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Daily Record
Paul Thomson

East Kilbride Thistle targeting West of Scotland League glory, says Barry Russell

Barry Russell insists East Kilbride Thistle are focusing on themselves as they target title glory in the West of Scotland League Third Division this season.

The former Albion Rovers defender was one of a number of impressive summer signings by boss Garry O’Hanlon and says he is at the Showpark to bring success to the club.

Jags kick off their league campaign on Saturday away to Lugar Boswell Thistle and Russell will be striving to bring silverware to the club for the first time in two decades, with their last success the 2002/03 Central League Cup under John Brogan.

Ahead of their season opener, Russell said: “I don’t know too much about Lugar but we are looking at our squad.

“I don’t think we need to care about the opposition, if we get things right. We’ve built a good squad and if we can keep doing what we’ve doing well in pre-season, I think we will be fine.

“I hate going to a team where the only aim is to stay up and the gaffer has made it quite clear we are in this league to get out of it. But even finishing in the top three isn’t something I’d want – I want to go and win it, put a marker down for this club.

“It would be massive for EK Thistle to win the league. It’s not happened in a long time, but we’ve all got the same aim to go out and do that.”

Barry Russell says Thistle are building an impressive squad (Paul Thomson)

A summer recruitment drive has brought in more experienced heads like ex-Stranraer striker Jamie Longworth, former Clyde midfielder David Gray and ex-Livingston star David Sinclair. In the last week they have also added goalkeeper Kieran Bell from Blantyre Vics and defender Paul Tierney from St Roch’s.

During pre-season Thistle took on tests against higher ranked sides such as Troon, Petershill and Rutherglen, and Russell believes that has prepared them for their crack at Division Three.

He added: “It’s been a good few weeks. I don’t normally read too much into pre-season games but it’s been good to see how we’ve played against teams that are a few leagues above us.

“It’s set a standard for where we need to be and other than the Petershill game [7-1] I think we’ve competed very well. The way the gaffer and Aaron [Connolly, the assistant boss] want us to play, I feel we are getting better with each game.

“We’ve got a good squad and Paul coming in now is a great signing.

“I’ve known him all my life and I played with him at St Roch’s. He’s the most consistent player I’ve ever played with and you know you will get at least an 8/10 from him every game.

“He’s also versatile. He can play right-back or centre-half and he’s also an EK boy so that helps as well.

”I think we are in a good place.”

Meanwhile, boss Garry O’Hanlon has strengthened his squad with two new arrivals ahead of the West of Scotland Football League season kicking off on Saturday.

The Jags have added defender Paul Tierney from St Roch’s and goalkeeper Kieran Bell from Blantyre Vics.

Bell is a crucial signing with Iain Stewart ruled out with a broken toe, and O’Hanlon is thrilled to add fresh faces.

He said: “We’ve got a good squad together now and I think we are in a decent place.

“We have brought Kieran Bell in. Iain broke his toe in training so that was an important one, but Kieran has been in with us for a number of weeks already training with us.

“Iain is probably out for six to eight weeks.

“Paul has been on the radar for a while and I’m delighted to get that over the line as well.

“We are settled now I think and looking forward to Saturday.”

O’Hanlon is expecting a tough opener in Ayrshire, having seen Lugar in friendly action earlier in the summer, but is encouraged by his side’s showing against First Division side Rutherglen Glencairn at the weekend, even though they lost 2-0.

He added: “I went down to watch Lugar a few weeks ago against Glasgow Perthshire when we had a free weekend and one thing they will do is they will keep going until the end of the game.

“They were losing and then they managed to go 4-3 and then lost with the last kick of the ball, so I’ve seen that they’ve got a bit of resilience there.

“They stuck in the game so we need to be ready for that and be better than them.

“If we create the kind of chances we did on Saturday I think we will be okay.

“Against Rutherglen we had enough chances to win two or three games.

“We just need to turn these chances into goals now.

“It will be a tough test at Lugar, but there’s no excuses because the grass was like a bowling green down there. They have great facilities.”

Follow Lanarkshire Live Sport on Twitter via @LanLiveSport, like us on Facebook or find us on Instagram for the latest sports news, pictures and video.

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