Penicuik title ‘would be as good as Hampden’

Greg Ross, below, feels Penicuik have a close-knit squad
Greg Ross, below, feels Penicuik have a close-knit squad
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Greg Ross tussled with Neil Lennon and Roy Keane at Hampden when just 18 years old as Dunfermline lost out to Celtic in the 2006 Scottish League Cup Final, but he says winning the Premier League with Penicuik Athletic would top that.

Ross, now 27, is flourishing at champions-elect Penicuik, whom he joined last summer.

The Midlothian outfit secured promotion to the Super League for the first time ever on Wednesday night with a 1-0 win over Livingston United and they can secure the title with victory against Jeanfield Swifts tomorrow.

For Ross, who spent six years at Dunfermline before a short stint in Iceland with Valur and then a period in the lower leagues in Scotland, this would be his first piece of silverware as a player.

Dunfermline didn’t come close to winning the League Cup Final as Celtic ran out 3-0 winners, but it was a great experience for young Ross who came up against a midfield four of Shunsuke Nakamura, Lennon, Keane and Shaun Maloney.

“I’ve never won anything,” says Ross. “I’d have to say it would rank as one of the best moments of my career – it’s success. When I made my Scotland Under-21 debut that was probably my proudest moment, but at the moment I’m looking forward instead of looking back. This would be right up there, especially with the group of boys we’ve got.”

Ross turned down several senior and Super League clubs to join Penicuik after leaving League One Stenhousemuir in the summer.

It was on Penicuik captain Dougie Cunnison’s stag do that he first met Penicuik boss Craig Meikle, who asked him to join their promotion push.

Ross admits he was unsure about the move at first, but it has proven to be the right decision, with the chance of winning a league title just 90 minutes away.

He said: “I just had a good feeling about it when I met the boys at Penicuik and Craig himself and the committee. I just took it from there, I felt I’d enjoy myself and I have done – it’s worked out well.

“They’re a great bunch of boys and I’ve never been in a dressing room before where everybody gets on as well as they do here. I think that’s been a big part of our success this season.

“It’s been a big change for me this year. It’s a different level or whatever, but it’s still a good standard of football and it’s been really enjoyable.

“It’s been a good week for us. Hopefully we can win the league tomorrow and start to celebrate.”

Ross became the youngest player to play in the SPL for Dunfermline against Kilmarnock in November 2004, aged just 17 years and 202 days. Having come through the youth ranks at the Fife club after joining at 14, he was thrown in at the deep end to an experienced Dunfermline side including Craig Brewster, Barry Nicholson and Scott Thomson.

He was given an excellent apprenticeship at East End Park and went on to make over 100 appearances in a six-year spell at the club.

“I got a really good grounding there, playing with a lot of older players,” said Ross.

“Now it’s gone full circle and I feel like I’m passing on my experience to a lot of the younger boys and just helping out as much as I can. If that can help the manager in any way, it’s a bonus for everyone.”

Penicuik have four games left to ensure they go up to the Super League as league champions, with second-placed Faulhouse United a point behind and with just one game remaining, against Penicuik.

Ross would like to win the title as soon as possible, but also wishes to secure the league crown on merit by beating Fauldhouse, who were 2-0 winners in the first meeting of the two sides.

“Hopefully we can wrap up the title as soon as we can,” he said. “We want to go into the Fauldhouse game and get a bit of revenge because we didn’t give a very good account of ourselves in the last game when they beat us. It would be good to prove we are worthy champions by beating the second best team.”

Penicuik will be without captain Cunnison for tomorrow’s match after he picked up a head knock on Wednesday which could rule him out for the remainder of the campaign. Ryan Gay also hobbled off against Livingston, but he could be fit in time. Top goalscorer Ryan McCallum is expected to be fit after missing that match with an ankle injury.