Mid-term report: Edinburgh City slicker after slow start
Edinburgh City boss Gary Jardine has often talked of breaking the club's inaugural SPFL season into quarters. Now just shy of the midway point, it's fair to say that the first two have provided a stark contrast for the Ladbrokes League Two new boys.
Off the back of a tough Betfred Cup group stage campaign, City began the season without a pre-season victory. A first ever league point didn’t arrive until September’s 1-1 draw at Stirling Albion and somewhat typically, a first win of any kind came in the William Hill Scottish Cup replay at league leaders Forfar.
There was the sense that a league win would follow soon, and they duly did when Jardine’s team returned to Angus days later and left Links Park with all three points, beating Montrose 1-0.
They haven’t looked back and ahead of this weekend’s fixtures are the form team in the division – unbeaten in eight league matches and without defeat since Clyde won at Meadowbank back on October 15.
That initial winless run does prompt a feeling of ‘what if?’ given current form, although seventh would certainly suit Jardine come May. “If the season ended now I’d be over the moon!” he joked. “It’s been well publicised that the main aim for us is to stay in the league. We were always playing catch-up with the other teams – they were able to sort their budgets out, look ahead and prepare for the season coming up while we had the play-offs.
“Extra time would have allowed us to have a look and speak to more people, but it’s like a new job – until you’re actually in there, get your hands dirty and are thrown in the deep end, you can’t really prepare. While we knew it wasn’t a massive step, lots of little things built up and the learns that we had to make every week, we had to go through that learning process first. There’s still a long way to go too and we’ve not reached anywhere near our potential yet.
“We obviously don’t have the same finances as other teams, so it was very much a learning process. We’d have liked more points in the first quarter, but now the second quarter’s come round, if you’d offered me seventh or eighth, I’d have certainly taken it. I’m content more than happy.”
It hasn’t just been a case of lessons learned on the pitch either, with Jardine now managing at a higher level than at any previous stage in his career. “I’ve been up against guys that are really experienced and know the game inside out,” he said. “People like Dick Campbell who’ve been there and done it at this level. They’re all really nice guys, quick to give you advice and everybody I’ve met at this level has been fantastic for me.
“Like the players, it’s taken me maybe until the second quarter of the season to really know what I want and have my mind set on how we’re going to play and how we’ve adapted to this level.
“We didn’t lose many games over the previous two or three years at Lowland League level, so that was new to us and that’s no disrespect to anybody. Luckily we were able to cut out mistakes and learn from them so again, if we’re taking the season on four quarters, the second part was more like us.”
What has pleased Jardine the most about his group of players? “Their hunger and desire to improve week in, week out,” he answered. “That and the fact they didn’t let their heads go down after only taking those three points from the first quarter. The players have to take a huge amount of credit for not buckling. They’re such a determined bunch, they’re only going to improve still and I expect another lift in the third quarter.”
They are also likely to validate Jardine’s expectation that they wouldn’t be bottom at Christmas. City are idle after their scheduled game at home to Elgin – who Jardine rates as probably the best side City have faced this term – was brought forward to October. Barring wins for all three teams below them, they won’t be propping up the entire SPFL come Sunday.
“I was really confident and sure that we wouldn’t be bottom of the league come Christmas,” he stated. “I didn’t expect us to pick as many points up in the second quarter, but I didn’t expect other teams to do similar. There’s not a lot between teams at this level as has been shown in the last few weeks with us beating Arbroath and drawing with Clyde. Montrose have done similar as well. It’s really competitive and if you’re not at it, you won’t even pick up a point.”