Elgin City’s Angus Mailer knows all about Kelty Hearts and insists the League Two newcomers won’t get it their own way.
The 22-year-old, who is comfortable at the back or midfield, played for Stirling University in the Lowland League before joining the Moray club last summer.
All eyes are on Kelty, the Lowland League champions, who came up via the pyramid play-offs at the expense of Brechin City, with a 3-1 aggregate scoreline.
They have talent and finance to potentially run away with League Two, like Queen’s Park did last term. The Spiders cruised over the line by 16 points.
Elgin have finished third in the last two seasons. The campaign was halted by Covid in 2020 with City going for promotion, then this time they suffered an agonising play-off semi-final defeat by Edinburgh City.
Mailer, who has signed a contract keeping him at Borough Briggs until 2023, can’t wait to lock horns with Kelty, but expects a real battle, with many rivals for top placings.
He said: “I think quite a few clubs will have a say in who wins the league next year. Kelty will come up probably thinking they’ll go up straight away, just like Cove Rangers did (two years ago). That’s down to the financial budget and the players they’ve got.
“When we played Brechin, they gave us a really good game and it didn’t surprise me that they played so well against Kelty. It was a lot tighter than many people thought it would be.
Kelty Hearts can be beaten
“Even when I played against Kelty in the Lowland League, although they were comfortable, there were also a lot of tight games. They had some big wins, but generally they didn’t blow teams away every week.
“We got a 2-2 draw with them and other clubs beat them, so it wasn’t as if they were winning by high goal margins, so hopefully – if we can keep pushing them – we can challenge as finish as high as we can.
MAILER EXTENDS ✍️
With all the madness of the end of season fixture schedule we forgot to mention midfielder Angus Mailer signed a 2 year contract extension which will see him at the Club until Summer 2023 🤍⚽ pic.twitter.com/8KsVNyhruq
— Elgin City F.C. (@ElginCityFC) May 26, 2021
“I am sure they will get someone in with a lot of experience and they’ll be confident that they will challenge, like ourselves, Edinburgh City, Stirling Albion and Stranraer. It will be a close and entertaining league next season. I’m looking forward to it.”
Former Scotland and Rangers star Barry Ferguson managed Kelty to that stirring step-up, which came after thumping Brora Rangers, the Highland League winners.
It was a surprise that Ferguson quit Kelty on Monday, but not so much when he was unveiled as Alloa Athletic manager on Thursday. The Wasps have just dropped out of the Championship.
Kelty appointed Rangers youth coach Kevin Thomson as their new boss on Thursday night.
Lowland League offers talent aplenty for higher placed clubs
Stirling University has been a hotbed of talent for Elgin and others. Not only did Mailer come from there, but Rory McEwan left Moray to play down there and Craig Brown, who was on loan at Elgin at the end of last season was snapped up from the Lowland League club too.
Mailer is in no doubt that playing at that level gave him the tools to make the step up to League Two with Elgin.
He explained: “The Lowland League is very competitive. You see that with Kelty going up to League Two. Playing in that division helped me for when I got my opportunity in League Two.
“Playing two to three seasons consistently at Lowland League level gave me that confidence that I come here and take my chance.”
Not putting a foot wrong
Although his contract extension was only announced officially this week, the ink dried on Mailer’s deal in March and he feels being able to play in more than one role has helped him.
He added: “I was happy to get the opportunity. The gaffer knows that I’m quite versatile and, when we played at Queen’s Park, we went as a back five and I played right-back and I had a strong enough game.
“I cemented my place in the team up to and through the play-offs. I wanted to make sure that I was solid enough and didn’t put a foot wrong, which I think I did in most games.
“When we did change formation, I was asked to play midfield as well and that helped me keep my place in the team, which was a bonus.
“At my previous club, Stirling University, I played centre-back, but I do like getting forward, so I’d say full-back suits me more. It is good though that the gaffer knows he can trust me at full-back or the middle of the park.”
Shaping up for success?
Boss Gavin Price is already well on with his squad preparation for next term.
Mailer reckons that shows a united desire to make City succeed next year by going that step further and gaining promotion.
He added: “We have a good bunch of boys and there have been a number of players signed up for next season.
“It shows the togetherness of the team and that can only be beneficial for the club and the team overall as we push for promotion once again.”