Lesmahagow manager Robert Irving: Winning cup as boss would mean even more than as a player

Robert Irving won four Sectional League Cups as a player, one with Lesmahagow and three with Cumnock
Robert Irving won four Sectional League Cups as a player, one with Lesmahagow and three with Cumnock

Lesmahagow Juniors manager Robert Irving will this Sunday attempt to land the same piece of famous silverware 24 years apart.

Irving was a 25-year-old midfielder in the ’Gow team which landed the 1994 Sectional League Cup with a 2-1 triumph over Petershill at the old Kilbowie Stadium in Clydebank.

And the 2018 showpiece of the same tournament will see him lead his League Two underdogs out against Premiership giants Auchinleck Talbot at Newlandsfield Park, Pollok.

Irving, speaking after Lesmahagow won 2-0 at home to Ashfield on Saturday to go top of the league, told the Carluke and Lanark Gazette: “We have not conceded a goal in our last three league games and a cup tie but this is a different kettle of fish altogether.

“We’re going up against the best junior team in Scotland.

“Some of their players have four or five Scottish Junior Cup winners’ medals.

“But I prefer going into the final as underdogs because there is less pressure on us.

“My memories of that 1994 final are that it was a deserved victory for us thanks to goals by Colin Crichton and Willie Gillogley.

“We couldn’t do much celebrating afterwards because the final was on a Tuesday night and we all had to go to our work the next day.

“I think we celebrated in Glasgow on the Saturday night.”

“I have won the league cup four times as a player,” Irving added.

“But it would probably mean even more to me to win it as a manager.

“I am trying to get players to do what I want them to do, which would make it even more of an achievement than winning it as a player.

“The last time Lesmahagow won it we were playing in the top league.

“That’s totally different to this time as we’re three leagues below Auchinleck.

“But anything can happen on the day.”

What makes Lesmahagow’s sensational form in league and cup this season all the more remarkable is the fact that the club saw an almost total overhaul of players in the summer.

Only Jordan Whitefield, Darren Lygate and Steve Clarke were retained from the squad who struggled last season, with Robert adding 14 new players.

“The club committee gave me a budget to strengthen the team,” Robert said.

“This included a lot of guys with experience in the higher leagues, plus Kyle Weir and Gary Nicholson from amateur football.”

This Sunday’s final kicks off at 1.30pm. If it’s level after 90 minutes it will go straight to a penalty shootout.