AIDAN KEENA admits the pressure to hit the ground running with Falkirk will pale in comparison to the excitement of becoming a dad for the first time.
Keena, 21, joined the Bairns this week following a six-month stint in English football with Hartlepool United.
The former Hearts attacker insists he loved every minute of his adventure south of the border, notching two goals in eight outings, but requested to return to Scotland ahead of a life-changing year with his partner, Leah.
The doting couple are expecting a baby girl in October – just as Keena will be getting back to competitive football with Falkirk – and were keen to be closer to Leah’s family.
He said: “My partner is seven months pregnant and my family is over in Ireland so we made the decision to come back up the road to be closer to Leah’s family.
“In terms of football, everything was going well at Hartlepool. The team was going in the right direction and I was flying – but you’ve got to think about your life off the pitch.
“It’s our first baby and we thought I was important to have that support in Scotland.
“The manager at Hartlepool, Dave Challinor, was really understanding about it, which I appreciate and to get a move to a club as big as Falkirk is brilliant.
“October is going to be a big month – a baby due and the season starting with Falkirk. At least I won’t get too nervous about the first game of the season – I might have my mind on other things!”
Keena is relishing the prospect of finally being a main man in the SPFL after feeding off scraps at Hearts.
He made 17 appearances for the Jambos after joining from St Pat’s Athletic in 2017 – 14 of those from the bench – despite being considered one of the most natural finishers at the club. He found the net once, in a Scottish Cup hammering of Auchinleck Talbot in 2019.
He was one of the players axed by Daniel Stendel following his ill-fated appointment in December.
Keena did, however, score 12 goals over loan stints at Dunfermline and Queen’s Park, and says the time is right to establish himself over a whole campaign.
He continued: “I just want to play now. I’m 21 years old and I’ve got no interest in sitting on the bench or in the stand any more.
“I’ve felt ready to be a regular starter for a while now, but at Hearts I had international players ahead of me in the pecking order and I didn’t get the opportunities I wanted.
“Sometimes you need to take a step back to get those minutes and I definitely feel like I can score goals for Falkirk, be right up there at the top of the scoring charts and be a big player in this league.”
Keena’s switch to the Falkirk Stadium has been eight months in the making, with co-manager Lee Miller having contacted him in January with a view to sealing a deal.
And the front-man is determined to prove worth the wait by firing the Bairns to the title in what is expected to be a fraught race with Partick Thistle.
He added: “I’m coming here to challenge for a title. We don’t want anything less.
“A club like Falkirk needs to be winning League One and then hopefully push on again. You look around the place and it’s a Premiership club – so at the very least we need to be back in the Championship.
“I want to play a major part in that.”