Phil Storrier, Glasgow University Men’s Football First Team coach, and Robbie Smith, the team’s captain, spoke to The Glasgow Guardian about their upcoming Scottish Cup game against Linlithgow Rose.
The University’s Men’s Football first team have had a difficult time in the Scottish Cup in recent years, difficult draws are something the club have become accustomed to having played the likes of Banks O’Dee, Bonnyrigg Rose, and Cove Rangers in recent years. The year of 2020 has led to so many changes throughout football but Glasgow University’s luck in the Scottish Cup draw has not changed. Having received a bye in the first preliminary round they have benefited from receiving a home tie in the second preliminary round but it is up against the East of Scotland Premier League’s Linlithgow Rose. The Linlithgow side, who made the move to senior football in 2018 after a great history in junior football which included four Scottish Junior Cups, have only lost one of their 10 league games this season but there is every reason for the University side to be confident.
The University Men’s team have entered the newly formed West of Scotland league, competing in Conference A, this season and have quickly proven they deserve to play at that level. Head Coach Phil Storrie was unsure about how the team would cope at their new level but has been delighted by the club’s level of performance: “I think we had an idea of what the standard would be like so we didn’t put any real pressure on the boys. It really was a case of let’s see where we end up but I think, all things considered, five games in, we are all pleasantly surprised at how we are competing.” The University team have taken seven points from five games but Storrie believes this is not a true reflection of the team’s performance: “A couple of results maybe haven’t shown [how competitive the team has been] … we’re more than comfortable at the level.” Captain Robbie Smith echoed these views saying: “we have been playing brilliant football. We’re definitely competitive, the results probably haven’t come the way in the way we would have been hoping but we’ve not conceded many goals, we are just lacking a few goals but that will come.”
It has been a real squad effort this season, Storrie pointed out how no one player has been dominating the team in terms of goals and assists, with the consistent level of performance throughout the squad leading to the strong performances which have been seen from the team so far. Smith, the team’s left-back who Storrie chose to highlight as the team’s most consistent performer amongst a strong side, said: “Everyone’s putting in a shift, there are 20 boys to pick from and anyone can come in and do a job. There are no standouts, it’s definitely a team performance at the moment.”
Given the level of the squad’s performances in the league this year then the club should be confident anyway but Smith highlighted why the Scottish Cup being delayed this year, it would ordinarily begin in July, could give the University side a great chance of winning their first Scottish Cup game for 10 years: “It’s the first time this game has been played when we have a full team together … Usually this game comes in July and a lot of the students are back home. I think this gives us a great chance to come into the Scottish Cup having played games already, the team is already gelled.”
Linlithgow Rose will undoubtedly provide a difficult challenge for the University team, the East of Scotland team already play a tier above the University side in the football pyramid, and Rose’s manager, Brown Ferguson, has openly spoken of his ambitions to take Linlithgow Rose up another tier to the Lowland League, but there are no signs of fear from either coach or captain. Storrier said: “In the South Region Challenge Cup we have played in the last couple of years then we’ve got to the quarter-finals of that and that’s playing against teams that are at similar levels…I’ve always said to the boys that I’ve got no concerns about their individual abilities to play at that level, it’s really just about how many of us turn up on the day.” Smith was similarly positive: “We are definitely optimistic … we have played teams in that league before and not been overwhelmed, we know we can compete at this level.”
Covid-19 has caused problems for the team this season, as it has caused issues for everyone in society, the difficulties in even getting training started led Storrie to question the worth of even going ahead with the season: ”Full credit to Robbie and the committee guys, a lot of work went into getting training back up and running …There was a million things and, I’m not going to lie, there was a point in time, where I actually thought is this worth it just get to get a game of football? Because it seemed like more hassle than was required.” However, thoughts such as this are very much in the past now, not just because of the team’s performances on the field, but also due to the social benefits which come with being able to go and play football. Smith said: “It’s great to still have football there because you always need an outlet from your studies. So it’s helping the boys being able to go and train at the end of the day, after a long day’s work.” There seems to be a generally positive feeling around the club and they will be hoping to translate that into the team’s first Scottish Cup victory since a 1-0 win against Burntisland Shipyard in 2010.
Despite the absence of a crowd, the wider public will still have an opportunity to discover if the University of Glasgow Men’s Team can pull off a shock against Linlithgow Rose at the Penny Cars stadium, with the away side live streaming the game. Kick-off is at 4pm on Sunday and people can find the stream on the Facebook page of Linlithgow Rose (https://www.facebook.com/linlithgowrose/) with the stream likely to appear a few minutes before kick-off.