“It is a great opportunity for Douglas and me and although there is a lot of work to be done it requires all of us involved with Spartans to be at our very best,” said Irvine.
During the summer, Spartans lost Dean Hoskins to Berwick Rangers and Omar Kader to Forfar Athletic as well as Heriot Watt University graduate Gavin Malin who returned to his native Lytham St Annes. Irvine added: “We not only lost three players – we lost three key and influential players although Douglas and I believe that we have replaced them with talented young individuals who will do well for Spartans and develop further and add something special to our squad for years to come. These players will benefit from our coaching and go on to become better and more accomplished contributors to Spartans.”
Irvine was referring particularly to their recent signings, Gary Cennerrazzo, Mark Whatley, Willie Bremner and Andy Martin, although they have also signed experienced goalkeeper Ross Gilpin from Preston Athletic and Neil McCuish who was a mature student at Edinburgh University. “Gary was a player who always impressed us with Edinburgh City,” said Irvine. “Bremner also showed us what he was capable of when we played against Leith Athletic and it is unfortunate that he picked up an injury in pre-season.
“We knew Whatley from our time at Edinburgh University and he has an excellent pedigree. Martin is a player who can make things happen in a game and we are confident that all of them will make an impact.”
Spartans have opened their East of Scotland Qualifying League Cup sectional ties with a 3-0 victory over Coldstream and a 2-2 draw in midweek with Heriot Watt University. “We knew that playing against Heriot Watt would be a hard game because the students are a very good side with talented players. I would predict that they will be right up there at the end of the season. Michael Renwick has them very fit and well organised and for periods in the game they were well on top against us.
“Tomorrow we face Vale of Leithen who have one of Spartans’ former players as well as one of ours when we were at Edinburgh University, Kerr Dodds, in their line-up. He is a great lad and a terrific footballer who will be a superb asset to Vale. We are expecting another tough game – in fact we are expecting tough games every week as we believe that there is not much separating all the teams in the Central Taxis Premier Division this season.
“Tomorrow could be about who wants it the most, although we have one eye on our Scottish Cup tie next weekend against Wick Academy. We want to ensure that we have a full squad and all match fit so that could mean some changes.”
Vale of Leithen, meanwhile, under the management of former Hibs kid Fraser Ogilvie, have had selection concerns because of holidays, work commitments and general unavailability. “It is all part and parcel of football at this level,” explained Ogilvie. “I had to play myself in midweek and that is not ideal.”
Vale have beaten Ormiston 4-2, lost 3-0 to Heriot Watt and drawn 1-1 with Coldstream. “Against Heriot Watt we lost all three goals as a direct or indirect result of set-pieces and we have worked on that aspect,” added Ogilvie. “This League Cup has answered a few questions for us as this is an entirely new side that is beginning to take shape.
“We play a Spartans team tomorrow which is also going through a transitional period under their new management team. They have a great set-up and their pitch will suit the way we want to play. We are certainly looking forward to a good game.”
Ogilvie will be without former Bonnyrigg Rose player Chris Gray who is on holiday along with Mark Smith, ex-Penicuik Athletic, while Chris Gordon is at a wedding. On the positive side, Martin Cairney returns.
The game kicks off at Ainslie Park at 2.30pm with admission charges, adults £5 and concessions £2.