‘Long pre-season’ over at last with Newtongrange Star fired up for real competition
After a longer than usual pre-season schedule, Newtongrange Star boss Chris King says his players are raring to go ahead of the start of the new East of Scotland League season this weekend.
Star haven’t played a competitive fixture since a thrilling 3-2 Midlothian derby defeat of Penicuik Athletic two days before last Christmas, and after starting their preparations for the new season in May, King’s side can’t wait for Saturday’s opener away to Camelon although, he admits, they don’t know a great deal about their opponents.
“It’s been a longer pre-season than any normal one,” said King. “Our last pre-season game was on Saturday and that was our eighth game so it’s dragged on a wee bit, but to be fair the boys haven’t played since the last week of December so I think they needed game to get back up to scratch. We’ve now got the fans back and that’s made the games better - it helps with the intensity of games because you’ve got people watching and it’s not flat.
“You can’t beat a competitive game and we’re looking forward to Saturday. Camelon have had some issues recently, and over the years you would know what to expect but we are going in blind this week because they’ve got sixteen or so new players. Due to Covid, a lot of teams have not really had the chance to play a settled team with a lot of changes each week, so it’s quite difficult to get an idea of what their starting team is going to be, and to be honest, it’s the same with us because right now we have ten players out.”
Issues with players self-isolating and others out through injury has afforded youngsters from the New Victoria Park club’s new under 20s side to make the step up, and one 16-year-old from that group, Ryan Turner, has certainly made an impression on first team boss King.
King continued: “We’ve had boys from our under 20s making up our squad, and we’ve just tried to get through the games. A lot of the boys are out through self-isolating, it’s all been a backlash from everybody going down to London - I think everybody in Scotland got Covid! You think you are getting to the end of it, and then two of your players say they have to self-isolate.
“We knew something like this was going to happen so we had a big squad to start with. We’ve had four or five of our under 20s who have been involved with training and games, and one of them, Ryan Turner, will be in the match squad on Saturday and he’s only 16. He’s been phenomenal in training and in the time he’s had on the park for us, he isn’t far away to be honest and he’s got a lot of time to learn.
“It’s important [to blood youngsters], that’s why we started the 20s up again. We want to move forward as one and that’s something that hasn’t really happened at Newtongrange before. It was important that we got the right people in charge [Paul Milligan was appointed in February] and that we all had the same understanding of what we wanted to achieve.”