Like everyone who loves football, East Kilbride Thistle manager Iain Diack has relished the long-awaited return to competitive football which gets underway this Saturday with 21 inaugural WOSFL league matches in tandem - the Soccer Shop Challenge Cup first-round ties.

The 39-year-old's surprising appointment at the Showpark proved to be an unfortunate piece of timing after he took up the reins at the start of March and was in charge for just one game - a 4-0 West Region League One victory over Wishaw - prior to coronavirus lockdown restrictions bringing a halt to football throughout Scotland and as it turned out, a premature end to the 2019/20 season.

Ever since, one-time Stenhousemuir, Berwick Rangers and Albion Rovers front-man Diars has worked tirelessly to strengthen playing resources and prepare the Jags for their baptism in the new WOSFL set up, in the way of a short hop through to Tollcross for a Challenge Cup encounter against Vale of Clyde.

In truth, not the stuff every manager dreams of having for a mouth-watering starter, however Diack's unbridled enthusiasm for the forthcoming fray has him counting down the minutes until his playing charges can run out in front of Fullarton Park's more than normal sparsely populated terraces.

The clash against the Tin Pail is one of 10 ties taking place - it should have been 13 but Kilbirnie Ladeside and Pollok’s recently announced withdrawals from the WOSFL have resulted in walkover wins for respective opponents Carluke Rovers and Tranent while Drumchapel United's passage into the second round was sealed earlier this week when East of Scotland adversaries Dunbar United scratched on account of not having enough players to fulfil their tie.

His revamped side's displays in pre-season outings against Blantyre Vics, Drumchapel, Forth Wanderers and Bellshill Athletic have helped build a momentum that Diack is hoping can clinch a second-round showdown away to Greenock next month.

He insisted: "There is a lot of good raw talent to be found in Scotland and we have a fair sprinkling of them here at East Kilbride so my job over the past six months has been to instill organization and try to make them better for it.

"Kevin Coyle and I have worked the players hard on the training ground and the response has been highly encouraging so we cannot wait to see how the guys fare against Vale of Clyde on their own turf.

"It will be a good test for us and should stand us in good stead for our first league game next week."

The WOSFL's ruling that there would be no promotion or relegation this coming season had Diack, whose previous clubs include Pollok, Rob Roy, Linlithgow Rose, Kilbirnie, Sauchie and Kilsyth Rangers, shaking his head in disbelief.

He insisted: "The likes of Pollok and Auchinleck Talbot have huge wage bills and therefore need an income coming through the gates from their fan bases, so I can fully understand their pulling out because of the ban on spectators.

"But the vast majority of clubs are like ours insofar as players are not highly paid and are in the game for the love of playing football yet it seems as if they are being punished for their willingness to take part.

"Surely a way can be found to allow clubs to pull out until next season but still keep things meaningful for those of us prepared to soldier on?"

Other all-West cup contests have St Anthony's hosting the visit of Irvine Vics while Vale of Leven are up against it in making the long trek down to face Maybole however strongly fancied to win on their travels are Rutherglen Glencairn, heading into Fife for a meeting with Thornton Hibs.

Premier Division big guns Kilwinning Rangers have enough about them to survive a testing 90 minutes away to Sauchie while a trip into the unknown beckons for Larkhall Thistle when facing quaintly named non-Junior side Easthouses Lily.

Meanwhile, the list of WOSFL withdrawing clubs now numbers 14 in total after Shettleston became the third city outfit, along with Pollok and Petershill, to announce they would not be taking part in the 2020/21 campaign.

And there is some surprise movement to report on the dilemma facing players signed by clubs who have now opted to pull out of the WOSFL with the news that Pollok's close-season signing Darren Christie, ex-Beith, has moved on a season-long loan to BSCGlasgow for whom he made a scoring debut in last weekend’s 6-4 victory over Vale of Leithen.

Christie will return to Newlandsfield next season however it looks like Auchinleck Talbot fans have seen the last of outstanding-full back Gordon Pope after he announced his retirement from playing at the ripe old age of 31.

WOSFL Premier Division. Beith v Rossvale, Benburb v Cumbernauld Utd, Blantyre Vics v Hurlford Utd, Bonnyton Thistle v Troon, Rob Roy v Darvel, Largs Thistle v Clydebank. 
WOSFL Conference League A. Bellshill Athletic v Renfrew, Craigmark v Ardeer Thistle, Kello Rovers v Muirkirk, Lesmahagow v Annbank Utd, Maryhill v Ashfield, St Roch's v Glasgow University. 
WOSFL Conference League B. Carluke Rovers v Wishaw, Gartcairn v Port Glasgow, Greenock v Johnstone Burgh, Neislton v Lugar Boswell, St Cadoc's v Forth Wanderers. 
WOSFL Conference League C. Dalry Thistle v Newmains Utd, Glasgow Perthshire v Royal Albert, Kilsyth Rangers v Drumchapel Utd, Lanark Utd v Thorniewood Utd. 
SOCCER SHOP CHALLENGE CUP. First Round. Thornton Hibs v Rutherglen Glencairn, Vale of Clyde v East Kilbride Thistle, Maybole v Vale of Leven, Easthouses Lily v Larkhall Thistle, Irvine Vics v St Anthony's, Sauchie v Kilwinning Rangers, Jeanfield Swifts v Lochgelly Albert, Bonnyrigg Rose v Newtongrange Star, Broxburn Athletic v Creetown, Spartans v Kinnoul.