Spartans chief Craig Graham ‘would swap MBE to reach SPFL’

Spartans chairman Craig Graham
Spartans chairman Craig Graham
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Spartans chairman Craig Graham has admitted he would willingly swap his MBE in favour of earning promotion to SPFL League 2 next season.

The Capital side received confirmation last weekend that Graham had been included in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list for his services to football and the community in Edinburgh.

Graham has been the driving force behind the success of the club’s Ainslie Park Academy which has gone from strength to strength since officially opening its doors in December 2008.

However, he admitted that entry to Scottish football’s fourth tier in May would surpass any personal recognition he has received this past week.

Spartans are currently third in the Lowland League table, two points adrift of leaders BSC Glasgow who have played three games more. Reigning champions East Kilbride are just a point better off in second but have also played three games more.

“I would [swap his MBE for promotion] but I don’t think my family would be too happy about it!” Graham quipped. “Thankfully, I don’t have that choice to make but hopefully we’ll continue to play well and end the season on a high.

“If somebody had offered us the position we’re in at the start of the season then I would have bitten their hand off.

“The last couple of years we’ve been in the position where East Kilbride and Edinburgh City had virtually wrapped up the league by Christmas so I think there has been a couple of things that have helped us this year.

“The quality of the league has improved where anyone from 12th or 13th up can take points off one another. We’ve also got the biggest squad we’ve had in recent seasons so 18 or 19 are more than capable of starting every week.

“But, having said all that, it’s all very well having games in hand but you’ve got to go and win them. From a football club perspective, the objective is still to get into the SPFL. It’s going to get considerably tougher these next few years so we’re determined to get there.”

On the MBE itself, Graham added: “There have been a lot of positive comments about it, not just about me personally, but everything that has gone on at the club over the last ten years so it’s been very humbling.

“I got a letter through the door about six weeks ago but it was my wife who actually opened it as I was working in London. It said on the front of the envelope ‘On Her Majesty’s Service’ so my wife had assumed I’d done something wrong!

“But it was a really nice surprise.”

North Edinburgh rivals Civil Service Strollers are the visitors to Ainslie Park tomorrow and Graham is anticipating another tough test.

“Every game against Strollers is like a cup final,” he said. “They’re our local rivals and I think eight of their first-team squad are ex-Spartans players, plus Alex [Cunningham] and his coaching guys are in charge there now so it adds that wee bit more excitement.

“I can’t believe they are 13th in the table, to be honest. You compare them against the other teams you come up against and you’d expect them to be a top-half club.”

Meanwhile, Whitehill Welfare host table-toppers BSC Glasgow at Ferguson Park while Edinburgh University travel to Broadwood to play Cumbernauld Colts.