SCOTLAND captain Darren Fletcher is backing Bonnyrigg to reach this season’s Junior Cup Final – after watching them prove a match for the holders last weekend.
The Manchester United star, who comes from Mayfield, was in the bumper crowd for Sunday’s 1-1 draw between Rose and Auchinleck Talbot at New Dundas Park.
He’s friendly with Bonnyrigg midfielder Stevie Thomson and has told him he might also be heading through to Ayrshire for tomorrow’s second leg (2.30pm kick-off).
“Damian Gielty, who I played with at Newtongrange, and Daz are cousins and it’s through him that I got to know him,” said Thomson. “He sent me a text saying he was coming to last Sunday’s game and it was great to see him there.”
That sentiment was shared by the star-struck youngsters who got their photographs taken after the game with Fletcher.
It may have been a far cry from Old Trafford or Hampden but the midfielder, to his credit, was happy to oblige.
Earlier Fletcher had watched Rose keep their hopes of reaching the final alive by snatching a late equaliser through substitute Paul Shields.
Given the soft nature of the penalty, scored by Gordon Pope, that had given Bot the lead early in the second-half, it was a just reward for Max Christie’s side.
Now Fletcher, who might even be at the second leg as well, is hoping Rose can go on and finish off the job this weekend.
“Like I was, Darren said he had been surprised how fit and sharp Auchinleck were all over the park,” added Thomson of a conversation with his mate after the game.
“But he felt we had come more into the game in the second-half and thought we could have gone on to win it after getting the equaliser.
“He said he might be going to the return leg with his dad but if not I’m sure I’ll get a text from him about the game.”
Having secured a draw away from home, Talbot will be feeling confident they can win in Ayrshire and move a step closer to a tenth Junior Cup triumph.
But Thomson pointed to a number of eye-catching performances Rose have chalked up on the road this season as evidence why the Midlothian club are still in with a shout of making that final.
“We’ve played well in a lot of away games this season, especially in the Scottish Cup,” he added.
“We won through in Glasgow against Ashfield, for instance.
“Then, in the quarter-finals, we beat Irvine Meadow through there so we’re heading into this game with lots of confidence and the boys can’t wait for it.”
For Thomson himself, being involved in these two ties against the Ayrshire giants is something of a bonus after his season looked as though it could have been ended prematurely a few weeks ago.
He suffered a bad injury in a Cup game against Glenrothes and then suffered a recurrence when he came back too soon against Musselburgh.
“When I was at Newtongrange, I damaged ligaments in my ankle and I thought I had cracked it this time as I felt something pop,” he recalled.
“I was praying it wasn’t going to be the end of my season but, though I didn’t last long when I came back against Musselburgh and still wasn’t 100 per cent against Irvine Meadow, it’s been fine since.
“I had it strapped by a former Hibs physio and now I’m looking forward to playing my part in what is shaping up to be an exciting end to the season for us.”
A Bonnyrigg boy himself, Thomson jumped at the chance when he got a phone call from Christie asking him to sign for Rose.
The 27-year-old had enjoyed his spell at Newtongrange, helping them earn promotion to the Super League under Graeme Armstrong.
But, following his departure towards the end of last season and Star’s subsequent relegation, Thomson was ready for a new challenge.
“It’s been a great move for me,” he said. “The chairman and the committee do wonders for the club.
“They run it very professionally and that gives you a lift straight away.
“We’ve also got a great manager who inspires everyone. Having played for Graeme Armstrong, who played and worked for Terry Christie for a long time, I can see similarities between Max and him.
“Max knows the game inside out, is well organised and is someone who you want to play for when you get out on that park.
“I think it was 1978 when Bonnyrigg last won the Junior Cup and it would be unbelievable if we could make it to the final this season and set up the chance of emulating that feat.”
Thomson, a composed player on the ball, prefers being in the centre of midfield, where he mainly played for Newtongrange, but has been used out wide by Christie since Roseburgh picked up an injury.
It has meant that Rose have had two ‘S Thomsons’ on their left flank in recent weeks after namesake Stephen was snapped up on loan from Berwick Rangers.
“I had never been called ‘Thommo’ in my whole life but I think it was (coach) James Morrice who said it first when I came to Bonnyrigg and it stuck,” said Thomson.
“Then Stephen, who has been a great signing for us, arrived a few weeks ago and he said he’d been called ‘Thommo’ for 14 years.
“We both get called ‘Thommo’ now but the way we get by it is that I’m the grey-haired one,” he added with a laugh.