Tranent Juniors striker Kenny McMillan is aiming to complete a remarkable ‘hat-trick’ by securing the South Division title for the third season in succession this weekend.
The 33-year-old is part of a triumvirate in the Tranent ranks who have tasted league success with Edinburgh United two seasons ago and then Haddington Athletic last year. Defender Chris Gordon and forward Joe Murray are the other two who have been a fixture of the Johnny Harvey-Gary Small partnership.
Small, who was assistant to Harvey at both clubs, is in his first full season in management at Foresters Park and is himself bidding to secure the title for the fourth season on the trot by beating Rosyth tomorrow, having won the league with Dalkeith Thistle in 2012 in his last season as a player.
It’s been a thoroughly enjoyable few years for front man McMillian, who was initially planning to retire at the end of this season to spend more time with his young family but is hopeful of extending his current deal into next season.
“I played amateur before I went Junior again and I wish I had just played Junior all my days,” said McMillian.
“I played for Newtongrange Star then Dalkeith when I left 21s for two seasons, then I went to go and play with my pals at Loanhead Miners. We won a few trophies in the time I was there, it wasn’t too bad. The last two seasons have been my first major trophies in Junior football. When Johnny and Gary were in interim charge of Tranent before they got the Edinburgh job, I played as a trialist for them. It’s been onwards and upwards for me playing for them. It’s been brilliant.
“The discipline and the winning mentality you get from them is just second to none. I’m really happy that I decided to play Junior for my last few years of football. Walking into the changing room you’ve got your towel, water and that ready for you. It’s small stuff and people think that doesn’t matter in football but I think it does – it gets the team settled and you’re relaxed before the game. At amateur football, you don’t get stuff like that – you just turn up on a Saturday.”
McMillan insists this has been the best season yet for him, with the striker notching 15 goals and remaining injury free. He pondered quitting the game during his time at Edinburgh after a horror injury left him requiring 35 stitches to repair a gaping wound in his thigh, sidelining him for four months.
He continued: “The last couple of seasons I’ve had bad injuries but this season I’ve not really had an injury at all. Out of the last three seasons, this has probably been the most enjoyable because I’ve played around 90 per cent of the games. I feel I’ve contributed a lot.
“I slashed my leg open against Crossgates two seasons ago when their goalkeeper raked his studs down my thigh. It was in my mind to retire but once it healed I started training again and I was getting physio twice a week. I always wear cycling shorts now to keep my mind at ease and to cover the scar. To be honest, I never think about it on the park, it’s totally out my mind now.”
Over 200 Tranent supporters are expected to make the trip to Fife tomorrow as the club bid to taste their first league championship success in over 20 years. It’s a far cry from just a few years ago when the club was mired by mounting debts and their very existence was on the line. Manager Small has seen the sense of pride his team have given the East Lothian town again and he’s sure his men will do the business tomorrow to repay the support they’ve received.
He said: “I’ve seen what it’s done for the community. Everyone is talking about the club. I was getting a haircut last week and I heard some boy saying he was going to the game on Saturday, I was just sitting there and it was just such a buzz. That’s epitomised with the crowds we’ve had and the fact that a South Division club can take 200 supporters over to Fife is testament to the support we’ve had. We need that support and I’m sure the boys will rise to the occasion.”