Lowland League: Club-by-club guide to the 2022/23 season
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CIVIL SERVICE STROLLERS
Manager: Gary Jardine will be looking to build on a successful 2021/2022 for the Christie Gillies Park outfit.
Last season: 7th.
Players in: Marc Laird (Stirling Albion), Conrad Balatoni (Clyde), Arnie Kasa (Linlithgow Rose), Innes Lawson (Edinburgh University), Louis Kennedy (Stirling University), Baris Ozturk (Istanbulsor).
Player out: Mark McConnell (Broxburn Athletic).
One to watch: Striker Innes Lawson had a fine season last year with divisional rivals Edinburgh University and will be keen to pick up where he left off.
Manager's aspirations: "Like every season the key aim for us is to improve on the season before. But, given the nature of the league this year with the additions of Hearts B, Tranent and Cowdenbeath, to finish in the top six is a tough ask. Coupled with that, the commitment of others chasing promotion and those financially backed, it would be fantastic if we could break into that bracket. We've looked to add a bit of experience with Marc Laird and Conrad Balatoni is a real coup for the club."
Edinburgh News prediction: Jardine has recruited well with a blend of youth and experience. Strollers are more than capable of mixing it with the best in the division and should be confident of finishing in the top half of the table.
Manager: Dorian Ogunro is also entering his 11th season at the helm of the students.
Last season: 16th.
Players in: Ben Mail, Ryan Murray. More to sign after freshers' trials.
Players out: Nic Buxton, Robbie Sinclair, Aiden Kemp, Innes Lawson. In a few months: Patrick Baird, Alex Ainslie, Ross McGuire, James Lawton.
One to watch: David Maskrey will again be expected to chip in with his fair share of goals for the East Peffermill club.
Manager's aspirations: "We are realistic with our ambitions so a mid-table finish would be the best bet for a club like ourselves. At the other end the minimum requirement is to stay in the league."
Edinburgh News prediction: The students will take a while to find their feet with limited players at Ogunro's disposal, but should have enough to stay in the league for another year.
Manager: Steven Naismith was appointed football development manager at Hearts a year ago after hanging up his boots and the up-and-coming coach is also part of Steve Clarke’s Scotland backroom team.
Last Season: Taking part in the Lowland League for the first time this season
Players In: Jaden Ferguson (Lochee United)
One to Watch: Scott McGill. The 20-year-old midfielder had a productive loan spell at Airdrie last season and would likely have spent this campaign on another short-term deal had Hearts not been admitted into the Lowland League. McGill has the opportunity to impress and pave a way into the first team.
Manager’s Aspirations: “All-round for the younger boys who are coming out of the 18s and the boys that will play in the Lowland League, it’s a brilliant opportunity for them to progress and they’ve also got that connection with the first team. For me, in my development as a coach, it’s now a competitive league and that’s different from 18s - as much as it is competitive it’s still within the youth bracket. The key is competitiveness, all our young players went on loan last season and played in competitive leagues, and that is what drives a player to improve.”
Evening News prediction: A top half finish should be the minimum aim and is certainly achievable given the performance of the Old Firm B sides last season.
Manager: Dougie Samuel is going into his 11th season in charge.
Last season: 5th.
Players in: Jordan Tapping (Stenhousemuir), Gavin Morrison (Cowdenbeath), Rhys Armstrong (Caledonian Braves), Sean Brown (East Fife), Jamie Penker (Stirling University), Harvey Swann (Cowdenbeath).
Players out: Cammy Dawson, Aaron Murrell, Allan Smith.
One to watch: Midfielder Brad Whyte is raring to go in his first full season with the club.
Manager’s aspirations: “We want to continue to make progress and be in the mix with five or six games to go. Ultimately, our goal is to win promotion to the SPFL - it's no secret but it's a long and demanding campaign. Lots of teams have strengthened and will be looking to compete at the top end of the table. There's sure to be ups and downs, however, it's a challenge we're all looking forward to."
Edinburgh News prediction: Spartans should be in the mix for the title come the end of the season. Wouldn't be surprised if it comes down to head-to-head between the big-hitters.
Manager: Calum Elliot, the former Hearts and Raith striker, was lured from rivals Tynecastle and has been an astute appointment by Tranent.
Last Season: East of Scotland Premier champions and pyramid play-off winners
Players In: Craig Barr, Nathan Evans, Paul Simpson, Brandon Archibald, Tom Carter and Sam Scott
Players Out: Wayne McIntosh
One to Watch: Oban Anderson was an astute signing from Elliot’s old club Tynecastle last season. The diminutive midfielder was a standout in the engine room for the Belters in their title-winning campaign and the step up to the Lowland League won’t phase the 23-year-old who has the potential to go further in the game.
Manager’s aspirations: “The news boys have settled in really well with the group and the boys that were with us last season have kicked on. We’ve got good competition for places all over the pitch, which I think we need for this league. We want to compete at the highest level we possibly can. We are under no illusions how difficult it is going to be because it is such a strong league, I think it’s stronger than last season because all the teams which were near the bottom have improved. We will do our best to try and be competitive at the top end of the league. Saturday against East Kilbride is a test to see how far we have come as a club and as a team. They are everybody’s favourites to go and win the league, so for us it’s a game that we have to show what we are all about.”
Evening News prediction: Tranent are making the step up from the East of Scotland League but there is no reason why Elliot’s side can’t compete at the top end of the table. A top four finish is certainly achievable.