Scottish League 1 – Season review

By Colin Byiers

Another exciting season in the lower leagues comes to an end, here’s my thoughts and ratings for each side in League One.

Cove Rangers

Paul Hartley’s side ended the season as deserved champions, ending the campaign unbeaten in 26 matches, stretching back to 16th October.

Mitch Megginson and Rory McAllister between them scored an impressive 33 league goals, with captain Megginson also assisting 10 times also. Just as effective defensively, Cove stopper Stuart McKenzie earning himself 17 clean sheets in his 30 league appearances. Cove’s free-flowing, attacking play allowed the full-backs Shay Logan and Harry Milne to contribute the scoring, with both getting 7 assists. Left -back Milne himself netting 6 goals.

Overall, after the disappointment of the way last season finished and finishing unbeaten at the Balmoral Stadium, Cove have been worthy winners of League 1, scoring the most goals and conceding the least.

Rating 10/10

 

Airdrie 

 A second runners up spot in a row for Airdrie, they must surely have been cursing their early season form. Ian Murray’s team picked up just 3 wins in the opening 8 matches. A better start may well have had them picking up the League 1 title, or at least taking it to the final day.

Dylan Easton was an inspired signing from Kelty Hearts in the summer, contributing to 19 goals this campaign, with 8 goals and 11 assists. The Diamonds end with a run of 20 games unbeaten, but ultimately failing to beat title rivals Cove was the difference.

No title but they still have a chance at promotion via the play-off’s and will be heavy favourites to move up to the Championship for the first time in 7 years.

Rating 9/10

 

Montrose 

 After three 4th place finishes since gaining promotion in 2018, The Gable Endies claimed 3rd spot this campaign. Another magnificent year for Stewart Petrie as his reputation continues to grow as one of the best managers in the lower leagues.

Montrose started well and were in the top two for the first half of the season, but inconsistent form with too many draws after the turn of the year saw them slip away from Cove Rangers and Airdrie. Blair Lyons and Graham Webster were the standout performers, with the latter netting 15 goals.

A positive campaign again, the some may look back on with a “what if” perspective. If they fail to go up through the play-off’s, don’t be surprised to see them top 4 again next season.

Rating 8/10

 

Queen’s Park

Optimism was high among the Spiders faithful at the beginning of the season, but it turned out to be a rather flat season. Laurie Ellis took his side to the top of the table, but after a run of just one win in nine, Queen’s had slipped to 4th and Ellis was dismissed.

Results didn’t improve too much after and the Spiders crawled to the final play-off spot. Defensively they did ok, but simply they did not score enough. Bob McHugh top scored with 8 in the league. Many of the squad failed to produce this season, but Luca Connell was a very consistent performer.

Not the campaign many would have expected or wanted back in League, should they fail to achieve promotion, I’d expect a much better season next year under Owen Coyle.

Rating 6/10

 

Alloa 

 Another team whose supporters’ expectations were not met, as Alloa, relegated from the Championship the previous season, looked like they could compete for a play-off spot. However, things start badly for new manger Barry Ferguson as his side started with a 2-0 loss at Peterhead on the opening day and from there he was in trouble.

Alloa never threatened to achieve a top 4 place, and after a run of 7 games without a win Ferguson’s short spell as manager was over in February. He was replaced by Brian Rice, but all plans put in place had next season in mind.

Not a great return to League One football for Alloa but finished the season in a much better frame of mind under Rice. Should do better next campaign.

Rating 5/10

 

Falkirk   

 What can be said about Falkirk? Another disaster of a season, both on and off the park. The PR catastrophe from the board and management set the tone for what was to come. An air of expectancy was quickly turned into frustration by the fans as results. After the first 9 games the Bairns were 3rd but that was as good as it got.

A 3-0 loss to Airdrie in October saw them slide to 5th where they remained for the rest of the season. Paul Sheerin was sacked in December just 6 months into his reign. A big summer ahead for Falkirk.

Falkirk now face a 4th season in League One and will need to invest heavily and smartly if they are to push for even a play-off spot next season. Very disappointing.

Rating 4/10

 

 

Peterhead 

Survival was the target for the Balmoor side, and despite a bad run of form in the new year, Peterhead finished well away from the bottom two places. Some may look at as a season of what ifs, when decent performances didn’t materialise the points, they perhaps deserved.

One win in 12 from January to mid-March had some of the Blue Toon faithful worrying about their place in the league, however, 4 wins in 5 at the right time helped Jim McInally’s side to achieve their survival goal. Brett Long was a standout performer in the Peterhead goal.

A much younger side for McInally this term, he has an eye on building a team for the future. With that in mind, should be aiming higher next season.

Rating 6/10

 

Clyde 

Much like Peterhead, could look back on this season as one of missed opportunities. A slow start to the season saw the Bully Wee in 9th place at the start of December, but that was followed by a run of just one loss in 8 which elevated Danny Lennon’s team to 5th.

Clyde didn’t suffer loss often, just 14 defeats, only the top 4 lost less games, but too many draws kept them in the bottom half. Neil Parry was an inspired piece of business as the big stopper made countless big saves during the campaign.

Goals were hard to come by for Clyde as only relegated East Fife scored less, so finding an answer to that issue will surely Lennon’s number one priority for the new season.

Rating 5/10

 

Dumbarton

New manager Stevie Farrell couldn’t stop Dumbarton ended the season 9th for the second year in a row. It was looking good for the Sons, as after 8 games they sat in 2nd place behind Queen’s Park, but a thumping 5-0 defeat at Peterhead started a run of 10 defeats in the next 12 games.

Things didn’t get any better in the new year as Dumbarton recorded just 4 league wins in 2022. A huge turnaround in the playing staff hasn’t worked out, as many expected them to perform much better than they did.

The relegation play-off will be tough again for Dumbarton, but they may just have enough to keep themselves in League One. Overall, a poor season that started so well.

Rating 3/10

 

East Fife   

 Dubbed by some East Fife supporters as the worst side they’ve seen, the 2021/22 season started badly and never got any better from there. A 5-0 hiding by Dumbarton in matchday 6, saw Darren Young’s team hit bottom of the table, where they remained for the rest of the season.

Young was gone by Christmas and replaced by Steve Crawford, but results didn’t improve, and the Fifers could only muster 2 victories this calendar year. Last year’s mid-table finish must seem like a lifetime away now as they prepare for life in League Two.

Expected much better from East Fife, but this this will be one that they Methil faithful will want to forget quickly. Hugely disappointing season.

Rating 1/10

Scottish League 2 – Season review

By Colin Byiers

Another exciting season in the lower leagues comes to an end, here’s my thoughts and ratings for each side in League Two.

Kelty Hearts   

  Lowland League Champions, Kelty Hearts, breezed through their first season in the league by winning League Two by an impressive 19 points. Kelty did not look out of place in the 4th tier, with Kevin Thompson’s side top the scoring charts and were defensively sound, conceding the fewest goals.

All the more impressive was the fact it was Thompson’s first venture into management as this level, following Barry Ferguson’s departure in the summer. Nathan Austin and Joe Cardle scored between them 29 times earning both a place in the PFA League Two Team of the Year.

Impressive first season in the professional ranks, and will no doubt go on the make an impact in League One next season.

Rating 9/10

 

Forfar 

    A play-off spot for Forfar would have been the minimum at the start of the season, after last year’s relegation from League One. At no point were the Angus side outside the top 4, spending much of the season in 2nd place.

Ross Meechan was a standout performer, as the Forfar captain put in some stellar performances at the back, with goalkeeper Marc McCallum earning himself 12 clean sheets also. Gary Irvine can now focus on the play-off’s and get his side back into League One at the first time of asking.

Were never really going to compete against eventual Champions Kelty Hearts but have done well to shake off last season’s disappointment.

Rating 8/10

 

Annan Athletic 

 A much better campaign in 2021/22 compared to last season when they finished 8th with Annan finishing 3rd. On a positive, they scored 64 times, the second highest behind Kelty Hearts on 68, but at the other end it was a different story. Too many goals lost as they end with only Stranraer and Albion Rovers conceding more.

They did, however, pick up 19 points (5 wins and 4 draws) from losing positions, the most in the league. Tony Wallace and Tommy Goss top scored on 13 and 12 respectively, while veteran goalkeeper Greg Fleming produced over 100 saves.

Annan supporters may have been cursing their defence, as it could have been possible for them to have secured 2nd place had they been tighter at the back. Still a very good season for them.

Rating 8/10

 

Edinburgh City 

For the 4th season in a row, it’s the play-offs for Edinburgh City. It was a tough start to the campaign when they lost 3 of their opening 4 matches, picking up one win with a single goal victory over Stenhousemuir. After that though, City suffered just two defeats in their next ten matches, helping them push up the table.

Wins against Annan, Forfar and Stranraer at the right times, kept their play-off hopes alive and kept Stenhousemuir and Stranraer at bay. Goals were hard to come by, as no one in the Edinburgh squad made it into double figures.

An average sort of season for Edinburgh, as a top 4 spot is what most would expect from them these days. They will be hoping to go one better in the play-offs this year after their loss in the final against Dumbarton last term.

Rating 6/10

 

Stenhousemuir 

 Mid-table again for Stenhousemuir, who must be the most inconsistent side in League Two, as they can easily go on runs of three wins in a row, then follow it up with 3 defeats on the spin. Another side who got off to a slow start but found their way around November but were too reliant on Thomas Orr for goals. The former Stranraer man netted 13 times in the league, but Adam Brown was the next highest on 6. Defensively Stenny looked good with the vastly experienced Sean Crighton at the back to give them that solid base.

Overall, it’s another season where Stenhousemuir have failed to claim a play-off place and if they are to achieve that, they need to be more consistent.

Rating 6/10

 

Stranraer   

After winning a play-off spot last term, Stranraer will be disappointed to only finish 6th this season. The season started off on a bad footing when manager Stevie Farrell left before the campaign kicked off. Jamie Hamill took the helm, but it was a difficult start winning just 3 times in the first 13 games. After that though, things progressed and earned 10 victories in the remaining 23 matches.

Tam Muir and Matty Yeats both performed well but neither hit double figures in the league. Stranraer will have to be more ruthless in front of goal next season.

Stranraer might be wishing the season still had 5 games to go as then they might have achieved a play-off spot. Not a bad season considering the goings on at the club.

Rating 6/10

 

Stirling Albion

  Stirling Albion missed out on a play-off berth last season on the final day and started this season well, recording 6 wins in the opening 9 games. However, 1 win in the next 16 ended any hopes of a top 4 place as they end the season in 7th place.

Dale Carrick, who was a stunning acquisition from Airdrie, did not fail to impress netting 11 times in his first season at Albion. Without Carrick Stirling may will have finished lower. A 5-0 win in the final day against Edinburgh City will be one of a few highlights in a season that most will be glad is over having started so promisingly.

Ending the season in their lowest position in 6 seasons will be a source of disappointment for most. Will need to improve next season.

Rating 5/10

 

Albion Rovers

Survival will no doubt have been the target for Albion Rovers, as Brian Reid’s side were favourites to finish bottom of the table at the start of the season. Albion’s form in the tail end of the season helped them to avoid 10th in an unbeaten run back in March where they got draws against Kelty Hearts and Forfar as well as beating Stirling Albion and Annan away from home.

Not many goals scored, but Sam Fagan’s performances at the back have been very good. Winning 4-0 at Edinburgh City will have been the Albion faithful’s pick of results.

Finishing 8th and having a point return of 39 is not a bad campaign for Albion, even finishing 10 points ahead of Cowdenbeath in 10th. A good season overall.

Rating 5/10

 

Elgin City 

 3rd last season to 9th this season, this has surely been a massive disappointment for Elgin City. Elgin never really got going this year, only achieving back-to-back wins once. Defensively they were poor, conceding 51 goals in total, the 3rd worst in the league and hitting the net just 33 times, only Cowdenbeath scored less.

Kane Hester was far and away Elgin’s best player has he finished the season with 13 goals. No one else got near that number, in fact, only 5 players managed to score more than once.

A campaign to forget for Gavin Price’s side as they finish in their lowest position in 8 years. Some unhappy City supporters will be looking for much better next season.

Rating 2/10

 

Cowdenbeath 

   Saved from finishing 10th last season by a poor Brechin City, Cowdenbeath finish bottom for the 3rd time in 6 season’s and now face a relegation play-off against Bonnyrigg Rose for a place in next seasons League Two.

After picking up a win over Elgin in the second game of the season, it was not until December that they won another league game. A wee run of 3 wins in 4 matches looked like they had turned the corner but 6 defeats in a row followed, and the Blue Brazil were condemned to 10th place. Liam Buchannan top scorer with 6 goals.

Regression in the last 2 years could well mean that Cowdenbeath slip out of the league after another poor season. I fear the worst.

Rating 2/10

Q and A – Kelty Hearts Sporting Director Andrew Barrowman

By Colin Byiers

When the inevitable day comes when a player has to retire, it’s their next move that can surprise the most. Former Ross County and Inverness Caley striker Andrew Barrowman made the decision to not go down the traditional roles after playing but went instead into the business side of the game and has down very well since.

On the back of Kelty Hearts clinching the League 2 title, NE98 writer Colin Byiers has been chatting with the club’s Sporting Director about the success the club has achieved on and off the park, as well as his playing career, which included a Scottish Cup Final in 2010.

Firstly, Andrew, congratulations on winning League 2. How pleased are you to get it over the line?

 Delighted to get it done. I think in recent weeks there had been a nervousness trying to get over the line. Everyone could see how close we were, and you can see a bit of tetchiness in the play, even the fans or us in the committee, everyone just willing us over the line. We can look forward to finishing the season off on a high and look forward to next season, and we go again.

Was there any pressure as most had Kelty down as favourites?

We put pressure on ourselves. We knew we had assembled a semi-decent squad, the core of a decent squad coming up from the Lowland League. Appointing a manager like Kevin (Thomson) puts pressure on you. We thrive on that. The characters we have in the dressing room and coaching staff and beyond that, we are happy with that. We can deal with it. Talk about pressures, the pressures of trying to get out of the Lowland League and all the trails and tribulations that come with that politically is pressure. So to have a first League 2 campaign in the clubs history didn’t really feel like pressure in the grand scheme of things, although there was a pressure to live up to those expectations.

The preparations will have started for next season.

Yes, started probably at the turn of the year. We had two plans, one for if we were League 2 and one for League 1. Everything in football moves so quickly you have to be on the front foot and moving forward. We are nearly there in terms of what we want to achieve this summer.

Let’s talk about your own career then. After leaving Rangers at 16, you moved down to England with Birmingham City. Quite a big move for a young man of 16.

I was playing for Scotland school boys at the time, playing against England, and a Birmingham scout was there, and it quickly moved from there. It was more of a daunting move for my mum and dad to be honest. For me it was a big adventure. I always dreamed of becoming a professional footballer and I was getting a chance to do it. Moving to a different country or city never came into my thoughts.

I had been going to a few clubs in England, training with them, but I got a really nice feeling about Birmingham. They were Championship team at the time, and I had gone to Leeds and Newcastle, clubs that were top end Premiership sides and I felt it would be a step too far if I’m honest. I felt I wouldn’t get anywhere near the first team. At Birmingham I felt it was the right level of club where I could become a better player but also have a chance of getting into the first team.

In my first year that all changed. Steve Bruce came in and we got promoted into the Premier League. The place just went crazy! We got a new training ground over the summer. Players were signing, the cars in the car park got a wee bit better. It didn’t pan out the way I had thought, but it was a great time and a great club. It was great grounding for me but ultimately, I fell short of being good enough at that level, but what I learned has stood me in good stead for the rest of my career to be honest.

I had been at Rangers since I was 8, and back then they didn’t have a training centre. Like most Scottish clubs, it was jump on a minibus and get to a local grass pitch. So, when I get down to Birmingham it’s totally different because they had the facilities, and when you went to play teams like Manchester United, Manchester City or Liverpool, it was phenomenal! There was a big difference in the facilities and even in the Academy structure was different.

You left Birmingham in January 2006 and signed for Walsall.

Paul Merson signed me, and he got sacked a week later. We got beat 5-1 away to Brentford and he go the sack on the bus on the way home! That was my first game. Between then and the end of the season, we had something crazy like 3 managers. There were all sorts going on behind the scenes, and to no one’s surprise we got relegated. Once Paul left, I played bits and pieces under the other managers and never really established myself under any of the managers.

For the first time since I went down to England, I was starting to feel homesick. I still had a year to go in my contract, and I still remember driving back down the road the night before first day of pre-season training and I just decided I didn’t want to go back. A new manager had been appointed, a guy called Richard Money, and I walked into his office first thing in the morning, and I told him I wanted my contract ripped up. He was delighted because having come from Birmingham, I was on good money, so he was happy to get me off the wage bill. That was it, I was back up the road with my life packed into the back of the car.

During your time at Birmingham, you had loan spells with Crewe, Blackpool and Mansfield. How would you sum up your time in England?

The loans I went on in League 1, League 2 and even the Championship, were hard. Most weeks it’s Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday, Tuesday. It’s non-stop. That was a shock to the system. I learned a lot at each club, I don’t think I was any good in any of those loan spells, except maybe the one at Crewe. I was learning things like winning a game of football for a win bonus which was something I had never experienced before.

Kilmarnock was your next move. How did that one come about?

Eric Black, who was the assistant manager at Birmingham, was someone I got on really well with and he had started phoning people trying to help me out. Billy Brown was his contact at Kilmarnock, and I went in and trained with them. Played a couple of pre-season games and they offered me a contract.

I never really felt I go the chance at Kilmarnock. Having signed in pre-season, they already had a settled squad of forwards, so I was never given the opportunities. I went on loan to Queen of the South as part of the Wullie Gibson deal. Kilmarnock were desperate to sign Gibson and myself and Stevie Murray went the other way on loan.

I didn’t want to move to Queen of the South, I didn’t feel it was the right move. They were bottom of the table after 10 games. I didn’t want to go. I told Billy Brown that and 5 minutes later I got a phone call from Jim Jefferies, saying I was going! I didn’t score too many goals there, but I ended up enjoying it. I was playing every week and gaining the experience that set me up for what was to come.

In your first spell at Ross County, was this the first time you felt you had found your place as you would enjoy your best form of your career up until then?

Aye. That was probably the first time I regarded myself as a first team footballer. That summer I hadn’t a lot of options because I hadn’t played that well, probably 4 or 5 teams to be honest. I went up and met George Adams and within 10 minutes I knew it was the right place for me. He actually gave me an ear bashing, in terms of where I should be in my career. He basically gave me a kick up the backside the first time I met him and wasn’t blowing smoke up my backside.

It started off great, I started scoring goals and as a striker, you build confidence from that. I scored 12 goals in the first 10 games. Any young player confidence is a massive thing, especially a striker. There would be games where I might not be playing particularly well but the manager kept me on, and I ended up scoring in the final 20 minutes or so. There were loads of things I enjoyed up there. I had the faith of the manager, the faith of the people who were running the club and in turn I hope I repaid that faith. It was the first time I felt I was part of something in terms of first team level.

Your form attracted the eye of other clubs, and you moved to County’s rivals Inverness Caley. Was that a move you thought extra-long about?

I was in a fortunate position where a few clubs had offered me pre-contracts in January and Inverness was one of them. Craig Brewster was the manager and I signed for Inverness because of Craig Brewster basically. He was always in contact with me after a game. Any game he could he’d be there watching me and after the game sending me a text with some advice. I didn’t know him, but he was a striker similar to myself and I just felt that that was the right place for me to go at the time.

You got off to the perfect start with a goal on your debut at Pittodrie.

We played well in a 2-0 win, and I think the 2-0 flattered them to be honest. We had a good pre-season and the week prior we played a pre-season game against Burnley, and I scored two. Don Cowie played just off me I felt we formed a really good partnership and understanding. All that goes into the first game, and we get a great result and you’re thinking this could be an enjoyable season, but it was only one game.

Things didn’t go well. To be honest, the Inverness fans never really took to me. In the first preseason game against Ross County, I was on the bench first half, and I was warming up and all the fans were booing me. I was only at County for a year, it wasn’t like I had been a County stalwart, they just never took to me. They were on my back constantly and I couldn’t handle it. We were fighting at the bottom of the table and Craig ends up getting the sack in the January and Terry Butcher comes in.

After 18 months at Caley, you move back to Ross County in 2010, and the club have a run to the Scottish Cup final.

Terry Butcher had made it clear he wanted me to leave. They were trying to force me out. They knew I was leaving; I knew I was leaving. I has agreed to go back to Ross County, and it was just about getting a settlement from Inverness as I still had a year and a half left on my contract and it wasn’t until 10:30 on deadline day that an agreement had been reached. Had it not, then the end of that season could have been so different.

We beat Hibs in a replay in the quarterfinals. We played really well at Easter Road but we thought we had lost the chance to beat them. We ended up beating them up in Dingwall and before the game the draw had already been made and we knew we were playing Celtic in the semi-final. The Celtic game at Hampden was the highlight of my career and for us it was a free hit. We had a young team, a team that had something to prove. We went into that game with no one giving us a chance, but we went into that game wanting to have a go and I think the game played like that. We started well, started on the front foot and I think that spooked Celtic. We were getting the better of Celtic. That was a fantastic day and great celebrations after.

Just before the final, our season had just finished and we were meant to be going away to Spain for some warm weather training, but then the ash cloud happened so it got cancelled. Our warm weather training was moved to Dingwall which was slightly different! When you look back on it, yes you are disappointed you didn’t win the game and maybe don’t appreciate what we had achieved, but at the time you are so wrapped up in wanting to win the game and not get beat. It was a great time for the club and will live long in the memory of the fans. There was no one left in Dingwall that day and the support we got from the town was great. 3-0 probably wasn’t a fair reflection on the game but we certainly didn’t deserve to win the game and there’s a hint of disappointment there.

When you look back at your career, aside from the Scottish Cup run with Ross County, do you look back on it with pride?

I’m immensely proud. I like to think I was a good professional and a good teammate. These things are important to me, and I pride myself in doing that throughout my career. I’m happy with what I did, and I can look back with pride on what I achieved.

Prior to your retirement in 2015, you started a business management degree. Was that something you were looking to do before you finished playing?

When I was 28 at Dunfermline during the administration thing, I had been looking to do something because, when you hadn’t been paid in 6 months you quickly realise that it wasn’t going to last forever, so I needed to start planning for the future. I didn’t have any ambitions of staying in football in traditional roles like management or coaching. In my last few years of my career, you are on contracts year to year and there is no real security. I didn’t enjoy that and as you slip down the levels that’s how it goes, there are no 2- or 3-year contracts. I always had ambitions of staying in football but in the business side of things and thankfully I got that opportunity last summer.

Tell us about your role as Sporting Director at Kelty Hearts.

I got to know Dean McKenzie the owner of the club through my previous job at Joma, and we hit it off. We would have meetings were it would be 5 minutes of business and then an hour of speaking about football and ideas on how a football club should be run. A year ago he had asked me to come in and help with the running of the club as he has other businesses and were looking to up the pyramid and needed some help.

At the time they were in the Lowland League and I felt that role wasn’t needed then but said we’d look at in again in the summer after promotion etc. The Monday after they were promoted, I got a phone call saying that Barry Ferguson was leaving as manager and could I help appoint a new manager. That was me, straight in and after about 3 months I said we should have that chat we were supposed to have in the summer.

It’s been great so far. A lot is made about how good the team on the pitch is, but believe me, the team off it is just as good. There is a real strength and everyone is pulling in the same direction. The people behind Kelty Hearts are the real strength and they’ll continue to grow on and off the pitch. It’s been a joy to be apart of. I’m fully a Kelty fan now, I’m all in.

Giving your experiences at Dunfermline during the administration, can you use that in the position you are in now?

Dunfermline is obviously a way of how not to do it! Ever club I was at I was interested in the commercial side of things and take a keen interest in that. The job I do now, I’ve been preparing for that for a long time and long before that I was creating plans on how to do things. Thankfully I’m at a club where I’ve been able to put those plans into place and been able to put my own stamp on things.

There will be comparisons to what Kelty is looking to achieve with what Gretna did. Do you take on board these comparisons and are they fair comparisons?

I wouldn’t say it’s fair, but I do understand why they are saying them. We certainly aren’t paying players what Gretna were paying players back then. The club have had a plan that has had front end investment but come next season in League 1 we will be fully sustainable as a club. What we bring in will pay the bills. Dean is a very clever businessman. He isn’t going to throw stupid money into something where he doesn’t see any long-term future. Our budget last season was the same as this season and I think we’ve got good value on the pitch in terms of what we watch every week.

We missed out on loads of players last summer to clubs in League 1 and 2 because we didn’t want to offer them what they were getting offered elsewhere. People just believe we’ll out pay anyone, but I can name 10 players that we lost out on for more money that we were offering. We’ll put a value on a player and if he doesn’t meet that value then we move on and we look at something else.

How pleased are you with the job Kevin Thomson has done this season?

It’s Kevin’s first job, but we thought he was the right fit for the club in terms of progressive players or progressive managers who see Kelty as a steppingstone. We want that at Kelty in terms of getting value from a player so they can move on. We are under no illusions that nobody dreams of playing for Kelty Hearts but if we can attract these people who can become better players and in turn make Kelty a better team.

I think Kevin comes under that category. Kevin has been on the record that he is ambitious in the game in what he wants to achieve. That’s fine, we are comfortable with that. As long as it’s done with respect to the club then we’ll actively encourage that. There is no doubt there will be a day when Kevin leaves Kelty Hearts, and we know that.

He’s a good manager and we’ve enjoyed a lot of good times this season because of Kevin Thomson. We sit in the stands purring at some of the stuff they’ve been playing this season and a lot of that is down to Kevin. We’ll enjoy him for as long as we have him. We hope to have him a bit longer, but that goes for the players too.

What’s the future ambitions for the club?

Just keep moving forward. People think we’ll move up into League 1 and win it by 16 points. We are realistic. We’ve played League 1 sides in cup competitions and friendlies. We know the level we are getting into, and we know we need to improve to challenge at that top end. We’re going to enjoy it. There are some potentially big ties and some potentially bigger ties if things go a certain way in the Championship. We’ll add to the squad we’ve got.

Most have been signed up for next season, but we’ll add 4 or 5 and give us a go at being competitive. We look at teams like Arbroath who are a great marker for us. They are getting it right on the pitch and off it. 900 season ticket holders. These are the things we are looking to achieve, and I know Arbroath has a bigger population, but we know there are neutrals coming to our games and its how do we get them to become Kelty fans and buy a season ticket at the start of the season. We are very forward thinking and we look to become the best part-time club in the country.

Rangers, India, Stranraer, and everywhere inbetween – Darryl Duffy QandA

By Colin Byiers

 

Stranraer assistant manager Darryl Duffy has had one of the most intriguing careers, which has seen him play Champions League football with Rangers, to winning a League title with Falkirk and playing in India for a spell.

Now back in Scotland and transitioning into coaching and management, Duffy has got long term plans to remain in the game and pass on his experiences to the next generation of players in this country.

Darryl, firstly let me take you back to 2003, when you made your debut as a 19-year-old for Rangers.

It doesn’t seem that long ago, mentally I’m still the same age to be honest! The body doesn’t always agree right enough. It was always my dream to break into the first team and be a regular, but to be a regular at a club like that you need to be extra special. I was just delighted to make my debut and play 2 more games. It was quite nice because it was 3 different competitions I played in, the Champions League one being the biggest. I’ve still got my Champions League strip and I’ll be keeping that forever. It was unbelievable. I used to sit and watch Champions League football on the telly and the hairs on the back of your neck would stand up when the music started playing, so to be part of that and sitting on the bench soaking in the atmosphere, I’ve never experienced anything like it or since. It’s one of those nights that will always stay with me. Sitting on the bench, I had no idea I was going to be playing, but we were losing at the time, and I was chucked on to try and get us back in the game, but unfortunately that wasn’t the case.

You decided to move on a few months later and joined Falkirk. Did you have the choice to stay at Rangers?

Rangers had offered me a year’s extension, but by that time I had a taste of first team football, and I didn’t see the benefits of taking it other than being a Rangers supporter. That was the hardest decision to make, but from a footballing point of view there was guys like Egil Ostenstad and Nuno Capucho ahead of me in the que to play games and I felt I should have been ahead of those guys at that time playing games. So, I spoke to Partick Thistle, St Johnstone and Falkirk. After meeting Yogi, (John Hughes), it was a done deal. His passion for the game and the way he spoke and how he spoke was the difference. I was aware they had Russell Latapy in their team, and I knew a lot about him from watching him at Hibs and Rangers, and I was excited to be teaming up with him. The facilities, the new stadium, just everything felt right. My girlfriend at the time and I met Yogi, and he was brilliant with her as well. It was things like that, that swung it that way for me.

It ended up being a good decision, as it was a successful first season for yourself and the team.

Yeah, it couldn’t have gone any better to be honest. I played every game, scored 27 goals in all competitions. We won the Challenge Cup as it was called back then. We won the league, got promoted to the Premier League. I was young player of the year. Broke into the Scotland Under 21 squad, and the B squad. It was an incredible first season for me. You always want to do well in your debut season as a first team player, but that went way beyond all expectations.

Back in the Premier League with Falkirk and you started well, but you started getting attention from other clubs. Did you find that to be a distraction at the time?

I’m quite a level-headed person, it never affected me. I was still playing every week for Falkirk and scoring goals, but we were more mid to bottom end of the table. I got 9 goals in 19 games in the first half of the season, and it was going well for me on the pitch. When the move did come off, it all happened pretty quickly, so there was no time for anything to put me off.

Peter Taylor took you down to Hull City. It was quite a big move for yourself, at the age of 20-years-old.

It was a huge decision. I was 20 coming up for 21, and I had only been out of my mum’s house for about a year, so I was still learning how to do everything around the house myself! I went from living in Glasgow to moving to Hull, no family or friends down there, just myself and Claire. The draw of Peter Taylor being the manager was a big thing for me. His reputation of working and developing younger players was incredible. I spoke with Yogi and Russell Latapy and got their advice, and you start to wonder if this kind of opportunity will come round again, and that was a big factor in it. I’ve only got one real regret in my career and that was moving in the January, with hindsight, I probably should have stayed for the remainder of season with Falkirk and then too it from there.

Unfortunately, Peter Taylor wasn’t there long after you signed. Did things go sour for you soon after that at Hull City?

He was the main reason why I went down there, and I think I got to work with him for 4 or 5 months then he was away. They appointed a guy called Phil Parkinson, and my first meeting with him couldn’t have gone any worse. He sat me down and said he was going to cut to the chase. He said, “I don’t rate Scottish football. I don’t rate Scottish footballers. It’s an overrated team and you won’t be playing in my team.” I had never had a conversation like that or since, and you’re left think, “where do we go from here”. I still had 2 years on my contract, and I was determined to stay and make a success of it, but after that conversation, I was always going to be up against it.

I worked hard during pre-season, and he was trying hard to leave me out of pre-season games, but whenever I was coming on I would do well, and I ended up starting the first two league games of that campaign. We had a really tough start. West Brom away and then Wolves at home. We lost both those games and I never featured under Phil Parkinson after that again. I would be on the bench and get 5 minutes which would turn into him saying I wasn’t doing it, which turned into me sitting in the stand.

You had loan spells at Hartlepool and Swansea. Describe how they went.

Brilliant, absolutely brilliant. It was the exact opposite of what it was like at Hull. Danny Wilson at Hartlepool was desperate to get me in. He had seen me at Falkirk and at Hull and it was similar to when I met Yogi. He just wanted me to come in and score goals to get them up the table and that’s what I did. They were League 2 and I ended up scoring 5 goals in 8 games and then my loan was over. They wanted me to stay until the end of the season, but then Swansea came in and they were in League 1. Although I had enjoyed my time at Hartlepool, it was for me the next step to challenge myself at a higher level.

Roberto Martinez took me in, and again, said he wanted me to play in his team, but he a few games to do it, rather than throwing me in at the deep end. They had guys like Adebayo Akinfenwa, Lee Trundle and Pawel Abbott, guys who had been in England all their careers and doing well. I made 3 sub appearances before I started my first game. I then started the 5 games in a row and scored in all 5.

What was it like working under Roberto Martinez at that time and moving to Swansea on a permanent?

I had no idea he would go on to do the things he had done. I was just thinking that training was fantastic, the football we played was amazing and from a playing point of view, the atmosphere in the changing room was amazing also. I ended up singing of Swansea for all those reasons, that summer.

Phil Brown had taken over the job at Hull City, and he wanted me to stay and give me a chance, but because I had enjoyed myself so much at Swansea and built up a really good partnership with Lee Trundle, I decided to move to Swansea. Then 2 weeks later, Lee moves to Bristol City! So, we signed Jason Scotland, and we started the season up front together. After 3 games, I torn my groin muscle and I was out for 3 months. Because Jas was the only main striker at that time, we went to 1 up front to what would now be called a 4-2-3-1, and we went on the most incredible run. Jas was flying and ended the season on 29 goals, and we won the league that year. I was limited to sub appearances, and I never really felt part of that, so it was a bit of a disappointment.

Bristol Rovers was your next club. Was playing games the main reason for leaving Swansea?

Yeah, pretty much. I had a meeting with Roberto about the new season, and he was happy to have me in his squad but couldn’t guarantee me first team football because he wanted to stick with the same formation. At the same time, he said he knew I wanted to play football and if I wanted to go the club wouldn’t stand in my way. Bristol Rovers were the only club that got near what Swansea wanted for me in a transfer fee, so I went down to Bristol, and I loved it. To this day, it’s still the best place I lived in in England. I signed a 3-year deal and done well in my first season, scoring 18 goals. I played with Rickie Lambert, who was bit more unknown at the time. That was him working his way up the leagues. It was a really good partnership. I scored 18 goals and he scored 29.

The following season, the manager brought in two new strikers, and I found myself on the bench again for no real reason. The partnership worked so well last season, why not give it a go again in the new one. So, it was a frustrating second season and after that season, Yogi was at Hibs by this point, so I got the opportunity to go on loan to Hibs with Yogi.

Had you planned on coming back to Scotland or was it purely because Yogi was manager at Hibs at the time?

I actually planned on playing out the rest of my career in England, but how things were going, the end at Hull and the end at Swansea and coming to an end at Bristol Rovers combined with working with Yogi again, it seemed like a no brainer. It was nice to get back up the road again and see family and friends again that I had been away from for so many years, so it ticked all the boxes. Again though, it doesn’t always work out the way you plan. I was doing pre-season, and I was the fittest and sharpest I had felt in a long time. The Friday before my league debut at home against Inverness, and we were doing a bit of team shape, and I had come short at one point and spun in behind and felt a crack in my foot. I had broken a bone in my foot. As easy as that! I had surgery on it and was out for 3 months.

That winter was the Breast from the East, so the training ground was covered in snow and frozen over. I couldn’t do any of my outside rehab. Most of my rehab was in the gym, and because of that, I developed an Achilles problem. I was told to have complete rest. By the time I had come back from all the injuries, Yogi had been sacked. Colin Calderwood came in and said he wanted to overhaul the squad and bring in as many of his players as possible. I think I played 6 games under Calderwood from the January to the end of the season. It was a season that was full of optimism but was one that showed how quickly things can change. I genially believe that if I had stayed fit and started that season, I would have had a successful season and Yogi would have stayed longer.

Your final 2 years in England were spent at Cheltenham.

I had interest from Dundee United after I left Hibs, but they were waiting to sell David Goodwillie to Blackburn at the time, but they were waiting for the outcome of his court case. It was a move Dundee United wanted to happen and it was a move I wanted to happen, but again, it was out with my control. Until Goodwillie moved to Blackburn United couldn’t sign me. The season then started, and nothing was happening, and I ended up moving to Cheltenham for 2 years.

It was a similar story there. I had started well first season, scored 16 goals and played at Wembley in the play-off final. Unfortunately, we lost that game and then 2nd season, I hardly played. After that I had had enough. I wanted to try something different, and I always wanted to play abroad.

 

How would you sum up your time in England?

Probably a mixed levels of success and mixed levels of failure and frustration. I got numerous player of the month awards, won League 1, played and scored against some really big clubs, so maybe failure is not the right word, maybe mixed levels of disappointment.

India was a surprising move. How did that one come about?

It was my mate Alan Gow, who I had played with at Falkirk and played against numerous times down south. He was one of the guys I had kept in touch with, and he had played 6 months out in India, and when I spoke to him, he recommended it. I had only planned on being out there for a year but ended up loving so much I stayed there for 4 years!

What was the level of football like over there? What would you compare it with?

I’d say bottom of League 2 in England, or bottom end of the Championship in Scotland. It’s hard to directly compare because the weather alone makes it so hard to compare. It’s so hot and humid, I would lose 3kg in sweat each game! Technically they are probably further ahead than a lot of British players. Their agility makes their technique so good and that surprised me as to how good they were. Back then it was the tactical side of the game that let them down, that was the side of the game that they were behind British clubs.

The managers I worked with over there, I spent a lot of time with. They would pick my brain about stuff. That was the first time I had experienced the management side of things, and I enjoyed it and that’s what got me interested in that going forward.

Was it easy to adapt to another culture?

No, it wasn’t. I was there for the first 6 weeks myself, until my wife could get visas sorted. We had two young kids by then, a year old and 3-years-old. In that first 6 weeks when I was over, I thought the whole thing was horrendous, and I wanted to come home. I was on the phone to my wife telling her I was coming home, but she said to hang in and they’d be over soon. Once they were over, the situation changed, and I completely relaxed but I was then more worried about how they would settle in.

Honestly, my wife and kids adapted so quickly. I would go to training for 3 or 4 hours in the morning, then the rest of the day was ours. We’d go to the beach, dipping in and out of the ocean. If it got too hot, you’d go to a hotel a relax by a pool. You could have a big buffet dinner for the 3 of us for £30, which had steak and lobster! What a life it was.

Sadly, the club I was playing for Salgaocar, had an issue with the new ISL (Indian Super League). A few of the teams in India weren’t happy with the new league because they were demanding a “franchise fee” to join the league. It got to the point where Salgaocar were so stubborn that they folded in protest. So, here’s me wanting to stay in India but the club I played for folded! I joined Mohun Bagan, but it was a city club in Calcutta, with a population of 16 million. Very different to the beach life in Goa.

The boys were at school for the last couple of years and they settled in well. They were like wee celebrities, with their milky white skin and blonde hair and blue eyes. They had never seen someone with white skin in the flesh before, and it was proper Scottish white skin too! It was a great experience, and I wouldn’t change anything about my time in India. I was quite successful too. I won Foreign Player of the Year in my first season, top goal scorer in my first season, and won the cup with Salgoacar. So, overall, it’s a time I look back on with fond memories.

You came back to Scotland in 2017 and joined St Mirren, but things didn’t work out for you though.

When I came back, I had been training with Ayr United for a week and they had offered me a deal, but I got an offer from Jack Ross at St Mirren. I had known Jack from my time at Falkirk when he had signed. I went there to train, and done well, signed with St Mirren, but never really played. I played East Kilbride in the cup and then made two 3o second sub appearances, and that was the total sum of my opportunities at St Mirren. I went to Airdire on loan for the second half of the season, then made that permanent.

The manager changed, so it was new ideas and that was it for me as a full-time player. I found that hard to transition from full-time football, where you’d go out to training every morning, but I found myself in the house all day then training 2 nights a week. So, I started doing other things, I became a fully qualified personal trainer and try and work in gyms during the day. That made me start to really think about what I wanted to do after I was playing and that I wanted a career in football after I finished playing.

You dropped down to League 2 with Stirling Albion for a year. Had you wanted to continue playing part-time?

I had spent a year and a bit at Airdrie, and their Astro pitch had done a number on me, so I was looking for a team that played on grass and Stirling ticked the boxes. I also wanted to go somewhere where I’d be the senior figure of the team and pass on my knowledge to the younger players.

You are now at Stranraer, with a year under your belt last season. How disappointing was the end of last season for the club?

We had an up and down season to be honest. We’d go through fits and starts where we’d be really good then be really disappointing. Made the play-off and we ended up being poor over the two games against Dumbarton. We never really got going and Dumbarton ended up just scraping by us. So that was a disappointment, but nothing compared to the rollercoaster in the summer!

I had spoken to Stevie Farrell about an extension at Stranraer, and by this time I wanted to be a player/coach somewhere. He already had an assistant and Jamie Hamill as his first team coach, so he just wanted me to chip in with stuff now and again. As we were only part-time, I was going to be limited to the amount of time I would get, if any, during the 2 nights training, so I started looking around for options to be an actual player/coach.

During that process, Stevie Farrell left and joined Dumbarton. Jamie Hamill asked me if I wanted to be his assistant manager and have Scott Robertson as coach. That’s us 6 months into it now and I absolutely love it. I don’t miss the playing side of things, which I guess is the biggest compliment I can give the coaching.

How do you see the future for you now that you are in a management position?

I had a roadmap in my head of being a player/coach where I would still be playing now and again but mostly doing the coaching side of things, then become an assistant for a year or two. Maybe be an assistant at a full-time level, then look to progress into becoming a manager myself. I’ve skipped the player/coach part and jumped right into the assistant manager bit, with a little bit of playing. I’ve taken to the assistant manager role well I think, but one thing I have learned about being an assistant manager at a part-time level is that it’s not part-time at all! You’re paid part-time and your hours are part-time but it’s 100% full-time.

Hammy had never been a manager before, I had never been an assistant manager before and Scott Robertson had never been a first team coach before, so we thought we’d just learn it as we go, and I think we’re still learning.

We all chip in with our ideas for training, for set-pieces, tactics, man-management, days off. Hammy gets the final say on everything obviously, but we’ve thrown ourselves into it. I take charge of the kit, footballs, bibs etc, and Robbo takes charge of the mini goals, the cones, the hurdles, so we literally do everything ourselves. We’ve had so many learning curves thrown at us this year, like on 2 separate occasions we’ve had no goalkeeper even though we had 2 on the books.

We lost our chairman a few weeks back completely out of the blue, so we’ve had to deal with that. Two separate covid outbreaks and not being able to get games postponed, literally just having 11 players. We’ve had a lot to deal with this year and as we are a first-time management team, I think we’ve handled things quite well. We’re going to go into next season a bit more prepared. This season we only had 7 players at pre-season so we’re scrambling to get the squad filled with trialists just to get through friendlies, but we’re going to give it a right good go next season.

What’s your thoughts on the final part of this season?

We want to get into the play-offs, that’s the ultimate goal. Our remit was to stay in the division, because of our budget and the small amount of players we had at the start, the club just wanted to stay in the division. Between the 3 of us, we wanted to push on and make the play-offs. That’s still the aim. We are making it as difficult as we can for ourselves, which seems to be the way! If we can get to the play-offs after everything we’ve been through this season then it’ll be worth it. It’s been so quite the introduction into management.

“I’m living the dream” Amy Anderson Q&A

By Colin Byiers

Former Hamilton captain, Amy Anderson, has achieved a lot in here career already, but joining the team she supported was a dream come true. At Motherwell, the midfielder hopes to continue to improve as a player, playing against and with some of the top players in this country.

Colin Byiers spoke with Amy recently about her career, her international hopes, and the continued growth of the Women’s game in Scotland.

Amy, tell me how it all started then, what’s your early memories of playing football?

 

To be honest, it was all my dad! I would play over at the park a few times a week with him, working on some of the technical stuff like passing and touch. From there, I actually got picked up for my first team. A guy who was out walking his dog, just happened to be passing and he was a coach of a football team. He spoke with my dad and asked me to come along to training on the Tuesday, and from there I’ve played for a team ever since. I was kicking a ball from when I could basically in a Motherwell strip, so the obvious next step was to be in a football team. I wasn’t going to games at that stage, but not long after that I did get my first season ticket for Fir Park.

You were in Motherwell’s youth set up at one point too, before moving to Glasgow City.

 

Yeah, it was good being there as a Motherwell fan, but the set up was great. They weren’t really connected to the men’s team. I had to move away because I was at under 13’s and there wasn’t an under 15’s team for me to move up to, so I moved to Wishaw Juniors first, and my dad became one of the coaches there, which was good but not so good at the same time! (laughs). We did well at Wishaw, we got to the Scottish Cup final, I got recognition at Scotland. I was capped at Under 15’s while at Wishaw, which was unusual because most of the players played for Celtic, Rangers or Glasgow City, so for me to be playing with them was good for the club and raised the profile a bit and was also good for me.

I then moved to Glasgow City, played there for a few years but broke my ankle while I was there, so was on the sidelines for a while. I was in the development team but was still training with the first team once a week. Then I realise that getting game time is unlikely at Glasgow City. I was getting opportunities, but I wanted to be playing games and playing first team football.

What were the differences in the set ups at Motherwell then and Glasgow City?

 

They (Glasgow City) had everything in place. I was in the Under 17’s team, but they had an Under 9’s, 11’s, 13’s and 15’s, then at that time it was Reserves then First team, so there was always a team for you to go to after you had outgrown the age group you were in. Looking back now, it’s a shame for Motherwell, but thankfully they have everything in place now.

After Glasgow City, you joined Hamilton. How did that move come about?

 

I had left Glasgow City, and I was at college, Gary Doctor, who was coach at Hamilton, happened to be at a coaching event I was at, and I had mentioned to him that I had left Glasgow City, and would he be keen on bringing me in as I had worked with him at regionals in the past. I knew what Gary was all about and he knew me as a player, so I went to training on the Tuesday, and signed for Hamilton. At that time, there was quite a high turnover of players at Hamilton, quite a few girls had left and when I signed, I was one of about 12 new players that signed, so it was hard for everyone to mix, but that same season we won SWPL 2, so it was a good successful first year in Women’s football.

 

In your time at Hamilton, you won a lot of individual accolades as well as team triumphs. What did those accomplishments mean to you?

 

The title at Hamilton was my first trophy in Women’s football and they were my first individual trophies that weren’t youth awards. I won Player of the Year in my first year, and I had just turned 18 and I was playing first team football, so playing enough to get recognition was good and the quality in that side was good as well. At that time, more people were speaking about me (in a good way), and in the Accies team I was a regular, I was a standout because I was trying to make things happen while I was on the ball. Teams were starting to pick me out as the player to watch in the team and the social media team at Hamilton was good and kept tweeting things about me. I was more out there in a way.

You also captained the side even at a young age.

 

Yeah, Gill Inglis, who’s in my team at the moment, was the Accies captain while I was there, moved to Rangers in the August, and Gary said he wanted me to be the captain. He understood I was still young and there were older players in the team, but he felt I could do a job. The rest of my time at Hamilton I was captain. I always tried to lead by example, with or without the armband. I’m not a captain who shouts a lot, although I do like to talk a lot on the park, but I’m more about setting standards. Although I was one of the younger ones, I still got a lot of respect from the older ones which was good.

In your final season at Hamilton, you won promotion back to SWPL 1. Was that just a meaningful as the first title win?

 

Obviously, first time round when we got promoted, we came back down straight away, so that was disappointing. I always aimed to get the team back up and to do it as captain and play a big part in it felt good. At the same time though, I felt I had achieved everything I could at Hamilton. I felt I was becoming too comfy in a way, and the only way I was going improve and better myself was to move away.

You did receive offers while at Hamilton, one being Hibs. Was that a move that could have happened?

 

It was actually yeah. Grant Scott was the Hibs manager at the time, and he contacted Hamilton, and we started talking. About 2 weeks into talking to him, he moved to Glasgow City! So that made my mind up, thinking I’ll stay put for the moment. I was playing regular at Hamilton and enjoying playing, so it was probably best I stayed.

You ended your stay with Hamilton with over 100 appearances, so overall what was your time like at the club?

 

I loved it to be fair. I had a good, close group of friends. The recruitment was always good too, so every year there was new players coming in and everyone got on well. Gary and Bobby were brand new. I just felt at the time I had outgrown them in a way. Because I was playing every week, I didn’t feel like I was going to get any better. I felt I wanted to take the next step in my career. I knew that if a club like Motherwell had come in for me or another club, I would definitely speak to them. I just wanted to better myself. We won promotion in the June, and I went on holiday in the July and while I was on holiday, Gary Doctor text me saying Motherwell had come in for me. So, Paul (Brownlie) was contacting me while I was on holiday saying he wanted me to sign. I was home on the Thursday and that Friday I signed and got all my pictures taken at Fir Park.

Met Leanne (Crichton) for the first time as well. It happened pretty quickly in the end. It was somewhat easier to leave Hamilton because I was going to Motherwell, but at the same time, I was leaving some really good friends behind. They are good pals, because they supported me in my decision to leave and to try and better myself. Hamilton and Motherwell are rivals, but I don’t think it’s that big in the Women’s game yet.

You mentioned earlier about the changes that have been made since you were there last. What changes have you seen from your time as a youth player?

 

There is now a closeness to the Men’s side, even with Alan Burrows the Chief Executive, that was never there before. Something as simple as the strips. When I was at Motherwell in the past, we didn’t even have the current kit. We get access to facilities at Fir Park as well. We aren’t one of the teams that are professional, but Paul tries to make it as professional as possible. The detail that Paul and Leanne go into is scary! All the changes have been good to be fair.

What was it like pulling on the Motherwell shirt of the first time?

 

It was unreal! The first game of the season was against Glasgow City, but I got injured in training on the Friday which meant I missed 4 weeks. My first game back just happened to be against Accies. Paul threw me in straight away, but I wasn’t quite match fit, but I knew I could play against them and try and get one over my old team. Scoring my first goal was just as special. I’m not a player who gets forward too often, I just happened to make a run forward that day and Carla laid the ball to me, and I just hit it! Normally I would have looked to find another player, but I thought about just hitting it and luckily it went in! Funnily enough, my dad had been saying to me that a goal wasn’t too far away for me, but I needed to get further up the park. Twitter after that was quite mental!

Is your dad still a big influence on your career at this point?

 

Massive! He doesn’t miss a game. He’s got my Motherwell jersey from when I first signed with my name on the back. He’s got a big Motherwell flag with “Motherwell Women” on it that he loves to put up every game. He’s there cheering me on, no matter if it’s Edinburgh, Glasgow, anywhere, he’ll be there.

Has moving up to Motherwell and playing with better players helped your game in the way you hoped it had?

 

Oh definitely. Even playing with Leanne in the midfield for the last few months, she’ll always give me wee hints and tips to make my game better. Also, better people around you will make you better as well, like the standard of training is better. The coaching is more thorough, more tactical, so I’m learning that aspect of the game too.

Went I met Paul for the first time, he told me his ideas and the way he wanted to play football, like playing out from the back and keeping the ball on the deck, which suited my game. He said that me and Leanne would be big players for the team this season. Paul is a really good man manager, he’ll focus on you, giving you a random phone call asking how you are and things. Leanne, the influence she has on me and the whole team is unbelievable. For her to still be playing and still a big character, everyone can learn from her. Even the standards she sets in training, she’s always demanding more of herself and the team round about her, which can only make the team better.

You’ve captained the side on a couple of occasions now. That must be one of those achievements you were looking to do when you joined?

 

It’s mad. I’ve only been at Motherwell for 6 months and I’ve achieved so much already. Paul, 2 weeks before the Celtic game, said he wanted a few vice-captains to help Gill. I was picked as one with 2 other girls. The Sunday of the Celtic game, Paul phoned, and we were chatting away, and at the end of the call he said, “I’m making you captain today”, and I was taken a back by it. It felt amazing, despite the result, it was an amazing day. Recently as well against Accies, I lead the team out. That was quite special and to get the 3 points as well made even better. It’s good to know that I’m being trusted to do the job with the armband and play a big part in the team is really encouraging.

What would be a good season for you and Motherwell?

 

Personally, I just want to keep working hard and making sure I’m in the team each week. It’s quite a big squad here and sometimes some of the girls get left out, so I want to make sure I don’t get left out. As a team, our main goal is to push Hibs all the way for 4th place and try and be the best of the rest. Paul, a few weeks back, said that beating last years tally was the target and we’ve done with quite a few games left to play, so we could potential double last year’s points. I’d say 5th place would be good, it would be a good steppingstone for the years to come.

Closing the gap on the top 3 sides will be tough because they are professional and it shows sometimes in games against them that there is a massive difference, but recently against Hibs, I’d say there was nothing in the game. We had a few chances, a few 1v1’s that on a different day might have gone in, but then Hibs take their chance. I’d say we aren’t miles away from Hibs but the top 3, there is still a big gap.

You’ve been capped at Youth level for Scotland, do you still have hopes of making it to the full National side?

 

To be honest, it’s not something I really think about. I happy to keep working hard and doing my job for Motherwell, and then if that gets me recognition from the national side then I’ll be pleased. At youth level, I was playing with the likes of Erin Cuthbert, so I’ve played with people who have gone on to do really well in the game so far.

At Under 15’s, we played against Germany and that was a really hard game. Got beat 7-0 I think. Just the experience of playing in a Scotland jersey was amazing. Then in the 17’s, we went to places like Hungary, Portugal and Denmark and that same season was when I broke my ankle at Glasgow City a week before the Euro’s, so I haven’t really kicked a ball for Scotland since the Under 17’s. Who knows what might happen in the future.

Finally, after the success of the World Cup in 2019, have you seen a rise in the popularity of the game in Scotland?

 

Yeah, things like the BBC ALBA deal I don’t think would have happened in the past. More people are coming to the games, still not loads, but it’s definitely a start. More money has been put into the game with sponsorship deals etc coming in. It’s slowly but steadily getting there. There’s still a big difference between up here and down in England. There is a lot of money being invested down there and up here we only have 3 professional teams.

Obviously, I think every girl in the Motherwell team would love to be professional as well but that’s unlikely at the minute unless we get more money into the game. Years ago, I don’t think, even for Motherwell, having a Women’s team would have been an option for them, but that comes down to the hard work of Alan Burrows, who wants to make a name for the Motherwell side. It’s definitely paying off. Look at Hibs, they are recruiting really good players. It’s a good time to be in the game.

On the most part, the publicity has been good. There has been the odd comment slagging a player or something, but you’ll always get that I think. I feel that if some of these people came to a game, they’d realise the technical abilities of these players aren’t much different from the Men’s game. Speed and strength wise, obviously men a different, but technique wise, I’d say women are up there. Tactically, we can be as good as the men so I’d encourage anyone who hasn’t watched but made comments to come and see a game.

Thank you to Amy for taking the time to speak with us.