Kenny Aitchison makes right Royal return to Hawick’s Albert Park as boss

Former Hawick Royal Albert manager Kenny Aitchison has returned to take charge of the club ahead of their debut season in the new East of Scotland Football League second division and he’s hoping they can put their woes of recent campaigns behind them.

By Darin Hutson
Wednesday, 13th July 2022, 5:21 pm
Updated Wednesday, 13th July 2022, 5:34 pm
New Hawick Royal Albert manager Kenny Aitchison is launching a recruitmenr drive ahead of the coming season
New Hawick Royal Albert manager Kenny Aitchison is launching a recruitmenr drive ahead of the coming season

It’s only five years since Aitchison, 28, was last at Albert Park but they’ve changed gaffer five times since then while going into freefall from the Scottish Lowland Football League to their current berth three tiers below.

He was only in charge of Albert for four games that time round in 2017 – all defeats, with 23 goals conceded and only one scored in reply – but he’s hoping his return will bring with it not only better fortune on the pitch but also more stability off it.

In the interim, Aitchison, currently employed by a sportswear supplier, been at Airdrieonians, Dundee United, Edinburgh’s Civil Service Strollers, Craigroyston and Edinburgh City’s women’s side.

Kenny Aitchison with Hawick Royal Albert chairman Jim Borthwick in 2017

Looking back on his brief spell at Albert last time round, he says he sometimes regrets having moved on and is glad to have been given the opportunity to deal with unfinished business there.

“I was treated so well at the club,” said Aitchison, son of former Airdrie head coach Willie Aitchison. “I left because I believed there was another, full-time position in football that would have benefited me, but with hindsight, I wish I’d spent longer at the club.

“It’s always been on my mind, fantasising about what-if scenarios, what I’d do differently. They’ve always been a club I’ve followed.

“I know some of the players in the team, which was also a big factor.

“I’ve certainly kept in the loop with the club and I always look out for their results every Saturday.”

Aitchison is hopeful that the new second division will be a happier hunting ground than the old conference B was last season for his immediate predecessor, Jordan Gracie, now at amateur outfit Hawick Waverley after quitting at the end of last month.

Albert ended last term bottom of their 15-team conference with only 11 points from 28 games, having won just twice, and were spared from further relegation only by a reorganisation of the league set-up.

“Without being overly optimistic, we just need to stick to our principles as a team, and I need to find and recruit the best players available to the club and also keep the guys that played for the Royal last year,” he said.

“As we all know, the league’s going to be a bit more balanced in terms of the quality we’re up against. Apart from two or three teams, everybody else should be quite level.

“I’d predict, even with the same squad as last season, that we should really see a turnaround on the pitch and an improvement on the 11 points we got last season.”

Aitchison’s first chance to see his side in action will be a pre-season friendly against EoSFL first division outfit Lochore Welfare at Albert Park this coming Saturday, with kick-off at 1.30pm.

“We’re playing a first friendly on Saturday, so they’re a team that will be able to give me an idea of where the standard lies.

“Overall, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the quality there. Some of the players in the squad have looked really good in training and I’ve had a good response so far, so I think there is a lot of potential for what’s there.”

Continuing the managerial merry-go-round at Albert Park between Aitchison’s departure in August 2017 and his return were Craig Tully, Andy Gibson, Paul McGovern and, following the 2019 merger with Hawick United since reversed, Geo Shepherd and Gracie, but he’s now hoping for a period of stability, believing that’s what needed to revive their fortunes.

“I feel what the committee here will give me is their backing and time to develop things not over a matter of months but over seasons to really improve and get continuity again,” he said.

“I think that’s what they’ve been missing. I don’t think there’s been a manager here for over two seasons since Dean Shanks possibly, and that was a long time ago, and that was the last time they were successful.”

Though based in Edinburgh himself, Aitchison says he won’t be scouring the capital to bolster Albert’s ranks, as had been the case at points in the past, but will, rather, be looking to recruit closer to home and might try to lure back some old players now with Border Amateur Football Association sides.

“The main reason I took the role first time was because of a change of strategy they brought in,” he said.

“When I joined, they were mainly an Edinburgh-based team and trained in Edinburgh but played under the Hawick banner in the town on a Saturday, but since then the club have made an effort to attract and recruit local players and that was a big selling point for me.

“The main thing is to emphasise that the club will be making training available to local players.

“I feel with appointing an Edinburgh-based coach, there could be a perception or an apprehension among people that the club might change strategy, so I’m asking local guys if they want to step up and, you never know, we might find a few gems.”

As part of that recruitment drive for local talent, Albert are holding three open training sessions at their home ground – tomorrow night, July 14; next Tuesday, July 19; and next Thursday, July 21. all at 6.45pm.

Aitchison can be contacted on 0786 229 5028 for further details.