Craig Stevenson believes Spartans are still the biggest club in the Ferrari Packaging Lowland League – but admits they need to start backing it up with trophies.
They can take a small step towards doing so this weekend when they face Edinburgh University in the third round of the Football Nation East of Scotland Qualifying cup. Having not lifted any silverware last term, Stevenson believes a trophy is overdue at Ainslie Park. “Last year we didn’t win anything and it was more about the Scottish Cup run,” said the midfielder. “The gaffer’s put more pressure on us to win a couple of cups this year. Obviously in the league [Edinburgh] City have pulled away after their victory last week so hopefully we can add a couple of cups to the trophy cabinet by the end of the season.
“In my opinion, Spartans are still the biggest club in the league. That’s why I joined them – they’re the most successful team. Last year it just never really happened but hopefully we can add a couple of cups and really kick on next year.”
That’s easier said than done however, and the first obstacle comes in the form of an Edinburgh University team that has developed a scoring touch with nine goals in their previous two fixtures. Despite a 5-0 home victory in the league fixture at the end of August, “Grinchy” is expecting a very different encounter at Peffermill. “I’ve been keeping an eye on their results actually, and they’ve been doing well,” he admitted. “They’ve crept up the league and they’re last result at Gretna might have come as a shock to people, winning 5-0. They’re playing well and scoring a lot of goals so it’ll be a tough game on Saturday.”
It will also represent a first competitive outing for Dougie Samuel’s men since the bizarre New Year Edinburgh derby defeat by Edinburgh City, which saw three Spartans men sent off and keeper Blair Carswell save three penalties. Stevenson is desperate to sample some action again and get the City game out of his system. “It’s the strangest game I’ve ever played in,” he said. “Hopefully we can get back to winning ways. It’s been a nightmare recently with the weather and all the teams are in the same position really. We’ve had a couple of friendlies against Broxburn Juniors and Newtongrange and had an extra training session on a Monday to keep us ticking over so all the boys are still fit. We’re looking forward to it.”
Despite a lack of medals since joining from Lothian Thistle 18 months ago, Stevenson feels he’s managed to establish himself well at a higher level. “I’ve been playing well regularly and I’d say I’ve been more consistent this season,” he surmised. “I’ve started every game so I’m happy with my performances from a personal point of view so hopefully I can keep it going and keep my place.”
Things have been going well off the pitch too, with Stevenson becoming a father for the first time last year after the arrival of son Liam. Despite the usual sleepless nights and parental duties, he revealed it’s not affected his approach to football in the slightest – something he mainly attributes to partner Jennifer. “It’s been fine. My girlfriend’s been brilliant so I’ve always been able to make training and games and things so nothing’s really changed in terms of my football. He’s been to watch a few times with my girlfriend and my Dad. I’m not sure he’s been enjoying the football! I hope he is – it’s been good.”