Lowland League preview: How are the Lothians teams shaping up?
Neil McGlade looks at how the Lothians teams are shaping up ahead of the 2019/20 Lowland League season
They may be the latest addition to the Lowland League but Bonnyrigg Rose boss Robbie Horn admits his players will fancy their chances of beating anyone.
The current East of Scotland League champions were only granted their SFA membership last month and promotion confirmed after their initial application was rejected. After a period of uncertainty, Horn says the excitement among the club has been building by the day ahead of next weekend's league opener at home to Vale of Leven.
"With not knowing what league we were going to be in, it was difficult to attract players so everything was up in the air," Horn explained. "But we're now looking forward and ready to hit the ground running.
"The top half of the league is going to be incredibly strong. There has been a lot of money invested by some of the top sides and well ahead of our budget. But money doesn’t always buy you success. Each game is going to be really difficult but it’s a new challenge and it’s exciting.
"We’ve got a really strong group of players with a great team spirit and we will fancy ourselves against anyone. We played four Lowland League sides last year and East Kilbride were the only team to beat us and there wasn’t a lot in the game."
Bonnyrigg have recruited Mark Weir, Daniel Baur on loan from Hearts, Jamie Docherty, Scott Gray and former Newtongrange Star striker George Hunter for the forthcoming campaign.
Civil Service Strollers, meanwhile, are ready to mix it with the best after registering a fifth-place finish last term.
Gary Jardine's side have shown a marked improvement since joining Scottish football's fifth tier in 2016. The club is also in the process of installing floodlights at Christie Gillies Park.
"I think the club have come on leaps and bounds both on and off the park in the last few years," boss Jardine explained. As long as we can continue to improve then that’s the main thing.
"The club finished 13th in their first season and then seventh before finishing fifth last season. The main aim this year is to improve on the points total again but we’re not getting ahead of ourselves as first and foremost we need to make sure we pick up enough points to stay in the league.
"There are teams desperate for promotion and to join the Scottish league but we need to continue to establish ourselves in the Lowland League. The players are hungry and ambitious so we’ve given them a platform to go and show what they’ve got."
Strollers will go into the new season without striker Steven Froude who has joined Whitehill Welfare. Jordan Hopkinson has also left but Jardine has added Josh Morris, Jack Blaikie, Scott Main, Cammy Muirhead and Chris McKee.
Two-time league champions Spartans will hope to improve on their fourth-placed finish last season. However, they will have to do so without midfielder Jamie Dishington, who has signed for divisional rivals East Stirlingshire. The 22-year-old had been at Ainslie Park for 15 years after joining the club as a youngster but has elected for a new challenge.
Former captain Michael Herd has moved on to pastures new with SPFL League Two outfit Cowdenbeath. Manager Dougie Samuel, however, will be hoping experienced defender Dean Hoskins, who has joined from Bonnyrigg Rose, can lead by example.
And Edinburgh University manager Dorian Ogunro will once again be looking forward to the club's trials in September before shaping his new-look squad for the campaign ahead.