Buoyed by a morale-boosting Scottish Junior Cup victory last weekend, Linlithgow Rose goalkeeper Darren Hill hopes the result can act as a springboard to ensuring they end the season with success.
Rose battered Gartcairn 7-0 at Prestonfield to book their place in the semi-finals. While they are just two games away from their first final in four years, their league form has left much to be desired, with the club fourth from bottom.
Hill’s route to Prestonfield has been some journey for a goalkeeper once regarded as a top prospect after making the breakthrough at Brockville with Falkirk, where he twice won the First Division.
He left Falkirk in 2006 following off-field misdemeanours including drug misuse and then had stints in the lower leagues with Arbroath and Forfar, before earning a surprise move to the Premiership with Hamilton Accies three years ago.
The 35-year-old says going part-time made him grow up and put his past behind him. Becoming a father for the first time two and a half years ago with the birth of his son, Hayden, was also life-changing.
“Throughout my whole career, it wasn’t until I went part-time that I actually stood back and realised where I was, all the things I had done and mistakes I had made, it made me grow up,” said Hill. “It was a reality check, it made me a better person and a better goalie.
“Although I never kicked a ball at Hamilton because I had Mikey McGovern in front of me, an internationalist, it was just the whole experience of doing everything right. It was just for my own pride and sanity because with the things that had happened prior at Falkirk I had never given 100 per cent through the years that I was there. When the opportunity came about I said to the Mrs: “Look, I can’t pass it up because I need to do everything right this time,” and I did everything right, it just so happened that I had a quality goalie in front of me that was going to the Euros.
“The manager at Hamilton [Martin Canning] said I could stay and fight it out or go and get a game somewhere. At my stage I needed to play so I went back to Forfar. Last summer, Gary Bollan [manager] told me a top Junior side had come in for me and as soon as I heard it was Lithgae it was a no brainier.
“The travelling was becoming a killer for me, it didn’t really bother me before I had the wain but as soon as he came along my whole mindset changed. I was getting up at six in the morning for work and then not getting back until 11 o’clock at night after training.”
Hill would have been forgiven for wondering what he had got himself into with David McGlynn, who signed him for Rose, quitting as manager in October.
Replaced by then assistant Todd Lumsden, Rose’s woes in the league have continued with the club at one stage looking set for a relegation fight.
Ahead of hosting second-placed Penicuik Athletic tomorrow, Hill hopes their habit of conceding cheap goals after the break, which has blighted their season, is past them.
He continued: “All my days that I’ve known, they’ve been one of the biggest, if not the biggest Junior side. That was one of the biggest attractions for me and obviously we aren’t doing so great this year but the flip of it is we’re in the semi-finals of the Scottish Cup.
“If we were to win the Junior Cup it would be a great season, that’s the one every club wants to win. Ritchie [Barnard] the other goalie always says we don’t want to go down in the books as the worst Linlithgow Rose team.
“Hopefully we can go and take our season forward and start climbing that league again. We’ve been playing and getting chances and not taking chances, then we’ve been giving goals away. We’ve been due giving somebody a bit of a hiding.
“The boys, the manager, everybody, we’ve all talked about it. We’ve all sat down in meetings wondering what’s going wrong, every training session. It’s been a hoodoo but on Saturday we broke it.”