Scholarship footballers from the University of Stirling enjoyed a sneak preview of the silverware ahead of their William Hill Scottish Cup debut on Saturday.
The historic trophy was welcomed on campus yesterday (Wednesday) by High Performance Football Coach Eddie May and players Calum Burns, Creag Robertson, Paul Sludden and captain Kevin Walker.
Stirling qualified for the national competition for the first time in their history by winning the East of Scotland Premier Division, their reward a 2nd Round clash with leading Junior side Bonnyrigg Rose.
Midfielder Robertson, 29, said: “I have been playing with the University for five years and, from the outset, one of the aims was to play in the Scottish Cup. I’m a little bit older than some of the other guys and I know I might never get another opportunity like this and getting to see the trophy before the match just adds to the romance of the competition.
“I came to Stirling as it was a great opportunity to complete a degree in a sport-related field and at Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence whilst at the same time playing football in a competitive league with good players and good coaches.”
Robertson, from West Linton, now works as the Football Development Manager at Falkirk FC having graduated with an MSc in Sport Management.
He added: “It’s a really varied role, from assisting the Head of Youth Development and the Academy to player selection and progression and even working closely with the First Team Manager on talent identification. If it was not for the course I was studying and the scholarship programme then I would not be in this role.”
Hear from Calum Burns and Paul Sludden on what the football programme means to them.
The Craig Gowans Football Scholarship Programme was established in 2008, in partnership with Falkirk FC as a lasting legacy in memory of Craig Gowans, a talented young Falkirk Academy player who tragically died.
Football is one of five sports which collectively make up the International Sports Scholarship Programme, alongside golf, swimming, tennis and triathlon. Scholarship footballers receive funding support and benefit from high performance football coaching and sports science services as well as access to the full range of facilities at Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence.
May, who took on the High Performance Coaching role in the summer, said: “The opportunity to compete in the Scottish Cup is the reward for the efforts of all the coaches who helped take the football programme to this level. It is a fantastic platform for our players to showcase their talent as they continue to develop their skills on the pitch and in their studies. It would be lovely to win, but more importantly it is another important learning experience for the students.”
The William Hill Scottish Cup 2nd Round match takes place on Saturday 29 September at the University Sports Centre pitch surrounded by the athletics track, kick-off 3pm. Tickets are priced £7 for adults and £3 for concessions and students.
Follow Stirling University FC at www.stir.ac.uk/footballclub and on Twitter @SUFC_Official
For more on football scholarships at Stirling, visit: www.sportingexcellence.stir.ac.uk/scholarships/mens-football