Newtongrange boss confident of more than just survival

Newtongrange Star boss Stevie McLeish is content with how is squad is shaping up for the new Super League season after a summer of change at New Victoria Park.

Monday, 1st August 2016, 5:30 am
Updated Thursday, 25th August 2016, 5:37 pm
Craig Thomson has left to join Kelty Hearts
Craig Thomson has left to join Kelty Hearts

Star continue their preparations for the new campaign today with their last pre-season fixture at home to Dunbar United ahead of next Saturday’s curtain-raiser at Carnoustie.

Only four players remain from the squad McLeish inherited from previous boss Alan Miller, with the former Hibs coach having persuaded Lee Currie, Jack Wilson, Jordan Cropley and David Morris to stay.

In total, 19 players have arrived at New Victoria Park, seven of which played under McLeish at Musselburgh Athletic last season. While many have Junior experience including former Penicuik Athletic boss Craig Meikle, some are sampling the semi-professional game for the first time. Midfielder David Bonnar has been brought in from Gala Fairydean, and McLeish believes they will have a big impact.

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“I think we’ve signed a few players who will surprise a few people given where they have come from and how well I think they’ll do,” said McLeish.

“A few of them people will never have heard of and they’ve come in under the radar.

“I don’t think we’ll go and win the league or anything like that, but we’ll certainly do OK, we’ll be a competitive side.

“We were told to keep the club in the league and that’s what we’re trying to do, but myself and Murray [Hunter, assistant manager] are ambitious enough to want a bit more.”

Keeping hold of former Berwick Rangers man Currie could be key to Star’s fortunes this season. The 26-year-old who spent time on trial with Hearts ahead of their title-winning season in the Championship, had a number of senior clubs courting his signature but committed himself to Star and has been made club captain.

“He’s a leader and he’s got real quality,” McLeish continued. “I’m sure there were plenty senior teams after Lee, but we’ve managed to get a deal for him. I’ve known Lee since he was a kid at Hibs, he knows me and I know what he’s all about.”

One man who won’t be at Star next season is former Hearts youngster Crag Thomson, with the former Scotland Under-21 cap recently joining Kelty Hearts.

He was offered a deal to remain at New Victoria Park, but Star were unable to match the Fife club’s offer. McLeish wishes him all the best and hopes he’ll eventually make a return to the professional game.

He said: “I’d like to think he was close to signing, but when you get offered the kind of deal he was offered, I don’t think anybody could’ve competed with it. I think he’s done the right thing for himself and I hope it really works out for him because he’s a really nice guy and I think he deserves another chance somewhere. I hope he does move back to senior eventually because he’s certainly good enough.”