Leith Athletic manager Derek Riddel has revealed how some one-to-one sessions with a sports psychologist helped his team across the line to be crowned East of Scotland champions.
The Meadowbank outfit are basking in the club’s first title triumph since joining the association eight years ago and were awarded the league trophy after last night’s 1-0 victory against Lothian Thistle at Saughton Enclosure brought down the curtain on a memorable league campaign.
The duo, however, will meet again in next Sunday’s King Cup final with Leith having the chance to complete a season-defining treble after retaining the Alex Jack Cup last month.
Having witnessed a late collapse towards the tail end of last season in which Lothian were able to capitalise by snatching the title from Leith’s grasp, Riddel says he was determined not to allow history to repeat itself this time round.
“There was a point a few weeks back when Lothian beat Eyemouth midweek and we went up to Stirling and lost the same evening,” Riddel explained. “I was driving back down the M9 after the game and I was thinking to myself ‘this is going to be really tight again, this is really going to be tough these next few weeks’. So I met with a guy who is trying to get himself involved in a senior club as a sports psychologist and we had a good chat and he really changed my mindset on a few things. We really used that towards the end of the season on the players where it was a case of saying ‘let’s not think about how many points we need to win the league, let’s just concentrate on repeating what we’ve done for the previous 20-odd games or so’. So it gave us a right positive thought process going into the last few games and it’s proved hugely beneficial as the guys picked themselves up from that defeat at Stirling, where they could have folded at that point but instead rallied around and we’ve won every game since.”
Leith were, at one stage, 17 points better off than nearest challengers Lothian who were playing catch up due to their Scottish Cup heroics. Although that gap was significantly eaten into by Raymond Carr’s side, Riddel says his players deserve all the plaudits for their endeavours this season.
“It’s a great achievement for the whole club,” he said. “We’ve gradually improved every year in the East of Scotland so to pick up the league this season is terrific. We’ve not got the resources that some other teams have so we have to develop the younger ones. Our last few games we’ve had at least six players playing who are still eligable to play under-21 so there are plenty of prospects coming through. They are all local guys who want to play for the club and that’s ultimately what we need in order to flourish.”
Riddel is predicting his players won’t be short on offers elsewhere this summer but insists the future at the club is bright even if there are some personnel changes to his squad.
“There are certainly a couple of guys who can go and play in the senior game,” he said. “I’m sure there will be a few teams looking at them and if they weren’t clubs wouldn’t be doing their job. I know there have been some junior teams and a Lowland League team asking about our players but I don’t think they’d see that as a step forward, rather as a sideways step. But if senior clubs come looking then I’m not going to stand in their way as they’ve helped and done a job for us.
“We have been looking to get our entry-level licence that will allow us to compete in the Scottish Cup on a regular basis and also entry into the Lowland League. At the moment that’s up in the air because Meadowbank is being redeveloped so we need to wait and see what sort of timescale we’re looking at. We’re certainly looking to be in the Lowland League though within the next three to five years.”