Musselburgh Athletic boss Stevie McLeish will urge his players to go out and enjoy the Scottish Junior Cup final like they were playing with their mates in the street as kids.
A blue-and-white army will descend on Kilmarnock’s Rugby Park tomorrow afternoon for their showpiece final against ten-times winners Auchinleck Talbot as the Olivebank men seek revenge for their 2011 loss.
Former Hibs and Cowdenbeath coach McLeish, who has been backed by old boss Mixu Paatelainen ahead of the crunch clash, revealed exclusively to the Evening News his cup final message for his players.
McLeish has placed a big emphasis on psychology in the build-up to the match this week and he’s certain that his team won’t be fazed by the whole occasion, with a crowd of around 5000 expected and the match being screened live on BBC Alba.
He said: “I’ll be saying to them: ‘We’ve come this far by playing the game and not the occasion so just go and play the game. Focus on the football and everything else is a sideshow. Just make sure you go and do yourself justice and give it your all. Don’t come back at me with any regrets saying you could have tried harder or I could’ve made that pass. Just go and play; play with freedom and go and enjoy the game. Don’t let the occasion take over’.
“Psychologically the occasion could become a massive, massive thing. The boys just should focus on playing a game of football because at the end of day that’s what it is. It’s not any different from playing when they were kids in the street with their pals, it’s just a game of football and I’ll tell them to just go and enjoy it.
“I’ve told them to enjoy the experience because they might never get this again, but at the end of the day they must focus on the game. Everything else doesn’t matter.”
The East Lothian town has been awash with blue and white this week, with pubs and cafes draped in the club’s colours. McLeish took his players for a walk down the high street after their training session on Thursday night to allow them to soak up the atmosphere, with the whole of Musselburgh behind them.
McLeish will also use the bookies’ odds for the final as a motivator to his players, with Burgh priced at over 3/1 to return with the cup, while Talbot are as short as 1/5 to make it five cup wins under their manager Tommy Sloan.
Although he admits Talbot are favourites, he insists they aren’t unbeatable and is confident his side can spring a surprise.
“I think it’s very harsh from the bookies on us,” he said. “Judging by the bookies we are playing Barcelona tomorrow. In a game of 11 against 11 in a Scottish Cup final you should never be that short priced or that long priced and I think they’ve got that seriously wrong.
“Yes, they are a good team, they are a very good team and we’re clearly the underdogs. They are used to winning these things and their squad is packed full of players who have done this before, of course they are favourites, but they are not streets ahead of us, not by a long way.
“I know they are beatable, there is an invincibility all around them, but no team is invincible and every team is beatable at every level of the game.”