NEWTONGRANGE STAR boss Alan Miller has predicted this season’s Super League title race to be more wide open than it has ever been before.
Star welcome champions Kelty Hearts to New Victoria Park tomorrow for a mouthwatering curtain raiser to herald the new season.
The Fife club were first-time winners of the East Region’s top tier last term having flirted with relegation the season previously and they have been instilled as favourites with the bookies to make it two in row.
Kelty boss Tam Courts has recruited well over the summer, bringing in former Hearts youngster Stephen Husband as well as striker Calum Smith from Linlithgow Rose and they certainly look the team to beat.
Newtongrange, who finished fourth last season, have also made some quality additions including Lee Currie from Berwick Rangers, while fellow challengers Bo’ness United and Bonnyrigg Rose have beefed up their squads.
“I think it promises to be one of the most open Super League seasons in a long time,” said Miller.
“Every start to a Junior season is new because you just don’t know how teams are gelling and whether they are changing their formation. I know the new signings, but there is a freshness about it which makes it interesting and exciting.
“More than any previous season I think the games amongst the top half-dozen will be really definitive this season and they will really define the league. With the strengthening that’s been going on, it’s tough to say how the results between the top half of the table will not have an implication on the league positions at the end of the day.”
Star finished ten points adrift of champions Kelty last term, with the Central Park side having stormed to the top of the table from early on in the campaign with everyone else playing catch up.
Newtongrange looked as if they might sustain a challenge, given an excellent start, but faltered away in the second half of the season as the games mounted up.
The New Victoria Park men have finished in fourth place for two years in a row and Miller believes they have to push on this season and improve to break into the top three, otherwise he would deem a third fourth place on the trot as an unsuccessful season.
He said: “I think the usual teams will be challenging for the title. I don’t know if there will be any dark horses who come out and challenge the rest, but my only concern is Newtongrange Star and getting our performances right. I’ll be hugely disappointed if we are not up there competing again.
“We are in the league and we want to win it.
“We understand that there is a huge tradition at clubs like Linlithgow and Bo’ness who have won it in recent years, Bonnyrigg who have won it in recent years and Kelty who are the champions. We’ve got to break into that. If we finish fourth this season it will be an unsuccessful season. We’ve got to improve on fourth to be successful and I think we’ve got the squad to do that.”
Star are without two of their new signings Currie and Stephen Tulloch who are carrying suspensions over from last season with former club Berwick Rangers.
Elsewhere on the opening weekend of the Super League, David McGlynn takes charge of his first match as Linlithgow boss when they welcome last season’s Premier League champions Tayport to Prestonfield. Bo’ness host Sauchie, while Junior Cup finalists Musselburgh Athletic travel to Carnoustie and Craig Meikle’s Penicuik Athletic host Broxburn.
McBOOKIE.COM SUPER LEAGUE 2015/16 – HOW THE LOCAL TEAMS SHAPE UP
Manager: Allan McGonigal
Ground: Newtown Park
Last season: Second in Super League
New faces: Darren Cummings, Marty Wright, Don Morrison, Darren Downie, Connor McGregor.
Star man: Ross Philp
Season prediction: Second
Manager: Robbie Horn
Ground: New Dundas Park
Last season: Seventh in Super League
New faces: Billy Bald, Ewan Moyes, Andrew Kidd, Adam Nelson, Chris Tobin, Lewis Turner, Kieran McGachie, Wayne McIntosh, Fraser McLaren, Scott Gray.
Star man: Ross Archibald
Season prediction: Fourth
Manager: Max Christie
Ground: Albyn Park
Last season: Eighth in Super League
New faces: Kieran Anderson, Gavin King, Cammy Fraser (Livingston, loan), Gabriel Auriemma (Livingston, loan), Darren Smith (Livingston, loan).
Star man: Craig Scott
Season prediction: Eighth
Manager: David McGlynn
Last season: Third in Super League
New faces: Colin Leiper, Joe Hamill, Graham Weir, Jamie McKenzie.
Star man: Roddy MacLennan
Season prediction: Sixth
Manager: Stevie McLeish
Last season: 11th in Super League and Junior Cup finalists
New faces: Sean Jamieson, Kevin McLeish, John Hall, Sean Connaghan, Stuart Roseburgh, Sean Palizcka, Jack Bruce, Kameran Tufail.
Star man: Jackie Myles
Season prediction: Seventh
Manager: Alan Miller
Ground: New Victoria Park
Last season: Fourth in Super League
New faces: Lee Currie, Kevin Hamilton, Kevin Motion, Brian Murray, Stephen Tulloch, Kieran Sommerville (Livingston, loan), James McQueen.
Star man: Craig Thomson
Season prediction: Third
Manager: Craig Meikle
Ground: Penicuik Park
Last season: Sixth in Super League
New faces: Aaron Somerville, Daryl Devlin, Keith Lough, Lewis Barr, Ross Montgomery, Ryan McGurk, Kyle Mitchell (Cowdenbeath, loan), Michael Bruce.
Star man: Ryan Gay
Season prediction: Fifth