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Saturday 17th March 2018 ko 13.30

East of Scotland League

KELTY HEARTS 11 (Ritchie 10 Dalziel 27 51 McCabe 42 Douglas 45 75 84 Husband 55 79 Cargill 60 Greig 81)

TWEEDMOUTH RANGERS 1 (McKenna 21)

Att 278

Entry £5

Programme £2

Climbing up to the former pit village of Kelty involved a lot more than a further drop in temperature and a steady increase in the snow flurries. Kelty Hearts switched from the East Region Juniors to the Senior ranks for this season, and their reasoning was abundantly clear.

They’d won the East Region Superleague title twice in three years and while SJFA membership carries advantages such as localised football and few midweek fixtures, once you reach the Superleagues you have reached the limit of your ambition within the set-up.

The facts of the position these days is that the East of Scotland League is two promotions from the Scottish League, and the financial side of things are far more in the Seniors’ favour these days. Kelty have looked at Cowdenbeath FC struggling at the bottom of SPFL League 2 a few miles down the road and clearly thought, “In two seasons we could replace them.”

So, they’ve made the jump and it looks as if the SJFA’s other clubs have seen Kelty carrying a 100% league record this season and decided to follow suit. Rumour has it that up to 9 Junior clubs have applied to the EoSL and the clubs of the SJFA a day or two ago voted to enter talks with the SFA with regard to entering the Scottish footballing pyramid. On a rather cynical level, I’m tempted to think all my efforts to get a Juniors’ hop up and running a few years ago were pointless, the clubs all seem to be heading to leagues we’re already organising in!

What we saw at New Central Park was a SPFL club in waiting. The ground has been improved, and the 350 seated stand that will be built in the new few weeks (replacing the lean-to stand on the far side) is merely part of the ongoing programme of improvements. The place is mighty impressive, and I’m sure that in the near future it’ll be still more so, but what I’ll remember Kelty Hearts for is that suffix; because they’ve got it by the bucketload. That heart was tested though in a curious way in 2012.

The old Rangers had gone into liquidation and the new club, The Rangers then still a pre-packaged new company “Sevco Scotland,” were still negotiating their membership with the SFA. The new Rangers’ first game was due to be a testimonial at Kelty for midfielder Stefan Winiarski in July 2012. But the new company was just that, a new company that came with no automatic right to play football. So with the new Rangers not existing in footballing terms and negotiations still ongoing, the game was called off to the disappointment of many, and was not played until the October when Rangers’ position in the old SFL Division 3 had long been confirmed.

On arrival Chris, Doug our driver, Robyn and I were whisked off to hospitality and we ended up trying the haggis, and chicken curry that the others were tucking into elsewhere. The club’s friendly, outward-looking nature is a credit to themselves and their area, and yes I fully expect the club to be a credit to the Scottish League in due course.

We weren’t expecting a particularly competitive game. Kelty are are top, with a 100% record, and that 100% record was also in evidence for Berwick-based Tweedmouth. Sadly for them their 100% record is all losses, and I was hearing learned opinions that a score of 15 to 20-nil would be likely. I’d like to think that Tweedmouth heard those comments too, because for much of the first half they were competitive, managing to equalise Kelty’s early goal. Sadly after half-time they collapsed and the final whistle was an act of mercy to them.

We’ll look forward to visiting Old Shielfield and the “Other” Scots club playing in England but this was an afternoon  that unquestionably belonged to Kelty. They sent a consignment of Kelty Hearts keyrings for the coach party that was an act that was extremely well received. Well resourced they may be, and their trajectory stratospheric, but as we headed back over the new Forth Bridge all the talk was of Kelty. Given where we were heading to, that was some achievement.

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