Amid the fanfare of his appointment and the undeniable ambition of Kelty Hearts, new manager Kevin Thomson sounded a brief note of caution when he spoke to Courier Sport.
“We can’t get too far ahead of ourselves,” he said. “This is the first time the club has been in League 2 and there won’t be any noise from us.”
However, the statement of intent made by the signings of Joe Cardle, Jordon Forster and Jamie Barjonas is deafening.
The usual talk of consolidation and survival from newly-promoted sides is inapplicable here.
This is a team being assembled to challenge at the top end of the table and, like Cove Rangers before them, will fancy their chances of claiming top spot in League 2 at the first time of asking.
Joe Cardle is a stunning capture. As recently as last season, he scored seven goals in 26 games for League 1 winners Partick Thistle and appeared a cut above at that level.
That is before you consider his spells with Ross County, Raith Rovers and more than 200 games for Dunfermline. Cardle, 34, is also rekindling an exceedingly profitable partnership with Kallum Higginbotham from the East End Park days.
In Jordon Forster, Kelty have a physically-imposing centre-back who boasts top-flight pedigree with Hibernian and played 32 times for Dundee prior to leaving the Dee in April.
Still only 27 years of age, he is entering his prime years – particularly for a defender – and has a rapport with Thomson dating back to their time together as players at Easter Road.
✍️🇱🇻WELCOME TO KELTY HEARTS JAMIE BARJONAS !!!
Welcome to New Central Park Jamie🤝🙌⚽️🇱🇻❤️ pic.twitter.com/FdOBOmzIjm
— Kelty Hearts Football Club (@KeltyHeartsFC) June 2, 2021
Jamie Barjonas was unveiled as the club’s third summer signing on Wednesday and, while he has failed to set the heather alight in loan spells with Raith Rovers and Partick, he was a highly-regarded young prospect at Rangers.
There were questions marks regarding the entire Kelty squad as the denouement of the 2020/21 campaign approached, with only Nathan Austin contracted beyond the summer.
However, they have moved briskly to ensure a solid spine will remain in place for their first crack at the SPFL.
Goalkeeper Darren Jamieson, club captain Michael Tidser, the mercurial Higginbotham and Thomas Reilly have all committed for a further two years. Even Austin has penned a new deal, signing up until the summer of 2024.
Kelty could have sought a safe pair of hands when it became apparent Barry Ferguson was heading for the exit door; an experienced manager with proven nous in the lower reaches of the SPFL.
Instead, they have gone for another high-profile, young, hungry boss with a fine burgeoning reputation.
Tempting Thomson away from a secure position within Rangers’ academy set-up is no small feat and speaks to the ambition of the club, while there is little doubt the former Scotland and Hibernian star knows his stuff on the grass — also running his own coaching school.
The proof will be in the pudding but, allied with a vast array of contacts within the game, Kelty have every right to be enthused by the new man in the dugout.
That sound you can hear is the gnashing of teeth at Ochilview.
Stenhousemuir are among several sides who will justifiably feel equipped to mount a title challenge following their own forays into the transfer market.
— Craig G Telfer (@CraigGTelfer) May 28, 2021
New boss Stephen Swift has, well, swiftly put his mark on the Stenny squad by snapping up the likes of Sean Crighton, Ross Forbes and Nat Wedderburn. Quality recruitment.
Edinburgh City steadfastly live within their means but, with Gary Naysmith – a League 2 winner with East Fife – at the helm and their new home at Meadowbank to call upon, the perennial challengers will be up there once more.
That is before you consider Forfar Athletic, who will seek to bounce back from relegation at the first time of asking, Elgin City, Stranraer and Stirling Albion.
But while a title win in far from assured, there is little doubt that the Maroon Machine’s journey will be a fascinating one to follow next term — and beyond.