BO’NESS fans should show their appreciation to Andy Shirra and not give him a hard time when he returns to Newtown Park tomorrow as a Linlithgow player.
That’s the view of Rose boss Dave Baikie, who is hoping the controversy surrounding the midfielder’s summer switch to Prestonfield won’t overshadow a mouth-watering Emirates Scottish Junior Cup first-round clash (3.00pm kick-off).
Shirra was at the centre of a tug-of-war between the two West Lothian rivals after he put pen to paper on a deal to join Rose in June but then decided almost immediately not to go through with the move.
It was claimed the player contacted Linlithgow to pull the plug on the transfer, but the club pushed ahead and posted his registration to the Scottish Football Association, who then received a second registration form tying him to Bo’ness.
The matter was passed on to Scottish Junior Football Association chiefs, who subsequently decided in favour of Linlithgow.
At the time, Bo’ness director of football, Allan McGonigal, claimed the decision had left Shirra with a dilemma as he didn’t want to be at Linlithgow. “They won’t let him go and the lad may just have to bite the bullet and get on with it,” said McGonigal of the situation.
It had been rumoured that Linlithgow were ready to put Shirra on “gardening leave” if he was unhappy, but the former Camelon player has been used by Baikie in the early part of the season.
Now the Linlithgow manager is hoping Shirra, one of the best playmakers in the East Region, gets a fitting welcome back at his old club, having helped Bo’ness become the first side to win the Super League back-to-back.
“I’d like to think what happened with Andy had all died down now,” said Baikie. “At the end of the day, it came down to a player having to make a decision and his decision was to sign for Linlithgow.
“I don’t see any problems and I’d like to think the Bo’ness fans will show a bit of appreciation for what he did for them during his time at the club.”
Rose, the Scottish Cup winners two seasons ago, lost their grip on the trophy when they came up against Auchinleck Talbot, the eventual winners, in an early round last year.
Now they’ve been handed another tough task against a Bo’ness side that reached the semi-finals last season, when they also fell to Auchinleck.
“Maybe the draw we’ve had in the last two years is punishment for us winning it two seasons ago,” joked Baikie, who is hopeful striker Gordon Herd will shake off a knock he took in training on Monday so that he can lead the line tomorrow along with Tommy Coyne.
“Last season we were a minute away from going through against Auchinleck before they equalised and went on to beat us in the replay.
“I’m not a betting man, but I presume Bo’ness will be the favourites due to the fact they’ve got home advantage.
“But we’ve had a decent record recently in these matches. Last season we played each other three times and we won three times, though we were a bit fortunate in one of them.
“There’s no reason why we can’t come out on top again if we put in a good performance.”
Both teams go into the game with lots of new faces since the last time they met. Derek Fleming moved from Bo’ness to Linlithgow as well in the summer, when Baikie’s recruits also included David Hay, Alan Brown, Alan Benton, Scott Walker and Philip Hagen.
He also snapped up Stuart Roseburgh from Newtongrage but the winger has just moved to Bonnyrigg Rose, having been unhappy to find himself on the bench most of the time since the Super League campaign kicked-off.
Linlithgow are already through to the League Cup final and face Newtongrange in that at Broxburn tomorrow week.
But they were knocked out of the East of Scotland Cup last month by Premier Division side Sauchie, seven days after they had also lost at Carnoustie in the league.
“It was pleasing that we bounced back from those couple of reversals with a 4-1 win over Camelon and last Saturday, in a friendly, we won 7-0 against Vale of Clyde,” said Baikie.
“The confidence is back and now we are looking forward to Saturday – it’s the sort of game that should take care of itself.”
While Baikie is an old hand when it comes to these fixtures, rookie Bo’ness boss Paul Ronald will be getting his first taste of this particular derby.
“Paul’s a good lad who I knew as a player when he was at Queen’s Park,” said his opposite number.
“I’ve not seen Bo’ness personally this season, but we had them watched a couple of weeks back. I also know a lot of their new players, the likes of Jay Shields when I was at Cowdenbeath, for example. Lee Duffy also did a pre-season with us when I was at East Fife.”
Following last week’s postponements, Tranent and Broxburn will try again away to Arthurlie and Hurlford respectively, while Penicuik face Glenrothes in a replay after their 1-1 draw first time out.