Craig Fowler: 9 reasons to get excited about the new football season in Edinburgh

With anticipation ramping up ahead of the new campaign, we look at the various storylines which should get supporters of all kinds in Edinburgh excited prior to the big kick-off.

Hearts’ difficult second album

Hearts were by far and away the third best team in the cinch Premiership last season and, with John Souttar their only major deserter this summer, smart money will be on them finishing in the same position again. But continuity is such a rarity at the Scottish top-flight level when it comes to league position beyond Celtic and Rangers. Derek McInnes did it at Aberdeen, having them in the top four for eight consecutive seasons, but otherwise we’ve typically seen teams drop down after a third-place finish over the last 30 years.

Any element of surprise will be gone, while opponents will be gunning to knock Hearts off their perch. With the added distraction of European football (more on that soon) it’ll be interesting to see how they handle it all.

Hearts striker Liam Boyce and Hibs defender Josh Doig in action during the last league Edinburgh derby of the 2021/22 season at Tynecastle. Picture: SNS

Hibs under Lee Johnson

The Hibees have a new manager and a new style of football. There have only been two friendly matches so far, viewed through the lens of one camera, but it’s already evident things will be different than they were under Jack Ross or Shaun Maloney. It does appear supporters are going to get the expansive, attacking football they craved under Ross, but played at a pace which doesn’t put them to sleep, as it often did during Maloney’s tenure. Whether that leads to an improvement in results, which is the real acid test, remains to be seen.

Hibs’ new boys

Hearts are making moves to bring in some new players also, but it’s still likely that seven or eight out of the 11 in the strongest starting XI will be players fans are already familiar with. That’s unlikely to be the case at Easter Road. Seven new additions have arrived thus far and with the exception of Momodou Bojang, the rest would fancy themselves of having a chance to start on opening day.

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The Hibees aren’t quite finished yet in the transfer market with a centre-back on top of Johnson’s wish list and another midfielder potentially coming in as well. There’s a lot of new talents to intrigue and excite.

Hearts in Europe

Even if you’re not a Hearts supporter this should bring a certain level of interest. Not since Aberdeen back in the late noughties has a Scottish team played in the group stages of European football and Robbie Neilson’s men are assured of that next term. For a Hearts fan it promises to bring a few memorable European nights and the rare opportunity to pick and choose away destinations to visit without the fear of being knocked out by some mob from Malta.

FC Edinburgh at Meadowbank

For the first time in five years Edinburgh will be playing their home matches at Meadowbank. At present, the ground doesn’t look exactly ideal for watching League One football, but the newly-renamed club are hoping to build an additional stand to make it a better experience for spectators.

The club’s decision to return to playing on Saturday was a little disappointing from a personal point of view. The move was done to ease any fixture clashes with Spartans, though it had the bonus of making attendance easier for Hearts and Hibs fans. Falkirk and Dunfermline visiting on a Friday night would’ve been something worth seeing for those who don’t follow FC Edinburgh religiously, but the club have to look after their die-hard supporters first and foremost, and most would likely agree Saturday is the ideal football day.

Bonnyrigg Rose in the SPFL

The Midlothian club will be playing in the SPFL for the first time after winning promotion from the Lowland League. It’s always fascinating to see how new clubs perform in the league since the introduction of the pyramid system, but Bonnyrigg are a bit of a special case compared with the other interlopers of recent years. Unlike Cove Rangers or Kelty Hearts, there hasn’t been a hint of extravagant spending from the Rosey Posey, who have a fanbase foundation which will enable them to soon rise through the divisions. For the meantime, manager Robbie Horn is set to go with a squad largely made up of the group who got them here. Is their first season simply about consolidation or can they dream bigger?

Hibs’ ability to bounce back in SWPL

Fourth place was about where you’d expect Dean Gibson’s side to have finished last season, but for a team who regularly competed for titles with Glasgow City and won a few cup competitions over recent years, it must have stung last season to see Celtic, Rangers and City running off in the distance. More investment has been put into the team, including giving manager Gibson a new full-time contract, so they should be more competitive next term, even if they don’t actually move up the table.

Hearts looking upwards in SWPL

Eva Olid’s team finished eighth in the SWPL 1 last term with a side mainly made up of teenagers. There has been an aggressive summer recruitment drive to add a lot more experience to the team. It’s hard to imagine them competing with anyone the stature of Hibs and above, as they’re still very much an up-and-coming side in the women’s game, but they’ll make a hard push for the top six.

Hearts B team in the Lowland League

Personally, colt teams have always felt like a project which is a benefit to those that have them and little else, but it’ll still be worth keeping an eye on how Hearts’ youngsters compare to that of Celtic and Rangers. It’ll also provide supporters with a keen interest in the youth sides better access to watching games and learning who the brightest talents are.

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