Spartans midfielder Donal Henretty is relishing the return of competitive action so soon as the Ainslie Park club host Threave Rovers in the preliminary first leg tie of the Ramsdens Cup tomorrow.
The 33-year-old and club’s longest serving player is fully aware of the task in hand, but it is one he believes only himself and the rest of the squad can benefit from.
Henretty said: “We don’t really know what to expect given it’s so early on in the season, so I expect it to be quite close. With such a new team, there will be a lot of guys not used to the park, but to play a game of this magnitude so early on can do a lot for your confidence. Threave will be very difficult opponents, though, make no mistake of that.”
Spartans were defeated 2-0 by SPFL third tier side Forfar Athletic on Tuesday night in their opening pre-season friendly, but Henretty was buoyed by the performance from the squad, particularly the latest additions, who number six after Scott Bennett, Danny Main, Jack Beacher, Robbie Ross, Alan Brown and Jack Blaikie joined the club in the summer.
“I think quite a few of the new guys did really well in terms of the opposition we were playing against,” he said. “Forfar are a lot further on in their pre-season, whereas we’ve only had two or three training sessions. It was a fitness exercise and we certainly got a good test from it, so it was a useful experience.”
The midfield maestro has been an abiding figure in the Spartans line-up over the past decade, notching more than 100 goals in a red-and-white shirt.
However, this season ahead presents a fresh challenge for the Lowland League side, who are ready to embrace a new era for Scottish football.
Henretty added: “I’m really excited about the whole system. In an ideal world, it would have come into play nine or ten years ago, and I probably would have been even more interested in it!
“But it will be really good for Scottish football and clubs like Spartans who want to be progressive.”
Club chairman Craig Graham is also ready for the challenge their opponents will bring before the return leg next Saturday at Meadow Park. With current holders Queen of the South awaiting the winners of the tie, the incentive could not be much bigger for both sides.
Graham said: “The whole club are really excited about the match tomorrow. Hopefully we’ll get a little boost from the crowd and obviously there is a carrot there for both ourselves and Threave to play the holders in the next round, so that adds a little spice to the game.
“I think there is a real spring in the step at the moment, not just at Spartans, but with all the teams who have been asked to join the Lowland League. The meetings we’ve had have been really positive and the chance to get promotion after all these years will add to the quality of players coming into the league as well as the coaching.”
With last month’s announcement regarding the alterations to the league structure, Graham admits the club are already beginning to see the rewards with season ticket sales proving to be a real hit.
He said: “We’re already ahead of last season’s season ticket sales and the league doesn’t start until 10 August, so I think the whole thing has given a little buzz about the club.”