I WATCHED proudly as my giant-slaying former team Darvel F.C. put League Cup semi-finalists Aberdeen to the sword – and wished I was back on the pitch with them.
The emotional night made me look back fondly at my time as a player with the sixth tier club in the late nineties.
Back then, we certainly didn’t have any of the luxuries at the Ayrshire side’s ground Recreation Park that were seen on the TV on Monday night. The dilapidated dressing room we had, with showers that didn’t always work. The pitch that we played on, which more resembled one of the local farmer’s fields, and would leave you sore for days after a match.
What we did share with this week’s victorious players was a great team spirit. We had ex-pros George McCluskey and Charles McGuiness and the camaraderie between everyone at the club was second to none.
I remember running the great Kilwinning Rangers team of the time close in the Scottish Junior Cup at our little home ground. The fans and community always wanted us to do well, so from that aspect, it was great to see how far the team has come since then. It has been brilliant watching all of Darvel – indeed all of Scotland (apart from maybe some in the north east!) – enjoying this week’s scenes of celebration.
Up there with the Berwick Rangers 1967 Scottish Cup win over Glasgow Rangers, West of Scotland league side Darvel pulled off arguably the biggest Scottish Cup shock ever, in front of thousands of fans and the TV cameras ‘doon the brae’.
Inspired with a stirring speech before the match by manager Michael Kennedy, Darvel took the game to their SPL visitors. Having survived a number of scares in the second half, they won the match 1-0, courtesy of Jordan Kilpatrick’s 19 minute winner.
I wish I had been sat in the dressing room during Michael’s emotional team talk, as it would have made me want to run through brick walls for him and my team-mates back in the day.
During the rousing chat with his players, Michael urged them to “give everything you have got, for yourself and your families, because I promise you now, we can win this! The belief starts inside yourself, then it spreads through one another, but you must believe.”
He added: “When you need to find that extra yard, that extra bit of oxygen, then look round about you. Look to your brothers, look to your family, let’s look to the next round.”
The passion in the speech had the hairs on the back of my neck standing up. For a fleeting moment, I wondered where my old boots had gone.
I wanted to play again.