ST ANTHONY'S co-boss Ronnie McDonald has many defining qualities … and having a whole array of friends is one of them which has paid dividends in assisting the fledgling gaffer to get the famous old Govan club off and running on the right foot going into the new Junior season.

Long-serving Ants player McDonald and team-mate Tony Kane have recently taken up the managerial reins in the wake of legendary boss James McKenna’s surprise announcement midway through last season that he would be stepping down from the role once his club’s 2015/16 campaign was at an end.

McDonald is convinced the move from pitch to dugout is right for him, however he freely admits the timing could have been better after Kane’s summer marriage (to ex-Celtic legend Frank McGarvey’s daughter) left the former defensive cornerstone to soldier on with the mandatory tasks of signing up almost an entire new playing squad as well as getting pre-season training underway.

Speaking after honing final preparations for today’s pre-season friendly contest away to Irvine Meadow, he revealed: “It’s been one hectic learning curve but at long last I’m seeing light at the end of the tunnel thanks in no small part to the help of so many contacts in the game.

“Tony going away on honeymoon would not normally have impacted if Cotter (James McKenna) had been around to help out but the fact he was on holiday left me in a bit of a quandary but thankfully my former St Anthony's team-mate Raymond Donaghy was only too willing to lend a hand in knocking the guys into shape.

“And an added bonus was Frank McGarvey himself coming in to oversee a few work-outs, thanks to his relationship with Tony, because the players have been brimming over with enthusiasm at doing their drills under someone of his stature in the game.

“He is looking to make time and come down to work specifically with our forward players which is an exciting prospect for our younger guys.”

Experienced goalkeeper Jon Connolly (Rossvale), Grant Kelly (Craigmark) and Mark McCarry (Rutherglen Glencairn) are the best-known names among the St Anthony's summer recruits and they will all feature in today’s Ayrshire match-up.

McDonald insisted: “We have a healthy 20-man squad for the game at Meadow Park and I’m happy to try and give everyone a slice of game time even if making changes affects our performance.

“I don’t like losing games, friendly or otherwise, however the result is not as important as seeing what pairings and partnerships show promise for when the action starts for real in a few weeks time.”

From elsewhere comes word of a pre-season hammer blow for newly-promoted Super Premier Division outfit Kilwinning Rangers whose talented frontman Ross Stewart has penned a signing deal to step upstairs with Albion Rovers.

Buffs boss Chris Strain said: “ Ross is an outstanding talent who has come on in leaps and bounds since coming here from Ardeer Thistle and I’d have loved for him to be fronting our forward line against the West Region’s top defenders.

“But he’s a typically ambitious 19-year-old who is desperate for a crack at the Seniors and ultimately we just couldn’t stand in his way even though replacing someone of his qualities is a huge ask.”

Moving away from Abbey Park to pastures new are Kyle Cummings, Jamie Anderson and goalkeeper Craig Burns, while work commitments have forced commanding stopper Martyn Campbell to call time on his playing career, to leave Strain scrabbling around seeking suitable replacements.

Two confirmed newcomers to date are centre-back Neil McPherson, snapped up from Darvel, while reinstated from Morton is versatile midfielder Jordan Cairney who was previously a stand-out during a loan spell with Ardrossan Winton Rovers.

Strain also has his sights trained on 19-year-old local lad Adam Hodge who was on the books of both Ayr United and Kilmarnock, however he faces stiff competition for his signature as the defensive ace remains a target of Hurlford United and is currently training and holding talks with Partick Thistle in the hope of earning a contract offer.

Another of the promoted clubs Cumnock could figure in the hunt for Hodge after ball-winning centre-back Paul Murphy, a mainstay in their Super First Division title-winning side, moved back East to sign for his former club Bo’ness United.


(Various kick-off times)

Arniston Rangers v Rutherglen Glencairn, Petershill v Glasgow Perthshire, Irvine Vics v Cambuslang Rangers, Arthurlie v Craigroyston, Threave Rovers v Troon, Blackburn Utd v Larkhall Thistle, Thorniewood Utd v Clydesdale Ams, Glenafton v Darvel, St Roch's v Beith, Auchinleck Talbot v Newtongrange Star, Civil Servant Strollers v Rob Roy, Largs Thistle v Fauldhouse Utd, Renfrew v St Mirren Under 20s, Kilsyth Rangers v Armadale Thistle, Neilston v Barrhead Under 20s , Irvine Meadow v St Anthony's, Whitburn v Blantyre Vics.