Saturday 1st June 2019 ko 14.30
East Region Junior FA Consolation Cup Semi Final
WHITBURN JUNIORS 8 (Russell 14 Liddell 18 28 72 75 Brass 61 McQuillan 83 Duncan 88)
GLENROTHES JUNIORS 1 (Martin 80) C Schiavone sent off 65 (dangerous play)
The idea hadn’t to visit West Lothian quite as soon as this. Of course the Scottish Hop had visited both Blackburn and Linlithgow at the end of March, but with Robyn and I in the Central Belt for the Junior Cup final on the Sunday we wanted another game, and this was by far the best bet!!
The town has the distinct advantage of lying close to the M8 and was once a centre for coal mining with the Polkemmet Colliery never re-opening after the 1984-5 Miners’ Strike. The bings or spoil heaps were notable landmarks here but have now been removed at some cost, the infamous “Burning Bing” took 2 years to remove, finally disappearing in 2008.
A famous Whitburn son is John Lambie who in 1992 as Partick Thistle manager was informed that his striker Colin McGlashan was concussed. He commented “Tell him he’s Pelé and get him back on!” His gambit may have worked, Partick went on to beat Dundee 6-3! These days Whitburn is perhaps best known as being where singer-songwriter Lewis Capaldi hails from.
In the middle of it all is Central Park, with its main turnstile block closed to the main stand access is via an alleyway to the right of the social club. I have to say it’s created a wonderful sense of anticipation as you walk through, and the view once you reach pitchside is breathtaking.
The stand evokes the classic edifice at Benburb’s long lost Tinto Park down even to the clinker and railway sleeper terraces. But as lovely at that side of the ground is please don’t look at Central Park as just that. Because as much as I was struggling with my mobility that weekend Whitburn’s home is a place that cries out to be explored.
If there is a club most loyal to the Junior set-up it would be Whitburn, even if there is only one Junior Cup success in their history. The contrast couldn’t have been greater with visitors Glenrothes who were playing out their final season as a Junior club before a switch to the East of Scotland League.
With their league fixtures complete and only the Consolation Cup left, it meant that potentially we could see both Glenrothes last game as a Junior club and bearing the Junior name. The Consolation Cup is for clubs eliminated after the first sectional phase of the East Region’s League Cup, and seems at least in part, to give clubs more games since last years’ exodus of clubs to the Senior ranks.
Noone predicted anything other than a straightforward home win, but perhaps few would have put money on as complete a trouncing as this. For as lovely and Whitburn Juniors are as a collection of people and a football ground, there was little entertainment to be had from watching the equivalent of shooting fish in a barrel. Glenrothes looked a desperately poor side and will clearly have to substantially rebuild before their new challenge next season.
Hindsight being what it is, we now know Whitburn were back at Central Park the next Saturday and won the cup but as lovely as Central Park is, as Robyn and I departed my thoughts were with their opposition. Glenrothes’ decision to jump into Senior Football is an odd one. You can make the the case for switching on economic grounds, but on the playing side, you see an East of Scotland League that’s far stronger than you could have imagined 4 years ago. Next season it’ll be interesting to see how they fare.