Junior giants Auchinleck Talbot head for League 1 side Stranraer this weekend looking to knock out their first ever senior side in the William Hill Scottish Cup and it will be far from a trip into the unknown for Manager Tommy Sloan.
‘Tucker’ as he is well known played for the Blues twice during his striking days in the senior ranks and not only did he win a League and a Cup with the Stair Park side he grabbed over 50 goals for them.
Sloan knows that one of the downsides of facing Stranraer is that they are one of the clubs who pay the junior game full respect with that respect stretching to trying to sign some Talbot players in the summer.
The 49-year-old said: “I played for Stranraer once about 30 years ago when I was still an Annbank Juniors player. I was a trialist in a game against Cowdenbeath but nothing came of it at that time.”
“I then went to Ayr United but I never really broke through into the first team there. I had 2 years at Somerset Park but the manager there then Ally MacLeod let me go and I went back to Annbank.”
After 2 years of grabbing goals in the juniors again Sloan stepped up as he explained: “My next stop at a senior level was with Queen of the South and I enjoyed that although the team was struggling in the First Division. It was a good to be playing at Palmerston Park although we did better there in Cups than we did in the league.”
“It was a good squad and the former Hamilton manager Billy Reid was a team-mate there as was Kevin Hetherington, Dougie Mills, Jim McGuire, Jimmy Robertson and Barney Davidson. Budgie McGhee who of course is now the manager of our junior rivals Clydebank was also in the squad at Queen of the South.”
After 2 years and 12 goals in Dumfries Sloan moved on again as he advised: “After Queen’s I had a short spell at Kilmarnock before spending 6 years at Stranraer. Sandy McAnespie was the manager that took me there in the summer of 1991 and this time I stayed a lot longer than the one game.
“It was a good time to be at Stranraer as we won the Second Division under Sandy and then also won the Challenge Cup against St Johnstone in 1995 against St Johnstone.”
Sloan enjoyed his spell in blue and white colours as he explained: “I have a lot of good memories from my time there as we experienced a lot. We won a league and a cup win but also suffered relegation so it was not always plain sailing.”
“I am looking forward to going back there in the Cup although I recognise that Stranraer have a very good side just now. Their manager has them playing well as I saw for myself when they defeated Stenhousemuir recently 1-0.”
“It is going to be tough for us to win through especially as they are a club and a management team that really respect the junior game.”
That respect runs deep with Sloan saying: “I remember seeing Stephen Aitken play for Arthurlie and his assistant Stephen Farrell used to be in charge of Cumnock so they know the standard well. They also have a number of players who used to play at a junior level in their team like Jamie Longworth, Frank McKeown and Sean Winter. They also respect our players as they tried to sign a couple of them during the summer but the boys opted to stay with us.”
This month marks an important milestone in Sloan’s managerial career as he explained: “I have been in charge of Talbot now for nearly 10 years and there have been a lot of changes. We have been in the senior Scottish Cup a few times now. I took the team to play at Tynecastle when we lost 1-0 to Hearts in the Scottish Cup a couple of years ago. That was a fantastic day and one of my best at the club and we were unfortunate to lose.”
“That day was probably on a par with my first Scottish Junior Cup win in 2006 which was part of a double. That was a terrific time and we managed to repeat that last season.”
Talbot may well be junior but they have a few names that senior fans will recognise as Sloan advised: “We have Willie Lyle helping out in our defence. He joined us last season and has done really well. He is a local boy and knows what is expected when you play for Auchinleck and he has delivered that.”
“Whilst Willie is quite new we have Bryan Young with us and he used to be with Ross County when he was a kid. He has been here for a few years as has Colin Spence who used to play for Gretna. Ally Park was with Rangers and Hibs as a youngster and played for Clyde as well.”
“I have only just found out that he earned a SFA Youth Cup winners medal with Hibs. He has never mentioned it but it is good to have a senior Cup winner in our ranks.”
Sloan continued: “With this experience and the boys we have in the rest of our squad we will not be overawed at going to Stranraer. We handled playing at Tynecastle and we will handle this game.”
“It is always special to test yourself against a senior side and we know that this will be a test. They beat Ross County earlier this season and scored 3 goals at Hibs. They may have lost in the end but scoring 3 times against Premiership sides twice is good going.”
The Ayrshire side will not change what they do when they face Stranraer as Sloan explained: “Our plan has to be to go there and play our normal game. Apart from their defeat from Dunfermline last Saturday they have been on a terrific run so we will just go out and do what we do every week.”
“There will be plenty of Auchinleck fans decked out in black and yellow for the game and they will be expecting us to have a go and we will.”