Nathan Austin is adamant Kelty Hearts issued an emphatic statement of intent by swiftly replacing Barry Ferguson with Kevin Thomson.
The Maroon Machine talisman admits to a sense of shock when Ferguson revealed that he was stepping down, mere hours after the club had defeated Brechin to secure their place in the SPFL.
The ex-Rangers and Scotland skipper subsequently took the reins at Alloa, while Kelty secured Thomson as his successor within a week, tempting the 36-year-old to leave his position as under-18s coach at Ibrox.
And Austin reckons that speaks volumes for the ambition of the Fife outfit and the potential at New Central Park.
“It was a surprise when Barry [Ferguson] left,” said the former Inverness and Falkirk attacker.
“I know he felt a massive sense of relief. He put a lot of work into getting the club promoted and I know how much that meant to him. Barry probably feels like he left in the right way — leaving us in a really good position.
“I think I speak for all the players when I say that we’d like to thank him for everything he did. Barry pushed us on and we wouldn’t have gone up without him.
“We could have been a bit taken aback by him leaving so soon after promotion — but instead the club made a real real statement of intent. We managed to get an immediate coup by bringing in Kevin Thomson.
“It shows what a big, attractive club Kelty is that we can bring someone like that in from Rangers. The new gaffer obviously sees that we have plenty more to give and a lot of growing to do.
“This is a massive opportunity for him in management, and it’s a massive opportunity for us.”
Kelty have wasted no time in tooling up for their maiden League 2 campaign, snapping up established SPFL pedigree in Jordon Forster, Jamie Barjonas, Joe Cardle and Andy Black.
The likes of Darren Jamieson, Kallum Higginbotham, Michael Tidser, Thomas Reilly and Austin himself have also penned new contracts.
‘I’ll work twice as hard as I ever have’
It is an impressive spine as Kelty prepare to tackle a division which Austin won in 2016 with East Fife, scoring 24 goals in the process.
“I’ve done well at that level before, albeit things have changed and I’m a wee bit older than I was back then,” he laughed. “No, I’m maybe coming in with a little bit of a reputation but that doesn’t mean anything — I’ll work twice as hard as I ever have.
“With the core group we have here, the boys signing extensions and the signings the club have made, it just shows you the quality we have. We want to have a real crack at League 2.”