Spartans aim is again to win title, says Craig Graham
Spartans chairman Craig Graham says the club's remit this season is the same as it is every other year '“ to be crowned Lowland League champions.
The Ainslie Park outfit kick off the campaign tomorrow with the visit of Hawick Royal Albert, desperate to advance on last season’s third-place finish which saw the club 19 points adrift of worthy winners East Kilbride.
However, Graham also appreciates the standard of player gracing the league is now at a premium and, is therefore, taking nothing for granted.
That said, he believes manager Dougie Samuel and his coaching team, that now includes former Leith Athletic boss Derek Riddel, who guided the Meadowbank side to the East of Scotland League title two seasons ago, have recruited well over the summer with Edinburgh City duo Ross Guthrie and Ian McFarland making the switch across the Capital and striker Willie Bremner returning for a second spell.
Speaking exclusively to the Evening News, Graham said: “It’s the same as it always is, we set out at the start of the season to go and win the league, win the cups so that’s definitely the target.
“But we’re well aware it’s getting tougher ever year and there’s always a couple of teams where there is a change in the level of investment they are putting in and that looks to be the case with BSC [Glasgow] this season.
“East Kilbride will of course be red-hot favourites again as they appear to have invested even more money this year. Their results in the Betfred Cup have been fantastic against both Queen of the South and Stenhousemuir. We’re just hoping they don’t go on that long winning-streak that they managed to do at the start of last season. Perhaps the strain, or excitement, of four very tough League Cup matches will take its toll somewhere along the line.”
Graham continued: “The coaching staff and the committee are delighted with the calibre of player we have been able to bring in. We do feel we are stronger all-round than we were last season as the guys that were here are all another year older so we feel we’ve got the complete package.
“Derek has also come in as first-team coach and he’s very good and players warm to him very quickly. It’s always tricky when you change things as you’re not sure how things will pan out but I’m delighted how quickly Derek has got the respect of everyone at the club. His style really suits us because he’s relaxed but also very positive.”
One player who has departed is midfielder Jack Beesley, who has left to join Junior outfit Broxburn Athletic – Graham admitting the 30-year-old’s eye for goal will be a real loss.
“We’re all very close to Jack and it’s disappointing to see him go as he was a really good player for getting a goal or an assist, a real big-game player. The quality of Jack’s set-piece play was a quality above the Lowland League so we’re going to have to ask others to step up and fill that void.”
With the club now groundsharing with SPFL League Two side Edinburgh City for the next three seasons while City’s home ground at Meadowbank is redeveloped, Graham says the situation is merely adding fuel to the fire in their quest to join their city rivals.
“It’s whetting the appetite having City here. With us groundsharing we’re using that closeness as motivation to try and get there ourselves,” he said. “We set ourselves ambitious targets but we know the level of professionalism is high right across the board now.”