THE local clubs are all ready for the big kick-off with the Lowland and East of Scotland League Premier Leagues' opening fixtures on Saturday.

The new junior season begins the following weekend on Saturday August 3.

Kelty Hearts will be out to make a strong bid to win the Lowland League which would give them the opportunity of a play-off with the Highland League winners to open the door to SPFL League 2.

Meanwhile Hill of Beath Hawthorn, Dundondald Bluebell and Crossgates Primrose face an historic season with the first ever East of Scotland Premier League campaign, while on the junior scene Lochore Welfare play in the East Super League for the first time and Lochgelly Albert will be looking to rebuild their fortunes after finishing bottom of the South Division last term.

IT has been a summer of change at Kelty Hearts and boss Barry Ferguson has set his stall out to win the Lowland League title.

As he prepares for his first full season at the helm, and the New Central Park club's second in the Lowland League, the former Scotland captain has brought in eight new faces in a bid to battle with the likes of East Kilbride and BSC Glasgow for the chance to win a shot at promotion to SPFL League Two.

High profile acquisitions like ex-Inverness and Falkirk hitman, Nathan Austin, Forfar Athletic duo Dylan Easton and Thomas Reilly and East Fife defender Scott Linton, were joined by goalkeepers Ross Jardine and Ben MacKenzie; East Stirlingshire defender Danny Ashe; and Spartans defender Gary Cennerazzo.

Several players, however, have moved on, including retired skipper Shaun Greig, last season's number one, Scott Christie, forward Scott Dalziel and the long-serving Garry Leighton, but Barry Ferguson commented: "We can’t say that we’ll be happy to fight for the title – we need to go and try and win things next year. It’s as simple as that.

"The boys know that but the lads that I’ve signed, and the current boys that are here, know we’re here to try and win things.

“They fit into the style of football but their ages as well was important for me. I wanted to get guys who are going to be here for the long-term and not just a quick fix.

"Second best is not good enough."

TIMES PREDICTION: Kelty will be up there fighting East Kilbride, BSC Glasgow and East Stirling for the right to play-off with the Highland League winners to open the door for a chance at League 2.

HILL of Beath Hawthorn are preparing to be ready for the challenges that the first East of Scotland Premier League season will bring.

After the season of clubs jockeying for position through the Conference system which inevitably brought some tough games but also some relatively easy matches, the Premier League will bring a series of really hard games.

The Haws are able to welcome back two very useful campaigners to the cause.

Flying winger, Calum Adamson, has returned from his half season in the senior ranks with Berwick Rangers and he will bring real pace to the Hill of Beath shape while also returning to Keirs Park is talented midfielder Lee Reid.

Manager Kevin Fotheringham received a blow when his regular 'keeper, Stuart Hall, broke his arm in training so it was timely that he had just fixed up former Stirling University 'keeper, James Donaldson, 21, who played in the Lowland League last term, while front man Lewis Payne has stepped up from the 20s and midfielder Stephen Peggie has been signed from Kirkcaldy Amateurs.

Kevin said this week: "The injury to Stuart was one of these unfortunate things that can happen in training so we are fortunate we have James able to step in.

"Having Lee and Calum back in the fold is excellent and they will give us real attacking impetus for what will be a really tough league programme.

"There will be no easy games and we will have to be ready to go at full tilt every week to establish ourselves as one of the better sides in the division."

Haws are in the preliminary round of the William Hill Scottish Cup for the first time and play Blackburn United at Keirs Park on August 10.

TIMES PREDICTION: Haws will be a top six side in the Premier League and will be aiming to make an impact in some of the cup campaigns, especially the Scottish Cup.

DUNDONALD Bluebell's new manager, Lee Dair, is looking forward to his team competing well in the East of Scotland Premier League although he is under no illusions about the challenges that the competition will present.

Bluebell were in the top three of Conference B all the way through last season and established themselves as strong competitors.

When manager Jason Dair left to take a coaching role at Dunfermline Athletic in June, his brother Lee, took over the reigns with former manager, Craig Morrison as his assistant, and he has fixed up three players to bring the squad at Moorside up to 17.

He has added centre-back Dan Nimmo, who has spent the last couple of seasons in football in the United States; former Kilmarnock and Ross Country attacking midfielder Josh Jefferies, along with defender James Mackie, 22, from Kirkcaldy YM Amateurs.

Said Lee: "We had most of last season's squad signed up by the end of the Conference B season and Dan, Josh and James will add depth.

"We also have the 20s squad playing on Friday nights and there are fine young prospects among them.

"Hopefully we might be able to add another player before the season gets underway".

He added: "This will be a right competitive league but we are confident we can make a strong impact and it will be good to be involved in the Scottish Cup."

The preliminary round of the Cup has given the 'Bell a right tough assignment with a home tie with junior cracks from Ayrshire, Auchinleck Talbot, on August 10.

TIMES PREDICTION: Bluebell will settle in to a mid table position in the East of Scotland Premier and watch out for a couple of good cup runs.

THEY proved the doubters wrong in gaining promotion last season and Crossgates Primrose are out to do so once more.

The Humbug Park outfit, under the guidance of manager Alan Campbell, enjoyed a superb first season in the East of Scotland League by finishing fifth in Conference 'B', earning them a place in the top tier of the newly created Premier Division.

They will go up against both Dundonald Bluebell – who they meet on Saturday – and Hill of Beath Hawthorn, as well as the likes of Linlithgow Rose and Bo'ness United, and Campbell is keeping faith with the majority of the squad that performed so well throughout the last campaign.

His only arrivals during the close season have been left-sided defender, Callum Deas, and former Inverkeithing Hillfield Swifts forward Ryan Cowie, while Mark Higgins, Robert Wilson, Blair Penman, Mark McKenzie and Sami Mitchell all departed.

Campbell said: "We've done things a wee bit different this year. The players have had seven or eight really hard training sessions, and played five games in the space of a fortnight.

"We played last Thursday night (against Lowland League Civil Service Strollers); it was the first time where we didn't really make any changes, and the players looked as fit as I've seen them and ready to go.

"We've worked on a few things but we won't veer away from the blueprint that has got us success over the last couple of years.

"Last season, every expert thought we'd be in the bottom two or three, and we proved them all wrong. Most people will think we'll finish in the bottom two or three again, and we'll use some of that to spur us on."

TIMES PREDICTION: Primrose will find it hard work to match last season's string of good results which saw them make the 'Premier' but will avoid any relegation issues. Watch out for a couple of good runs also.

LOCHORE Welfare are ready for their step up in the junior world and their first East Super League game against Livingston.

An amazing turn around for a club that was in danger of going out of business four years ago.

Last season's great run of results saw them step up and manager James Adam was able to sign-up all of the squad who were stand-outs last season apart from midfielder David Byrne who has had to stop playing due to work commitments.

And he has also brought in link-man Greg Renton, a former Welfare player, and Fraser McGuire, who has returned to Scotland after a spell in Australia.

Said James: "This is a big season for us and the guys are really looking forward to the challenge.

"We have all the players who did so well last season apart from David and getting Greg Renton on board is a very useful acquisition and Fraser coming home has also been a bonus and he will play in defence.

"I think that this will be a tight league for there will not be a lot between the teams but we have to be ready for our away start at our old rivals Livingston on August 3."

TIMES PREDICTION: Lochore will not be overawed by the East Super League and will be looking to challenge in the top half of the table. Watch out for a good Scottish Junior Cup run this season too.

LOCHGELLY Albert had a tough season last term but when former Welfare boss Andy Healy stepped into the hot seat things started to turn around.

The manager has been putting together a squad he feels will start to bring the good times back to Gardiner's Park.

TIMES PREDICTION: The Berts will be so much better this term and don't rule them out being among the front runners-up of the South Division.