“Live together, play together, win together” is the motto that adorns the entrance to Ainslie Park. It is a sentiment that the Spartans Sunday amateur team are standing by as they plough a lone furrow as the only Edinburgh club remaining in the Scottish Sunday Amateur Trophy.
Dean Philp’s team will attempt to reach the quarter- finals of the national competition this Sunday in Dundee against Whitfield Athletic.
As the sole survivor from the Capital’s hundreds of amateur clubs, the Spartans team harbours a real determination to go as far as possible in a tournament that is the pinnacle for any amateur player in this country.
It has been far from plain sailing for the North Edinburgh side during the last year. A new management team of Dean Philp, Jimmy Louden and Keith Kinnaird took charge a year ago and undertook an extensive overhaul of the team.
This season, however, the trio has led the side to an unbeaten Edinburgh and District Premier League campaign that has helped Spartans establish itself as a title contender. After beating Larkhall 1-0 in the previous round of the Scottish Cup, the club also remains in the running for the most prestigious trophy on offer. It is no wonder Philp has been pleasantly surprised at the little time taken for his team to gel together.
“Having played several rounds of the Scottish Cup away from home, the boys have had time to laugh and joke with one another on the trips to the away grounds and by building these friendships off the field they have become a unit on the pitch,” said Philp. “When we arrived in February last year, there was little time to sign new players and so our team stayed the same until pre-season, when a revamp of the squad began. The nucleus of the team has stayed the same but we have strengthened in key areas, becoming, I think, one of the strongest teams in the league.”
Connor Preston, one of Philp’s new signings, has been a revelation in his first year back since quitting amateur football three years ago. He said: “I was really missing the game and playing every week and, as a local lad, I heard that Spartans were looking for some new players.”
Preston is at present sitting at the top of the team’s scoring charts with 11 goals this term. Going all the way and winning the Scottish Cup would, naturally, be the icing on the cake of his comeback season. “This year has been great fun and I am really pleased to have found a team I love being a part of,” he said. “The cup run has been amazing and has enabled the team to become friends and this has helped our performances.”
Andrew Keith joined Spartans at the same time as Preston and believes the team’s strong desire to win has helped them succeed. “We all have a winning mentality which has been passed down to us from the management team and so we go into every game looking to win,” said Keith. “The team are determined to win through to the next round.”
The Scottish Cup brings with it trips into the unknown to face teams from near and far. Philp recognises the difficulty his team could face in dealing with an unfamiliar Whitfield side that sits close to the top of its own league. Philp said: “We are determined to do well in all competitions we enter and in the Scottish Cup we research our opponents as much as possible. So, we are well aware of the dangers that Whitfield possess and so are prepared for the up-and-coming challenge.”
The players and coaches of Spartans AFC are currently in training to complete a sponsored cycle ride from Ainslie Park to the Falkirk Wheel to raise money for the Scottish Huntington Foundation. Good deeds aside, they will hope their adventures across Scotland can continue with further progress on the pitch in the national tourney this weekend.