Spartans, the benchmark for all other East of Scotland League teams to aspire to in recent years, go into tomorrow’s King Cup final against Stirling University at Ferguson Park, Rosewell (2.00pm) with the knowledge that if they fail to beat the students it will be the Ainslie Park outfit’s first empty trophy cabinet for an incredible 13 seasons.
Spartans last barren season was back in 1999-2000 when Whitehill Welfare and Annan Athletic were the dominant sides.
Stirling University will provide Spartans with a stern examination having beaten them 1-0 only two weeks ago, a result which effectively ensured that the students would win the Central Taxis Premier Division championship on goal difference from Spartans, for a historic first occasion.
But Spartans co-manager, Sam Lynch, is thinking positively ahead of tomorrow’s final.
“This is our last chance to rescue our season because Spartans are about winning cups and trophies,” emphasised Lynch. “We want to finish the season on a high as it has been ‘one of these seasons’ for Spartans. It has already been well documented that we were eliminated from the Scottish Cup and the SFA South Region Challenge Cups [due to administration errors].”
Lynch was keen to praise his former coach at Spartans and now the Sports Performance Manager at Stirling University, Raleigh Gowrie.
“I would like to say well done to Raleigh and Stirling University on winning the league because that is a fantastic achievement. I have always maintained that in any season the best team wins the league. Stirling and ourselves, by finishing first and second in the Premier Division, have proved, therefore, that we are the best two teams and this King Cup final will be a fitting climax to the season. I just hope that it is a really good spectacle.
“Stirling have had to cope with a barrage of games towards the end of the season and they have shown that they have probably better resources than all the other teams in our league.
“At Spartans we now need to look at where we can strengthen. We have our Under-19 side along with our Juniors to select from as well as the fact that we can attract players because of our success, the type of football we play and our excellent facilities at Ainslie Park.
“However, this season we cannot argue with the facts and that means it has been a disappointing season for us, especially not winning the league championship.”
Mike Lawson, Lynch’s co-manager who is already being touted for the vacant Whitehill Welfare manager’s job, added: “We are playing against the team that pipped us for the league title and so there are the bragging rights up for grabs. We’ve played each other three times this season with a win each and a draw so, again, there is everything to play for.”
Spartans will be without Sean Wringe while Chris Anderson has an ankle knock and there are doubts over Dr Jonny Seeley’s availability although Donal Henretty returns after his ban.
Stirling University, meanwhile, are aiming to lift their fifth piece of silverware of the season having already annexed the Premier Division title, the SFA South Region Challenge Cup and the Alex Jack Cup as well as the inter-Scottish Universities Queen’s Park Shield.
“I’m delighted for the players, coaching staff and everyone else connected with Stirling University,” said Gowrie.
“Since our inception into the East Seniors four years ago lots of people have worked very hard and the players have made some significant sacrifices. They now have their just rewards.
“We will be competing in the Scottish Cup next season to further enhance our students’ experience and help raise the profile of Stirling University.
“Tomorrow, we meet Spartans in the King Cup final and that is an exciting and positive way to end the season. The game is between, arguably, the two best clubs in the East of Scotland League and hopefully this contest will showcase the very best of our level of football.”
Stirling are without Chris McKee and Michael Pentland. Admission charges are adults £5.00 and concessions £2.00.