Tranent Juniors midfielder Ben Miller says they have added motivation to land their first piece of cup silverware in almost 40 years tonight after the passing of a lifelong supporter.
The Belters take on Super League side Broxburn Athletic in the final of the Conservatory Converters Fife and Lothians Cup at New Victoria Park (kick-off 7.15pm) as they bid to lift their first cup trophy since 1979.
Former committee man and physio John Clark passed away over the weekend. He was a regular at Foresters Park and would’ve been in attendance tonight and on Saturday in Tranent’s East of Scotland Cup final at Bathgate.
“We spoke about it in the dressing-room on Monday night at training,” said Miller. “It would be amazing to do it for him. It’s sad because he came to every single game. I never knew him very well, but I knew him and we want to do it for him.
“We spoke to him in the pub after games and he was brand new; a really, really nice guy and it’s very sad that he’s passed away right before the cup final. It gives us an extra incentive to go and do it for him.”
Reaching two finals, never mind one, has been unprecedented for Premier League outfit Tranent, who just last season were plying their trade in the bottom tier of the East Juniors. It’s not the case of a lucky cup run either – Darren Smith and Kenny Rafferty’s side have beaten six Super League teams in both cup competitions.
Miller and his team-mates thought their season would long be finished by now – evidenced by the fact that eight of the squad booked up for a four-day trip to Benidorm back in December and only returned on Saturday.
The former Berwick Rangers man continued: “We got back on Saturday morning at four o’clock and we were training at 11 so it was quite hellish. We booked it in December thinking our season would be over by now – never thinking we’d be in two cup finals. It just happened it was in between so it wasn’t too bad.
“It was good to get away the boys; it was a brilliant laugh and we’re raring to go tonight. Everybody is buzzing, it’s a cup final and the first time the club have been in a cup final since 1979.”
Tranent have already beaten tonight’s opponents this season – a 4-1 success on penalties in the East of Scotland Cup after a 2-2 draw on their home park. Miller, who has signed an extension until next June and previously vowed he wouldn’t consider leaving until they are in the top flight, says they’ll play without pressure and hopes the core contingent of Tranent-born players can aid their bid for cup success.
He added: “We played Broxburn before and we’ve beat them so we don’t feel much pressure. We were 2-0 up against them and we just had a bad 20 minutes and that’s when they got their two goals. I would say Broxburn were better than what Kelty [Hearts] and Bo’ness [United] showed – they are a good side and they like to play it out from the back, which suits us because we don’t have the biggest of teams.
“There’s five of us in the squad from Tranent so we realise what it means to the club. We never expected to be where we are just now back in December when we were struggling. We never got off to the best of starts but we’ve turned it round and beaten six Super League teams. It just shows you we aren’t feared of anybody.
“It’s not just been luck, we’ve battled hard and beat big, big Super League teams. It’s sheer hard work that has got us here. Daz and Raff have just made it plain and simple – they don’t fiddle about with tactics. When we lose the ball we look to win it back and we’ve been taking our chances.”
Broxburn boss Max Christie revealed he’s had his players preparing for a penalty shootout as they bid to win their first cup since 1988.
He said: “We’re all looking forward to it. They beat us on penalties the last time we played so they know they can beat us. They hammered us in the penalty shootout, so we’ve been practicing them and if it goes to that, hopefully we’ll give a better account of ourselves.
“The club hasn’t won something for a while so it’s a big day for us.”