Bonnyrigg Rose captain Ross Archibald will lead his side out against Penicuik Athletic for the last time at New Dundas Park tomorrow and he knows it is going to be an emotional occasion.
The 33-year-old has been saying for years he is going to retire, but he is finally going through with it and will hang up his boots after their Fife and Lothians Cup final next month with tomorrow’s opponents.
Archibald is known by his family and friends to have a heart of stone, but he admits he may have a poignant moment at the end of the match at a ground where he has fond memories. A cup final medal to add to their Super League title triumph would ensure he bows out on a high after five years with the club.
“It’s a strange one because all my friends and family know I’ve got a heart of stone and I’m not very emotive, but I’ve had my moments about it and I think I’ll probably have a quiet moment to myself at some point tomorrow,” said Archibald.
“You never think you will be [emotional], but when the grim reaper is hanging over you there’s a lot of emotion attached to it. I’ve invested a lot of time over all these years – I’ve spent Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday for the majority of my life playing football – it’s like having a part-time job. You are almost institutionalised to a point as well, what am I going to do on a Tuesday and Thursday night now? What am I going to do on a Saturday afternoon? I’ve no idea.
“It’s a place I’ve always enjoyed playing. Even when I was at Whitehill Welfare we used to play Bonnyrigg in friendlies and I played a few games there as a kid when I was in the Midlothian county team.”
The last few months have been particularly difficult for Archibald who will marry fiancé Jenna Ewart in September and then honeymooning in California. As Rose secured their third title crown in seven years in style with eight victories out of their last nine games, the utility man has spent much of it watching on from the sidelines – sciatic nerve trouble in his back causing hamstring problems.
He continued: “It’s been a bit bittersweet. Winning the league is an incredible high and an incredible achievement given where we were at the start of the season but I’ve had a few niggling injuries and deep down I knew it was going to be my last season so it’s kind of dampened it a little bit personally. It’s just been frustrating being in and out the team and watching the boys do so well – you want to be a part of it.
“The body gets sore a lot more than it ever did and the injuries have been frustrating this year. I couldn’t be somebody that has been dogged by injury their whole career and stick it out. I don’t know what I would do if I had more seasons like I’ve had this year, I think I’ve played maybe 55 or 60 per cent of the games and I’ve found that difficult, especially when you’re doing well because you want to be playing even more.
“It’s always a standing a joke; I’ve said for years I’m going to retire and I said it this year as well, it’s like the boy who cried wolf, people say ‘Aye, ok then, sure you will’.
The manager [Robbie Horn] pulled me aside a few months ago and he was talking about next year and I said ‘Look, I’m dead set on retiring’ and he was like ‘Really?’ People tell you to play as long as you can and I do get that, but I just think it’s the right time for me.”
Crucial to their success has been the immense team spirit within the dressing-room at New Dundas Park. Having had to pull a team together at the start of the season when previous boss David McGlynn departed for Linlithgow Rose, their achievements are even more remarkable.
Archibald only wishes he was younger so he could spend longer with the current group, who he believes are destined for great things if they stay together.
He added: “They are absolute legends the lot of them. There’s not a bad egg amongst them. It sounds a bit clichéd but it’s a team of mates rather than a group of players. We’ve brought in a good group of lads who have got on well and they happen to be relatively talented and work hard for each other. To get to that place is pretty difficult and credit has to go to Dave and the manager because they’ve certainly been key to that.
“I would really like to continue playing with them for the next six or seven years because if they stick together that long they will do well. It’s frustrating but there’s nothing I can do about that unfortunately.”