BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
KELTY HEARTS captain Shaun Greig believes the ambitious Fifers are on a fast-track to the SPFL after hailing them as one of the most professional part-time clubs in Scotland.
New Central Park is set for a promotion party this afternoon as the East of Scotland League champions – leading 4-0 following a comprehensive first-leg win – face Threave Rovers for a place in the Lowland League next season.
It would leave Tam Courts’ side, who made the switch to the pyramid system from the Junior ranks last summer, just one promotion away from League 2.
And Greig is adamant they will approach that challenge with no fear and firmly believes they have the players, infrastructure and fanbase to ‘do an Edinburgh City’ and cement their status in the senior set-up.
“Getting out of the Juniors was a big step and you look now at the amount of teams who have made the same step,” said Kelty’s stalwart skipper. “A lot of people said to Kelty ‘you are taking a plunge, taking a chance’, but you can see the potential rewards now.
“Touch wood, we finish the job, and we’ll go into the Lowland League not fearing anyone. We have played East Stirlingshire, Civil Service Strollers and, the champions, Spartans, whether in friendlies or cups.
“I think we’ll go up there and compete at the top end. Whether we can win it in our first season, who knows? But I don’t think it will take Kelty long before they do an Edinburgh City and are playing in the SPFL.
“The village has a real enthusiasm for the project, the club is being backed financially, there is a great committee in place and a successful team on the pitch. It is a really big push.”
Greig reserves particular praise for manager Tam Courts, who was appointed manager in 2013 with the club on a run of 20 matches without a victory. By the time Kelty left Junior football last summer, he had guided them to two East Superleague titles.
Greig, by Courts’ side every step of that journey, added: “Tam played at a good level then came to Kelty and has been here for 10 years as player, then manager. He’s an intelligent, hard-working coach and has deservedly been linked to some big jobs.
“But he loves it here and is determined to guide Kelty through the leagues. Of course he wants to manager at a good level, but you can see his desire to achieve that at Kelty and get a place in the history books.”
Greig reckons Kelty’s professionalism was underlined when the club shelled out for an overnight stay in Castle Douglas for last week’s win over Threave, ensuring the players did not need to embark on a 260-mile round-trip.
“We travelled down on the Friday for the match against Threave last weekend, stayed over and prepared the right way,” he continued. “The club has backed us to the hilt and it was a professional set-up from start to finish. That exemplifies things here.
“Kelty have the ambition to rise through the ranks and get a really high level and it is one of the most professional part-time clubs in Scotland. The boys who come in from league football all say ‘wow, this is as close as you’ll get to full-time’.”
In the spirit of that professionalism, Kelty will take nothing for granted against Threave.
However, Greig acknowledges that it would require an astonishing collapse for them not to be plying their trade in the fifth tier next term.
“When we played them last week it could have been more than four,” continued Greig. “If you are a betting man, you would expect Kelty to finish the job at home in front of a big crowd, but we’ll be professional to the end and hopefully make sure it’s a memorable afternoon.
“It will certainly be up there with the highlights of my career on Saturday, knowing what the promotion means to us and the journey we’re on. Having said that, your most recent title is always your most special – so hopefully I’ve got a different answer this time next year!”
While Kelty are toasting promotion, their Fife cousins Cowdenbeath will be fighting for the SPFL survival against Cove Rangers in the League 2 playoff final, with the tie delicately balanced at 0-0 following the first leg in Inverurie.
Should Cowden fail to prevail, it will tee up a historic, explosive derby in the Lowland League next term.
Greig added: “I want all the teams in Fife to do well and would like to see them retain their league status. However, if things don’t go Cowdenbeath’s way, then what a local derby that will be next season!”