James McDonaugh opens up on Edinburgh City’s “enjoyable journey”

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Edinburgh City were at the bottom of the pile 12 months ago, but are now on a record-breaking winning run that doesn’t look to be stopping. Manager James McDonaugh lifts the lid on how this change has come about.

“I’m well aware that we’re not going to keep winning,” says McDonaugh.

“Football’s not as easy as that, we’ve just got to be prepared to try and keep the run going; be prepared for it to end at some point and try and get a win after that to make sure we don’t go on a losing run.”

Losing is something that’s being stamped out of Edinburgh City’s DNA. The Ainslie Park side sit at the top of the Scottish League Two after eight matches, with last weekend’s 1-0 victory over Cowdenbeath extending their winning run to nine matches: an all-time club record.

“It [the season so far] has gone way better than what anyone would have expected or even hoped,” McDonaugh reflects.

“We obviously tried to change a lot of things between the end of last season and the start of this season, and we had a tough league cup section. All the teams in it were above us in the football league last year and we managed to come out of that in third place which was a great achievement, and since then we’ve just improved.

“We started the league season with the game against Albion Rovers where we did well and then we came back down to earth getting beat up at Elgin, but since then we’ve just gone from strength to strength, won every game since the defeat to Elgin in all the competitions we’ve played in, and I’m a bit surprised as we are ahead of where we could’ve dreamt of being.”

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McDonaugh has tried to change things on and off the pitch (Photo Credit: Ross Cowper-Fraser)

Sitting at the top of the fourth tier of Scottish football is a fine achievement regardless of the situation, but City’s rise is even more remarkable when you consider where the club was just 12 months ago when McDonaugh was signed.

The club’s total of 21 league points is just nine shy of what was amassed throughout the entire of last season, so what has changed?

“So far we’ve probably just get the best out of everybody to be honest,” McDonaugh reveals.

“People say ‘what’s the difference’, maybe looking for the golden nugget, but the whole club has changed. We’ve tried to transform the whole place not just the players but backroom staff; how we prepare for games; how we train, everything. It’s probably a presentation on its own actually, the detail that we’ve gone into to try and change things.

“There aren’t many players left from last season but from a changing room last season that was maybe hoping to get a win here or there this season the boys are now actually thinking they’re going to win every game. They’re not expecting to win every game but they’ve got belief that they can do it.”

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Mentality has changed at Edinburgh City (Photo Credit: Ross Cowper-Fraser)

The summer transfer window has “absolutely been important” to City’s upward progression this term, with 12 players joining and 12 leaving for pastures now. McDonaugh has previous working experience with just about all of the new recruits, a decision that has already been rectified.

“At times you sign players and you’ve only seen them play [from a distance] or whatever, but with these new players I knew what I was getting with them,” he says.

“I knew how hard they would work and I knew their strengths, their weaknesses; I knew how we could maybe try and make them better and how to get the best out of them.”

It isn’t just the new boys that are impressing though: “The goalkeeper and the back four have been outstanding, five clean sheets out of eight is way above average of what anybody would hope for,” McDonaugh continues.

“At the moment what we have to try and deal with as a management team is when players do suffer a dip in form, how do we deal with that? How do we try and fix it? Do we freshen up the boys that are in the squad, as we’ve got some great players there that are just waiting to get their chance as well.”

Conrad Balatoni (5)Goal 61 Mins

The winning goal against Cowdenbeath last weekend (Photo Credit: Ross Cowper-Fraser)

The momentum may be strong at Edinburgh City, but the manager is well aware that trophies aren’t won in October. Nor does a trophy have to be won, because McDonaugh believes the club is punching well above its weight. A league title remains a pipe dream, but it’s not one anyone at the club is going to stop dreaming of just yet.

“It’s not that we’re lacking ambition but I don’t think we’re a team that’s set our sights on winning a league,” the manager concludes.

“We know Peterhead and Clyde are really strong, bigger clubs in many senses who will probably fight out the league table but we’re just happy to be in their company at the moment.

“We’re on a journey that everyone’s enjoying. We are well aware it could end any minute but let’s just try and keep our feet on the ground, be level-headed and respect all the opposition that we’re playing against and just take it as it comes.”

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