This season has been an emotional rollercoaster ride for Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale midfielder Louis Swanson.
The 26-year-old admits football wasn’t really at the forefront of his mind when the new campaign began last August following the murder of close friend Shaun Woodburn eight months earlier.
Swanson is the younger brother of Hibs midfielder Danny, who has also publicly spoken about his grief over the 30-year-old’s death that occurred in the early hours of New Year’s Day last year.
However, as the weeks and months have rolled on, Swanson’s appetite for the game gradually returned and he is now desperate to wrap up the East of Scotland League title tomorrow.
Raymond Carr’s men, who are yet to lose in the league this season, head to New Central Park to play former table-toppers Kelty Hearts in a final-day showdown where a point for the Capital side would be enough to give them the trophy. Defeat, on the other hand, would earn Kelty their first league title since leaving the Juniors set-up last year.
And, as he and his team-mates prepare to play their sixth game in just 11 days, Swanson revealed he takes his memories of Shaun with him every time he walks out on to the pitch.
“Shaun will be on my mind tomorrow, without a doubt,” Swanson said. “He’s what’s driving me to go and win this league. I think about him every time I step on the park. He was one of the best guys I’ve ever met so hopefully he’s looking down on us tomorrow.
“It’s been a tough 16 months – absolute hell, to be honest, but he would want us to get on and make the best of our lives. He’s just missed so much by everybody.”
Kelty have yet to score against their opponents in three previous league and cup meetings this season, a statistic Lothian can take great pride from given the Fife outfit have netted 140 goals in just 23 league games this term.
“I don’t think the other three games matter now as they’ll be doing everything they can to get the win as that would be enough for them to win the league,” Swanson said. “At the same time, it’s ours to lose as we’re the team that are a point ahead. We can’t put in the performances we have over the last week or so, and the whole season, and not pick up the trophy at the end.
“The last few weeks have been tough but we’ve just had to get on with it. The league has done us no favours but we’ve come through it. We’ve just got to give it one final push but I expected to be in this position with this team. The boys have been absolutely brilliant all season and everyone has stepped up when called upon.
“Sean Wringe (stress fracture) and Jamie Devlin (the striker signed for Tranent Juniors) have been a big miss with the amount of goals they’ve chipped in with but Keith Murray has done a great job coming in. I’m not all about myself, I don’t care about my goals as I like to work for the team.
“We’re going there to win. It’s the only thing we know. We don’t fear anybody so it’s just down to the last 90 minutes. I don’t think I’m Kelty’s favourite player but I just let my football do the talking. There was a big crowd last weekend so we’re expecting the same again tomorrow.
“We could have had two more points had we not drawn with Leith recently but it doesn’t really change things because Kelty have such a big goal difference.”
Leith Athletic can edge closer to a third-place finish when they host Burntisland Shipyard at Peffermill. Preston Athletic will need to see off Ormiston at the Pennypit if they are to keep their hopes of finishing third alive. The Panners complete their campaign with the visit of Coldstream next weekend. Tynecastle welcome Coldstream to Saughton Enclosure tomorrow.