Whitehill Welfare’s Danny O’Donnell admits it will be “strange” as he returns to Ainslie Park tomorrow as an opposition player when his side take on Spartans in the Lowland League.
The central defender left to join the Rosewell-based outfit earlier this year after 13 seasons at the North Edinburgh club. While he expects it to be an odd experience as he arrives for tomorrow’s game, he is adamant that, come the referee’s whistle, it will be just any other game.
“I don’t know how it’ll be,” said O’Donnell. “It’ll be a strange feeling going into the away dressing-room anyway. Once I’m actually on the field of play it’ll be fine.”
After deciding to end his long association with the current Lowland League champions in order to get more game time, the 33-year-old admitted it wasn’t as much of a wrench as he had initially anticipated.
“It wasn’t actually as hard as I thought it would be,” said O’Donnell, who also faced his old team at Ferguson Park the weekend before Christmas in a League Cup tie.
“I’m getting to the age now where I want to be playing as much as possible and that wasn’t happening as much as I would have liked at Spartans. To be given the opportunity to still play at a good level with Whitehill seemed to be the perfect move and Spartans were kind enough to let me go, so it worked out well in the end.”
A defender with O’Donnell’s experience at this level was never going to be short of suitors and while there was interest from a few clubs, the centre back felt the Rosewell side was just about the perfect fit for him.
“There were a couple of other teams interested but I think Whitehill ticked the majority of the boxes, and obviously I knew Mickey [Lawson] from his time at Spartans,” he added. “He was keen to get me along as they were looking for some experience in defence so it seemed to be a good fit all round.”
O’Donnell wasn’t risked in last week’s 1-1 draw with Edinburgh City, with Whitehill likely to be short on numbers tomorrow. After coming through 25 minutes of a friendly against Tollcross Thistle on Monday night, he is confident of being ready to take on his former team-mates.
“We had a friendly against Tollcross where it was absolutely freezing! It was good to get a run out for a wee bit, especially after the Christmas celebrations so it was nice to get some of that out the way. I’ve trained as well and there’s been recurrence.
“I think we’re going to be short of numbers this weekend so I think it [sitting out last Saturday’s game] was just a precaution. Willie Kidd who’s been playing at the back is unavailable and he’ll be missed. We knew we’d be one down and if I’d played and aggravated something it would have been two so it was more safety first.”
O’Donnell will know tomorrow’s opposition better than many in claret and blue, but this is likely to be a tight game. The sides drew 2-2 at Ferguson Park in the league and with Spartans’ narrow 0-1 win at the same venue in the Lowland League Cup, their former stalwart believes there will be little between the two again.
“They’re always tight games and they’re keenly contested. It sometimes just depends on your luck on the day. If you get a break of the ball in the box it can be the difference,” said O’Donnell. “A couple of weeks ago there wasn’t much in it – we switched off from a long throw-in and Spartans have taken the chance and scored it. It’s small margins that can win games when the better teams are playing, and that’s been the case.”