LINLITHGOW boss Mark Bradley admits his toughest task ahead of tomorrow’s Emirates Scottish Junior Cup final clash with Auchinleck Talbot will be breaking the bad news to the players who won’t make his starting line-up.
Rose are looking to make it an amazing 50 games unbeaten when they take on the Ayrshire giants at Livingston’s Braidwood Motor Company Stadium. Bradley’s men go into the game aiming to lift junior football’s biggest prize having already clinched the East Super League title as well as the Dechmont Forklift League Cup.
With his team also in the final of the Fife & Lothians Cup and the last four of the East of Scotland Cup, Bradley’s all-conquering squad has been pushed to its limit, with fringe players doing a sterling job to keep their glorious run going.
Tomorrow, though, there will be several disappointed faces as Bradley selects the XI he believes can bring the cup back to Prestonfield.
“All the players are itching to play, but we can only put 11 players on the pitch,” said Bradley, who is looking to win the trophy for Rose as manager having played in the team which won the cup in 2007.
“It will be a tough call. All the squad has been used in the past few weeks and they’ve done brilliantly, but I know that, if they aren’t in the starting line up, they’ll be behind those picked and cheering them on.”
As excitement reaches fever pitch in the town, Bradley has been trying to take a low-key approach to tomorrow’s game.
“We’re trying to keep our normal routine in training and in the recent games,” he said. “It’s very much low key and that’s what it’s been all season.
“We all know just how important this match is for the club, but it’s important we don’t get caught up in all the hype that surrounds the game.
“I’ve been at clubs before where we stayed at a hotel the night before a big game and turned up in nice suits and won.
“I’ve also been at Linlithgow where things were kept to a light lunch before the game and we won that one as well. I much prefer the low-key approach. We’re doing the same routine in training and in the preparation as we have for every game this season.
“This Junior Cup final is the first for some of the players, while for others they’re going for their second or third medal.
“Some of the players have played at a higher level, but they’ve still never experienced the highs we’ve had already this season.
“For some it’s been a rollercoaster of a season with big crowds, dramatic matches and some superb football, but we’ve fought our way through and are still unbeaten.
“We’ll have a super crowd behind us tomorrow and this is an opportunity to reward them for their support and, if we win, join in the celebrations.”
Auchinleck Talbot manager Tommy Sloan is going for his fourth Junior Cup success, having tasted victory with the Ayrshire men – record nine-times winners of the competition – in 2006, 2009 and 2011.
“A win for either side on Sunday would cap what would be a tremendous season for them,” admitted Sloan, whose side romped to the West Super League title this term without losing a match.
“In the past, some games haven’t lived up to the expectations because of nerves and the fear of losing, but I think this final will bring out the best in both sides.
“Both will be up for the challenge to put on a show and give the supporters a day to remember. Neither side will change the way they play, so it’ll be up to who can deliver on the day.
“Most of the players know each other from international duties and games played between the sides previously, but, come kick-off, friendships will go out the window.
“Both sides won their leagues weeks ago with games in hand, so it looks likely to be a very tight game.”