Saturday 27th February 2016 ko 13.00
Scottish Junior FA, West Region Superleague Premier Division
AUCHINLECK TALBOT 2 (Hyslop 17 53)
KIRKINTILLOCH ROB ROY 0
The day after this I paid a visit to the Scottish Football Museum, in the Main Stand at Hampden Park. It’s a fascinating place, well worth the £8 entry, but its coverage of the Juniors is disappointing. All there is a corner with a video on loop and the display explains the SJFA as being “Junior” in standard to the “Seniors” rather than in terms of age. I wondered if whoever put that display together had ever seen the likes of Auchinleck, or Kirkintilloch play?
Yes, the top teams do play in the Seniors, but sides like Auchinleck could easily play in SPFL League One, perhaps better and its their parallel existence to the Seniors that makes them fascinating. Because with the introduction of the Lowland League and with it a route into the SPFL Division there’s two visions of how a club could progress.
Now you could argue I’m biased, in two weeks I’ll be in the midst of the Lowland League Hop, as deputy organiser, and to English footballing eye, the pyramid system is one that the southern non-league enthusiast is familiar with. But put yourself in Auchinleck’s position for a minute. They’re at the pinnacle of their region, with most of their rivals such as Cumnock, Glenafton, Kilbirnie and Irvine Meadow a short journey away. Crowds are healthy, and games and ground gradings are designed to suit clubs. It is little wonder that despite being invited, not one Junior club has opted to jump to the Seniors.
You could argue that Auchinleck are the Arsenal of the Juniors. They’ve won the league championship on 14 occasions (eleven Ayrshire League, three West of Scotland Super League Premier Division), the Scottish Junior Cup 11 times, and they’ve never been relegated. It’s all quite remarkable for a small pit village just south of Mauchline, Ayrshire. The unusual name, “Talbot” comes from Lord Talbot de Malahide who donated Beechwood Park to the club in 1908, for a rent of £5 a year which he never collected, so long as the ground was used for recreational purposes. What makes the story even more remarkable was that at that time he was in the process of selling up and moving back to the family seat in Dublin, having married into the Boswell family, who’d made their money from the bank that later became Barclay’s.
The most striking part of the ground is the main stand, that was transported brick by brick from Hamilton Academical’s old ground Douglas Park, while the seats are newer having first seen service for Bristol City in the South Stand, Ashton Gate. But this is a ground of nooks and crannies, a place to find your favourite spot, lean on a barrier, and enjoy the action.
They’re a friendly club too, from Club Secretary through to the ladies in the club shop, the welcome was fulsome. On the pitch they were too good for a talented Rob Roy side, with visiting keeper Jordan Brown keeping the score respectable.
I was fortunate to be invited for a drink and a pie in the social club after the game (you really should try the soup by the way!) and it was a pleasure to talk football in all its shapes and forms. And yes, you can take it as read, I’d love to bring a couple of coachloads of hoppers here!