna as well. It’s all changed, but it’s made it better for the league, it really has gotten stronger.
Look at Selkirk’s result on Wednesday and it shows you where they’ve come from – when they were an East of Scotland side, you’d never have expected them to take anything off Spartans. It shows the improvements that other teams have made rather than any decline in Whitehill or Spartans and teams like that.”
As well as an influx of new blood, the Rosewell side are also adapting to a different playing style under manager Grant Carnie and Manson revealed there’s frustration that coherent pre-season performances haven’t been transferred to league games thus far.
“Grant’s a lot more about a pressing game,” he said. “We press high up the park, whereas Mickey [Lawson, previous boss] had a more patient approach, letting the opposition take the game to us and we’d hit them on the counter. It’s a change of philosophy and it means that the guys who were here lasts season need to adapt.
“When we were playing in pre-season it looked as if we’d gelled really quickly. I don’t know what’s happened now we’ve started competitively, but we’re certainly not reaching the heights or the tempo which we were playing at then. Maybe that’s just looking for an excuse for the last few games, but you’re looking at 14 or 15 new players, so you’d expect it to take time.”
Tomorrow’s game still retains its old lustre, though. “It’s a good game to go back into,” Manson added. “The first fixtures you look for are Spartans.”