THE career pinnacle of any player or manager is to get the opportunity to test their skills at national level, and amateur footballers are no different.
Tomorrow, a South East select team whose nucleus centres around the best of Edinburgh’s amateur football talent will take on their counterparts from the North East of Scotland for the the chance to represent their country in the UEFA Regional Cup competition.
The South East regional team, which is made up of players from the Lothian and Edinburgh Amateur FA and Borders leagues, will take on their North East counterparts at an enclosed artificial pitch in Kinross. The honour of leading the South East team has been handed to Alan McKay in recognition of the sterling work carried out by the Tollcross Thistle boss, who has taken his LEAFA Premier 2 side to consecutive promotions in the last two years.
After suffering a serious knee injury as a player, McKay became manager of a club he founded in 2009 and he is delighted that his managerial talents have been recognised by the Scottish Amateur National Team Manager Hugh Carswell, who appointed McKay to his role with the South East select.
“The honour of being asked to manage the South East Regional team is huge and I am really looking forward to selecting a team from the best players in our league to take on the North East select side,” said McKay.
After a bounce match earlier this week, McKay and his coaching team of John Gilberston (Tynecastle), Craig Nisbet (Alba Athletic), Andrew Ponder (Tollcross), and Andy Enwood (Spartans Ams) picked a squad to represent the region in tomorrow’s game in Fife. The manager says the quality of player at his disposal has pleased him greatly. He said: “The team that will play on Sunday will include the best players playing in our leagues and I can envisage an extremely entertaining match whatever the result.”
Striker Craig Pinnons, of McKay’s club Tollcross, has made the cut for the regional head-to-head and will reflect on a proud moment as he lines up for tomorrow’s match. “Should I play this weekend it will be my first time in a select side,” he said. “Having played football for a number of years, I would say this is definitely the proudest moment for me and is without doubt my top achievement in football.
“We, as players, are on the same wavelength and we all have an aim and an ambition to win, especially as we are now on a bigger stage. To be involved and hopefully impress would be fantastic in what is my biggest test so far as a player.”
Whitson Star goalkeeper Scott Walker can understand Pinnon’s excitement and, after being involved in the selection process two years ago, is proud to selected for a second time. “As we have only had one training session together we may not be as fluent as you are with your club side,” he said. “However, all the guys have played against each other in the league so we know each other’s talents to some degree.”
The selection process for teams across Scotland, who will contest a knockout cup competition in order to determine which region represents the nation at the UEFA Regional Cup, will bring the best players from across the country up against each other. McKay knows that tomorrow’s North East opposition will be on a par with his side.
He said: “We are going into the game slightly blind by not knowing much about the opposition but we have a squad of fantastic players who I believe can give anybody a really tough and exciting game. The opposition’s management team are however in the same boat so all we can do is play our own game.”
South East from: Scott Walker (Whitson Star), Kevin Smith (Newcraighall Leith Vics), Sean Kelly (Heriot Vale), Peter Gilhooly (Edinburgh South Vics), Ryan Moore (Edinburgh South Vics), Stewart O’Neill (Tollcross Thistle), Iain Ballentyne (Edinburgh South Vics), Craig Hume (Lochend), Craig Miller (Edinburgh South Vics), Stuart Johnston (Heriot Vale), Mark Lothian (Lochend), Martin Cairney (Lochend), Craig Pinnons (Tollcross Thistle), Glenn Waddell (Ratho), Gary Craig (Links Utd), Kenny McMillan (Loanhead MW).
Reserves: Richard Wilson (Fernieside), Neil Ferrier (Whitson Star), Stuart McLaughlin (Newcraighall Leith Vics), Steven Moncur (Tollcross Thistle), Michael South (Heriot Vale).