Linlithgow Rose centre-back Colin Leiper has made memories that he will cherish for the rest of his life on their mammoth William Hill Scottish Cup journey and he hopes to make one more in their glamour clash against Premiership Ross County.
The preparation for the biggest match in the Prestonfield club’s history is complete. Rose boss David McGlynn and assistant Calvin Shand have done all they can in compiling a dossier to give the part-time outfit the best possible chance of what would be a remarkable cup upset by reaching the quarter-finals – it’s now down to the players.
Former Raith Rovers youth player Leiper celebrates his 29th birthday today. Beating the Dingwall outfit would most certainly be the best present ever for a player who could not have envisaged coming up against top-flight opposition.
“This game will take care of itself,” he said. “The Irvine Meadow match is out the road and now we’ve got a feeling of excitement – I certainly need to pinch myself thinking we’re going up to play a Premiership club. We’ll see what we can do against them. We’re old enough and realistic enough to know that this is the biggest game of most of our careers.”
The West Lothian club have beaten Gala Fairydean Rovers, Inverness Clachnacuddin, Wick Academy and Forfar Athletic on their route to the fifth round, becoming the first Junior club to reach the last 16 of the competition.
Leiper enjoyed a similar cup run with Rose’s fierce rivals Bo’ness United last season, eventually losing out to Arbroath in the fourth round. The defender spent the summer mulling over his future after being offered a new deal at Newtown Park. He was wary about the move to Prestonfield given the rivalry between the two clubs, but feels his decision to join their near neighbours has been vindicated with their fairytale cup run.
He said: “It was a difficult decision to make moving from Bo’ness to Linlithgow even though I was only at Bo’ness for a season. After I had taste of the Scottish Cup with Bo’ness, I wanted more of it.
“It’s proved to be the right decision with the rounds we have went through and the games that we have been involved in. For me, the Wick game under the lights here and the 3-3 game with Forfar, when we came back and showed great character – these are games that you’ll remember for the rest of your days. Hopefully the game against Ross County is a game that we’ll remember for the right reasons.”
Leiper has had opportunities to go back to senior football, with League One and League Two clubs having made offers for his services in recent seasons. His decision to stay in the Juniors was purely down to the travelling involved in the lower regions of Scottish football. Ironically, he’s had to do more travelling than ever before with Rose’s mammoth journey set to break the 2000 mile mark with tomorrow’s trip to the Global Energy Stadium.
The defender is under no illusions as to the task in front of them against a side which put three goals past Premiership champions Celtic last weekend in the League Cup semi-final. He recognises they’ll be physically stronger, but insists anything is capable for Rose who go into the match with nothing to lose.
“We don’t think we’re going to get turned over by double figures or anything like that, we’re going up thinking we can maybe do something, why not?
“We’ve played Forfar twice and they’ve not beat us. If Forfar were playing them you’d think Forfar would have a wee chance, what’s to say we can’t have a wee chance – we put them out. That’s certainly the way I’m looking at it.
“They’ll be fitter, stronger and faster we know that, but are they going to be better on the day – are they going to be able to defend better than us and be offensively better than us, who knows. Men could be sent off and men could be injured, you just never know. It will certainly be the biggest win that I’ll ever be involved in if we can do it.”