Spartans player support and success compared to Hibs and youth cup glory
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Kevin Waugh was full-time at Hibs for four years and played alongside Ryan Porteous and Josh Campbell in the team that won the Scottish Youth Cup in 2018., but securing promotion to the SPFL will go down as his biggest achievement in football.
The 25-year-old centre-back, who joined the north Edinburgh club from Berwick Rangers two years ago, has been outstanding all season and turned in another rock solid performance against Albion Rovers at Cliftonhill as Dougie Samuel’s team got the job done in the League Two pyramid play-off decider.
It was a proud day for everyone involved at a club that has spent 72 years of existence up to now in the East of Scotland and Lowland Leagues. The building blocks for this major step forward, however, have been put in place, one by one, over nearly 20 years. The club is set up and ready to fully embrace SPFL football off the pitch. On it, the players are given everything they need to succeed.
“It’s very much like a family,” explained Waugh, the club’s vice captain. “The minute you sign here you are looked after like you wouldn’t believe. Some of the stuff I get here I never got when I was full-time at Hibs. Everybody – kit man, coaches, physios, the gaffer – does everything they possibly can to make sure we are ready on a Saturday. When people do that, you go that extra half yard in return.”
Waugh puts things in perspective. He didn’t quite make the breakthrough at Hibs, but has fond memories of his time there as a young, developing player on a full-time contract. Being a senior part-time player as Spartans is very different. There isn’t as much time available during the week to prepare, so every second counts and that means no stone is left unturned in terms of preparation. The players themselves have more personal responsibility than youngsters on a full-time contract. There’s also more emphasis on preparing to win as a team.
“Look at the three B teams in the Lowland League,” Waugh explains. “They’ve got everything they need. The bottom line is that we’ve won the league. You can be a youth player and it is all pretty, you get everything. There is very little adversity when you are a young boy and it’s your job, you do it every day. But now, me and the boys have other things in life we need to worry about. But we take our football seriously and when you cross that white line on a Saturday there’s only one thing that matters.”
The only thing that mattered to Waugh and the Spartans players in Coatbridge on Saturday was getting the job done in the biggest match in the club’s history. Although Samuel, the manager and chief executive of the club’s charity arm, often refers to a community project and ethos far wider than the ups and downs of the first team’s fortunes on the field, the players will undoubtedly have felt a burden of responsibility on their shoulders to play their part in the progress as the journey continues on an upwards trajectory.
“The biggest, in terms of what was at stake,” says Waugh when asked where this achievement ranks in his own career. “I played at Hampden for Hibs in the Scottish Youth Cup final and we beat Aberdeen 3-1. This tops it. Winning the youth cup at Hibs was brilliant and the memories are amazing, but this achievement, what this can do for this football club and the surrounding area is massive.”