Tranent Juniors captain Darren Smith isn’t going to settle for just promotion this season – he’s desperate to end the campaign as a title winner with his hometown club.
The experienced midfielder has tasted promotion with many of his former clubs including Berwick Rangers, Brechin City and Stirling Albion but winning the South Division with Tranent would see him secure his first championship medal.
The Belters, who ensured last weekend they’ll take their place in the Premier League next season for the first time, can take a step closer to the title by beating their only rivals to the crown, second placed Whitburn, tomorrow.
Being this close to their first-ever title is in stark contrast to the position the club found themselves in only three years ago, with Tranent just hours from falling out of existence – the Foresters Park outfit crippled by financial trouble.
“To be able to be captain and win promotion with your local team, it doesn’t matter what level you’re at, it’s a great achievement,” said 35-year-old Smith. “It’s been an enjoyable year so far and having the Auchinleck game we’ve sort of put Tranent back on the map. With the ambition of the club and the management team it’s looking to go the next step – that’s what it’s all about. The club has come on leaps and bounds, we’ve got a great set up here and the community is getting right behind us as well.
“This would be the first title I’d have actually won, so I’ll be doing everything and I’m sure the players will be doing everything to make sure we actually get that come the end of the season. It doesn’t matter what level you actually play it, if you’ve got the chance of winning a title, everybody wants to take it.”
Smith raised more than a few eyebrows when he joined the club at the end of last season having been a key component of the Musselburgh Athletic side who reached last season’s Scottish Junior Cup final. The centre-midfielder was a standout for the Olivebank men, but while several of his team-mates earned moves to the Senior game on the back of the club’s cup run, Smith took a step down.
Having grown up and lived in the East Lothian town all his life, it was always Smith’s intention to end his career with his local club. He signed a two-year deal last summer and he intends to at least see out his contract, although he knows his playing days are nearing an end.
Smith continued: “There was so many rumours that Tranent were chucking all this money about at the start of the season – I had always said that when I got to the stage in my career when I was still capable of playing, I always wanted to play for my hometown team. I could’ve kept playing in the Super League – there were a couple of teams interested, but I’ve travelled all my days and having two kids now it actually suited me, I can walk down to training and things like that.
“The manager was asking what my thoughts are for next year but as long as I continue to train and not get any bad injuries, I still feel I can contribute and play on. We’ll see if I can face another pre-season come the summer time.”
Having been at the summit of the East Region’s third tier since the start of the season, Smith admits it would be a huge disappointment if they weren’t to end April as champions. Tranent can secure the title away to Rosyth on April 16 if they take all three points tomorrow. Lose to Whitburn though and it’s out of their hands as the West Lothian men have four games in hand over Tranent and sit ten points behind.
“I’d be lying if I said it wouldn’t disappointing if we weren’t to win the league because we’ve been at the top since the start, we’ve not really been out of that position,” said Smith. “I think it’s a good game for us – the park is looking good and we’ll able to get the ball down and play it. It’s not going to be an easy game, because they are a decent team and we know we’re going to have to perform.
“But, there’s no pressure on us, Whitburn are coming here with games in hand. Sometimes when you have games in hand it can be hard to win all the games, I definitely wouldn’t swap our position.”
Manager Gary Small will have to do without regular starters Jamie Patterson and Hamish Hunter who are both unavailable. Striker Joe Murray is doubtful while Craig Wojtowycz and Chris Gordon will definitely miss out through injury.