Civil Service Strollers are making major strides off the pitch and will look to do the same on it tomorrow when they face BSC Glasgow in the final of The SFA South Challenge Cup at Ferguson Park, Rosewell (3.00pm).
The Central Taxis Premier Division club have been redeveloping their Marine Drive home as they seek the SFA Ground Criteria licence, which they hope will one day see them realise their ambition of stepping up to the Lowland League.
Tomorrow’s clash sees them tackle opposition from that set-up as they take on a side who only came into existence last summer but have defied all expectations with a ninth-placed finish this term.
Strollers have knocked out both Dalbeattie Star and Whitehill Welfare en route to the final, so the prospect of facing more Lowland League opposition does not faze manager Ross McNeil.
“I think it’s a fantastic achievement from the players to reach this final and also thoroughly deserved with the good victories we had over Dalbeattie Star and Whitehill Welfare,” said the former Craigroyston manager.
“It has been a long time coming for the club. Tomorrow will be a good test for a lot of our younger players playing against one of the top teams in the Lowland League.
“Iain King deserves enormous credit for the job he’s done there and I’m sure they’ll be challenging at the top end next season.”
McNeil, pictured right, admits that the loss of his key forward men – Kieran McGachie to suspension and Dayne Robertson to injury – is a blow for tomorrow’s encounter, but has every confidence in the ability of his squad to claim another scalp, with Chris Tobin returning from suspension following his red-card in the semi-final, whilst Mark Pagliarulo and James Guy both pose a goal threat for Strollers.
“Kieran picked up a booking in the Whitehill game for a dive when everyone thought it was a clear penalty and we’ll also miss Dayne Robertson, who played a big part in getting us into the final with the goals he’s scored.”
“It’s been a bit of an up-and-down season for us, but it is also a learning curve for this young squad, who will only get better – we have played some great football, but not consistently enough and we were a little disappointed with the mid- table finish, so to end the season with a trophy would be fantastic.”
Civil are carrying out a series of ground improvements to Marine Drive – their home since 1958 – ranging from a perimeter fence to a standing enclosure at a cost of around £40,000 in order to obtain approval at a forthcoming SFA License Board hearing.
“We are receiving a £10,000 grant from the Scottish Football Partnership programme to help us with the construction of a new perimeter fence and a standing enclosure,” said chairman Russell Pryde.
“We receive no external funding from The Civil Service Sports Association, so for a £40,000 project we need to raise the other £30,000 from internal club fundraising.”
Pryde believes that the contributions from existing and former committee members have been invaluable in helping to get the ground project off its feet.
“Keith Stewart and Tom Brown, who both serve on our committee have both worked extremely hard, whilst Raymond Carr who served on our committee before he returned to Lothian Thistle, aided with the decorating for our hospitality lounge and for that we were extremely grateful.”
Pryde says the club do have aspirations of playing Lowland League football in the future, although is well aware that has to be achieved on football merit as well.
“At things stand, it’s been hard for a lot of the East of Scotland teams because some don’t have the right playing surface or hold ownership of the ground outright to qualify for a licence,” he said.
“In recent seasons, the likes of Whitehill Welfare and Selkirk have managed to make the step up from the East of Scotland as part of the pyramid structure, not only with the right kind of funding but with the right football structure as well in terms of player pathway.”
“We are hoping to set up an Under-20 team in the near future as a feeder to the first team, so it’s vital we get the business and the football right.”