HEARTS IN MOUTH
Very early with this weekend's preview as I'm away this week. I'm quite pleased the game at Spartans is off as it means only one preview to write and I would like to have gone into Edinburgh for the game.
That means our next game is the home one against Barry Ferguson's Kelty Hearts, a team everyone has an opinion on. The PSG of the SLFL are how many view BFKH, the cash rich Fifers throwing money at getting into the league set up. From the big name manager to the big money signings. The question is how much of that is true and will it be to any avail.
The place itself is an old mining village with a population of 6,000, and that's about as much as you'll learn about it from Wikipedia, apart from the fact it's just next to the Edinburgh to Perth road. I'd question the use of the word village as in Scotland a place that size tends to be called a town.
The club were only formed in 1975, starting as amateurs joining the Juniors in season 1980/81 where for most of the season they were managed by a certain Jim Lesihman who was starting out in his mangaerial career. There was a huge amount of work involved in getting the facilities upgraded to join the Juniors and this was all carried out by committee members and volunteers. In a startling lack of originality they play in maroon and one of their nicknames was The Jambos but they are now officially The Maroon Machine, along with playing at New Central Park which in fairness looks a hell of lot more pleasant environment than the Old Central Park we visited so often. The ground was originally just called Central Park and the new appears to have added as they have upgraded the facilities so much to make it unidentifiable from the original ground.
During the eighties they were highly successful in Fife Cup competitions and in the nineties they ould win the Fife league 5 times. They were twice runners up in the Junior Cup (98/99 and 06/07) and won the East Super League in 14/15 and 16/17 and were runners-up in 15/16. They joined the East of Scotland League and the SFA in 2017/18, promptly winning the league and thrashing Threave Rovers 10- 0 on aggregate in the play-off for promotion to the Lowland League for season 18/19. In their first season they finished third.
They had been managed by Tam Courts through their final successful years in the Juniors and their East of Scotland campaign but he resigned in October 2018 to be replaced by Ferguson at which point the Scottish media officially changed their name to BFKH. Courts resignation was something of a surprise given his success at the club, having staved off relegation in his first season, after being appointed in October 2013, before leading them to a significant level of success. Following the resignation he was linked with the Dream Team as a possible manager as well as Stirling Albion and Airdrieonians. Given his successful managerial career it seems bizarre that Courts seems to be completely out of football, although he does appear to performance director at a company called T2, where in his own words he is a 'UEFA qualified coach and title-winning football manager with extensive global recruitment, leadership development and strategic delivery experience. Hugely passionate about creating identity based cultures that are both socially inclusive and high performing.' .....he was replaced with Barry Ferguson...............I'll just leave that thought hanging there.
You do have to wonder how Scottish Football can do to leave someone who clearly has ambition and progressive ideas on the sidelines. We know more than most that talking a good game isn't always the same as delivering one........ but all the same.
Ferguson was perhaps a surprise choice as manager given he hardly set the world on fire at Clyde and has no experience of non-league football but he is certainly worth is weight in profile raising with his mates in the Glasgow media. He is assisted by another old Rangers' boy Bob Malcolm and Murray McDowell - a more familiar name around the lower leagues.
Which brings us up to date and Kelty entered this season as clear favourites for the title. The signing of Nathan Austin was perhaps the one that raised most eyebrows. Austin had started his career at East Fife and last season had been playing for Inverness CT in the Championship. This was seen as either a statement of intent on the part of the club or a lack of ambition on the part of the player with money being the motivating factor - a claim strongly rejected by the player and the club. They also signed Dylan Easton who had 17 games for us back in 2013 scoring two goals - Easton has been missing with injury for most of the season.
There can be little doubt that Austin has proved a huge success at this level of football - scoring 17 goals (including two hat tricks) of their 43 league goals so far this season. They have effectively swept all before them losing only one game, to a last minute goal at Cumbernauld. Whilst the focus has been on the goals scored it's also worth noting that they have only conceded 3.
Given our less than conclusive start to the season we can only enter this game with a large degree of trepidation. BFKH are a direct fast team who could expose our problems in both wings and we are going to have to defend far more resolutely than we did on Saturday. We need to compete in midfield and cut off the supply to Austin. From what I've heard about their game on Saturday Gala caused them some problems with their counter attacking and were a little unlucky to have lost, the game turning a little on a red card given to a GFR player and one not given to a BFKH player. I also heard that the the Gala defence handled Austin well and stifled his threat - the problem being he did score from the one time he beat them. It's a game that will require a 90 minute performance, not 15 here and there.
This is a game where Little needs to get his team selection and tactics right and we need every player to be on their game . Personally I'd return Brennan to goal as I think he's the better shot stopper ad the likelihood is the keeper will have a few to face. We can't afford to surrender space like we did in the final twenty minutes against Colts. I'd keep Dan Purves through the middle as he can cause problems.
The only other game they have lost this season was in the televised cup game against Auchinleck where they were comprehensively defeated, a recording you hope our management team and players are watching over and over for clues. If you're looking for omens Auchinleck played in black and gold stripes.............
It's easy to scoff at BFKH with their big name manager, big name signings (relatively speaking) and what appears to be their bottomless money pit. The alternative take is that this is a club that has evolved in a shorter period than I've been alive and have built foundations based on full engagement with the local community. Scottish football is changing and progressive non-league clubs are showing the way forward to many league clubs who for too long have simply relied on their safe league haven to keep them going and who have neglected to change - and yes we are one of the guilty parties. It may be an Icarus tale (or a Gretna if you will) but I suspect many of these clubs are built on more solid foundations.
(Sadly, or maybe not, I'll miss this game as away - instead I shall be stood on what passes for terraces in the Toolstation Western League Division One watching The Cheesemen of Cheddar (that really is their nickname) play host to Hengrove Athletic from Bristol)