AMID all of the excitement about the start that Hearts have made to the Ladbrokes Premiership this season, the success of another capital club has been rather overlooked.

But Edinburgh City, who only became part of the senior football set-up in this country little over two years ago, are also sitting on top of League Two after winning seven and losing just one of their opening eight matches. There is a long way to go, but they too must now be contemplating winning silverware.

Luring Jim Jefferies out of retirement to become their sporting director has undoubtedly helped manager James McDonaugh in his quest to take the part-time club up a division given the high level he has operated at in the past and his vast experience of the game.

Sitting in first place in the table is certainly nothing new for Jefferies. Nor is maintaining a title challenge. The exceptional Hearts team that he assembled during his first spell at Tynecastle vied for the league up until the final weeks of the 1997/98 season. The current side will be doing very well to emulate their run.

Had a game against Rangers at Ibrox in February gone differently, had Jorg Albertz not weighed in with a cruel injury-time equaliser, he is adamant that it could all have finished differently.

“If we had won that game then who knows what would have happened,” said Jefferies earlier this week as he took a break from his City duties to look ahead to the encounter between the same two teams in Govan tomorrow. “Psychologically, it would have been a big statement. There was nothing in it that season. There is no doubt we believed we could do it.”

The 2-2 draw his team, who ultimately ended up finishing seven points behind eventual winners Celtic and just five behind runners-up Rangers, were held to that afternoon was hard to bear for several reasons.

“I had done my back in before that game and watched most of it in the directors’ box,” he said. “I was standing waiting to go down the stairs to the dressing room when Albertz sent the keeper the wrong way. I couldn’t believe it. But he was always pulling them out of the mire.”

So does Jefferies, whose men promptly atoned for the third-placed finish by landing the Scottish Cup for the first time in 42 years, believe this Hearts team can maintain their current form and do even better? He has no doubts they can due to the weakened state of the other contenders.

“Celtic and Rangers aren’t anywhere near as good as they were,” he said. “They don’t have the same quality of player. There has never been a better chance for Hearts, or even Hibs or Aberdeen, to challenge them. Rangers are on the way back and there has been great improvement there, but they don’t have the Gascoignes and the Laudrups that Walter [Smith] had and just aren’t at the same level. We had those players to contend with.

“There is more pressure on Hearts now because people are tipping them to win something. Can they win the league? The games they have coming up [they face Rangers, Aberdeen, Hibs, Celtic and Kilmarnock in their next five league games] will tell us that.

“It has been no surprise they have won the games they have, other than against Celtic. It is a massive game this weekend. If they get a win they will take great confidence from it. I think this will be a good pointer for the rest of the season. They have hard games coming up after it. But if they are still there after them then they can be considered challengers.”

Hearts certainly held their own with all of those teams on the last occasion they had a serious chance of winning the league. A draw against Celtic in February, achieved courtesy of a late Jose Quitongo goal, that kept them level on points with both their opponents and Rangers was especially sweet. A chance encounter with Bobby Tait, the referee that day, recently brought memories of the game flooding back.

“I was speaking to Bobby a few weeks ago at an East Kibride game,” said Jefferies. “He added on a lot of time because Jonathan Gould was wasting time. Jose Quitongo must have scored in something like the sixth minute of extra-time. The whole stadium erupted. I was halfway on the pitch hugging Paul Ritchie. It kept us in touch.”

As well as Ritchie, Jefferies was able to field Colin Cameron, Steve Fulton, Neil McCann, Gary Naysmith, Davie Weir – players who are revered by Hearts fans to this day and who all represented Scotland – 20 years ago when Hearts went so close to winning their first title since 1960.

He feels moving Steven Naismith, another national team player who he handed his debut to as a teenager at Kilmarnock, into a more advanced role has been a masterstroke by Craig Levein and is the main reason they are five points clear of the chasing pack.

“I was pleased Hearts got Steven,” he said. “He has got that infectious style that gets everybody around him going. He is a good competitor, a good runner, a good player. He is back to his best form. You can see that when he is in and around the box. He will create chances, not just score them.

“This season they are playing him a bit more forward and he is getting goals. That’s what he’s all about. I thought last season he spent too much time in other areas of the pitch and they didn’t get the best out of him. For me, that’s the major difference this season.”

“I gave Steven his debut at Kilmarnock and then sold him on. The first time I saw him he was playing for the reserves against Brechin. He was only a kid. But I said to him ‘you keep that up in the next few weeks and you will be in my first team’.

“I took him down to Arsenal for a few days before he signed for Rangers. I spoke to Arsene Wenger about him and told him he would play for Scotland. But he wasn’t an Arsenal-type player. Gordon Strachan was keen to get him to Celtic, but he was always desperate to go to Rangers.”

There is little chance of Unai Emery rocking up to Ainslie Park, where Edinburgh City are playing while Meadowbank is being redeveloped, to sign any players for the Emirates Stadium club, but Jefferies is relishing his involvement nevertheless.

The same, however, cannot be said of his fellow directors. The 67-year-old hasn’t mellowed much with age and all the old competitiveness is still there. “The chairman has got a few bruised ribs from my punching the air and kicking every ball during matches,” he said. “There have been a few occasions, particularly at half-time, I have wanted to go in and give them my thoughts. I have had to bite my tongue. But I am enjoying what I am doing.”