The inside story on champions-elect Linlithgow Rose's 20 month transformation
Rounds of golf and team nights out have bonded this group of men together, while plans for a summer getaway are in motion. It’s been quite the transformation at Prestonfield in the past 20 months since Herd took over a squad depleted in confidence and averse from success.
The building blocks of last season’s cup double have brought the good times back to a club accustomed to silverware; now promotion to the Lowland League is the ideal next chapter.
Rose visit Haddington Athletic on Saturday with the East of Scotland Premier title within their grasp, and Connor McMullan who has adorned the armband in the absence of club captain Gary Thom, is eager to get it over the line.
“It’s our first opportunity that we’ve had, it’s solely in our hands to win it,” said the Denny High School PE teacher. “It’s what we’ve been building towards for the last 18 to 20 months since Herdy, John [Millar] and Eamon [Fullerton] came in. As much as we want to win it, we are also well aware that we have three attempts to do it, we’ve got ourselves ahead and we know it’s not all or nothing on Saturday.
“As much as I am saying that we will put everything into trying to win this game and to be crowned league champions would be absolutely massive for us. Haddington will be determined for us not to win it on their park, they will use that as their motivation, I’m sure.
“The boys have been amazing. There isn’t a bad guy in the dressing room, there is a great togetherness. There was a couple of us going to play a round of golf last week, it got put in the group chat and within about an hour we had three four balls together; things like that you probably don’t get in other dressing rooms. It shows on the park, we want to play for each other, we want to win for each other, and we want to fight for each other.”
Thom’s knee injury has given 24-year-old McMullan the opportunity to step in as captain, and he’s relished it.
“I’ve really enjoyed the leadership aspect and I feel I have grown in the role,” continued McMullan. “Gary has been a great help, he’s a great leader, he’s been in and around the dressing room and on the training pitch. I feel it’s been good for my own performance having that added responsibility, it’s an honour to captain a club like Linlithgow Rose, it’s not something I take lightly.”
Meanwhile, Haddington Athletic are hoping to mark the 50th anniversary of their 1-0 East of Scotland Junior Cup final triumph over Rose, held at Tynecastle, with a victory on Saturday. Surviving members of the squad who secured the memorable win will be in attendance at Millfield Park hoping their presence can inspire the current Hi-Hi side to follow in their footsteps.