'Mr Spartans' Dougie Samuel dedicates Queen's Birthday Honour to club community on special anniversary

'Mr Spartans' Dougie Samuel insists his MBE award is recognition for the collective efforts of all those working tirelessly at the club's community football academy.

It was announced on Thursday the Lowland League outfit's first-team head coach, and chief executive at the Pilton-based facility, had received his MBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours List for services to association football and the community of Edinburgh.

Samuel revealed it has taken him a few days to digest, but that the adulation and congratulatory messages had been overwhelming.

The former Edinburgh University boss has had a whirlwind couple of years after suffering a heart-attack in July 2018, but is now enjoying much happier times with another grandchild also on the way.

"Listen, it's a nice recognition for everyone that has been involved in the project," Samuel told the Evening News. "Thursday was a lovely day, I was bombarded with messages so my phone didn't stop. It's only ever happened to me once before and it's going to sound morbid, but it was when I had a heart-attack.

"I'll never forget what the nurse in the hospital said to me. She said 'we're all in the queue, we just don't know where we are in the queue' and it's so true. You should make the most of every day so when something like this happens, it's a wee bit more special. I'm very lucky and I enjoy every opportunity that comes my way.

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"I'm not one for the limelight and am happy leaning on the shadows. It took a wee while to digest and was difficult keeping it from people. These things don't happen to people like me so I had to phone up the office to make sure it was genuine and not someone pulling my leg!"

Douglas Samuel. (Picture: SNS)

He continued: "It was real nice feeling to be around the academy on Thursday. We had the para-football and they all came up to shake my hand and give me a hug. It's quite poignant because we sadly lost somebody who we loved and really cared about, a former employee Conor Edmonds, who passed away a couple of years ago and it's his anniversary today, and I hope it gives his mum and dad some comfort to know that Conor was part of something really special. It's very much a collective and team effort at the academy. There are some wonderful community partners who we work with too."

Samuel is now preparing for his tenth season at the helm of the two-time Lowland League champions with the squad due to report for pre-season training next week.

Samuel added: "It's flown by the football side of things and I will always be grateful to Craig (Graham) for the opportunity to manage here. It's a special club. A lot of people might think we've failed because we haven't achieved promotion to League Two – that is something I hope will come in my time – but for us being engaging in the community has always come first.

"It's great to see the likes of Edinburgh City, Kelty Hearts and Cove Rangers all doing well in the SPFL so that has got to be inspiring for all the clubs. The Lowland League is night-and-day from the inaugural season in 2013. The standard and quality of player has improved significantly."