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Elginshire Cup winners Islavale prepare for north junior football’s championship decider with Banks o’ Dee and co-manager Robert Scott wants a league title as a tribute to two late club stalwarts

By Craig Christie

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One of north football’s youngest managers is aiming to land a north junior football league and cup double - as a tribute to club stalwarts no longer with us.

The victorious Islavale team. Islavale FC Facebook
The victorious Islavale team. Islavale FC Facebook

Former Deveronvale and Buckie Thistle striker Robert Scott’s offshore job saw him step down from Highland League to play for Keith outfit Islavale, later becoming player co-manager.

Now 26, Scott has already celebrated winning the Elginshire Cup last Sunday, and scored a hat-trick of penalties in midweek to seal Vale’s promotion to the Premier League next term.

It’s a scenario that would have been right up the street of two Islavale stalwarts who between them serves the club for almost a century.

Bill Cruickshank and Keith Sinclair were long-standing committee members who sadly passed away in recent years, having been part of past glories at Vale.

Scott said: “When you see the guys on our committee, Islavale is their life. There were a couple of boys who passed away last year who has served the club for a lot of years so it would be a nice tribute if we could do the league and cup double for them.”

Vale clocked up a remarkable 17 league victories in a row this season to storm to the top of the table. Along the way, they have clocked up 17 defensive clean sheets in all competitions and scored well in advance of 100 goals.

Alongside fellow boss Jim Brindle and club coach Jim Stables, Scott is now preparing for Saturday’s crucial Championship match at home to fellow title contenders Banks o’ Dee Juniors at Simpson Park.

Robert Scott clutches the trophy with his co-manager Jim Brindle (right) and club coach Jim Stables. Islavale FC Facebook
Robert Scott clutches the trophy with his co-manager Jim Brindle (right) and club coach Jim Stables. Islavale FC Facebook

He recalls Vale struggling in the second tier of the north juniors when he first joined the club, and said the dedication of the playing staff and coaches has brought the club on leaps and bounds.

“It has been a great season and we just want to finish it off by winning the double,” he said.

“ When I first came in they were second bottom. We had a regroup at the end of last season and I got asked to give Jim (Brindle) a hand and he left the responsibility to me to rejig the squad and try to take a few in.

“Since then, the commitment everyone has shown to training and turning up to games every week, what we’ve achieved is well-deserved for them.”

Scott admits the team didn’t start the current campaign too impressively. In mid-August they lost a league game at Banchory, drew with Lossie United the following midweek then exited three cup competitins in their next three games, albeit against formidable opponents in Premier League champions Culter, third-placed Dyce and Greenock Juniors in the Scottish Cup.

The Keith men then won their next nine games in all competitions, lost to Premier side Buchanhaven in the Inter Regional Cup then won their next 12 league and cup contests.

That included a breath-taking run of 17 consecutive Championship victories to take them beyond previously dominant leaders Banks o’ Dee to the top of the table.

On Sunday, Vale made the trip to Maud to take on neighbours Deveronside in the final of the Elginshire Cup and triumphed with a 3-0 victory.

Two days later the teams met again in a crucial league fixture at Simpson Park, with ‘Side in strong contention for promotion and Vale needing a win to seal their place in the premier next term.

Scott’s hotshots duly won 5-2 with the player boss netting three times from the spot to clinch their promotion.

“Between us all and the coaches, I played Highland League for seven or eight years and Jim Brindle has been on the scene for a while and Jim Stables has been a manager at three or four clubs,” Scott said.

“Maybe I am the modern footballer and they are more old school but it seems to be a good mix. In games, there’s a way I want to play and sometimes we need to change it to the old school way and it seems to work out. We’ve got two or three different ways of playing, different formations and it seems to work.

“We’ve got a really good squad of 21 players. We’ve seen in games where we’ve had to make three or four changes to the team but there’s not been a big difference in performance between the ones coming in and the ones you would call regular starters.

“Sunday was the club’s first trophy in seven years. They’ve had two or three finals where they’ve been beaten so it was good for the players who have been there over that period of time to finally get something.”

He said Robbie Martin from the town’s Ugie House Hotel recently joined the club’s committee and has been instrumental in setting up fundraising events. He organised tow buses to travel to Maud for last weekend’s cup final and Scott said that provided the team with a 12th man to push them to victory.

Vale celebrate winning the Elginshire Cup at Maud. Islavale FC Facebook
Vale celebrate winning the Elginshire Cup at Maud. Islavale FC Facebook

On Vale’s league surge, Scott added: “We had a slowish start to the season and Banks o’ Dee were so far ahead that we were almost looking at the cups as our main aims.

“But the way things have turned around, the league became the main priority. I said to them on Sunday, it wasn’t just about the final but we had another four cup finals after that to try and win the league.

“We let them enjoy their Sunday and made sure everyone as refreshed and fit enough for Tuesday. One or two had to drop out and that’s what happens with playing two games in three days but everyone put a good shift in and we have the rest of the week off to rest up til Saturday and hopefully everybody is fit and ready to go against Banks o’ Dee.

“It would take a lot of pressure off us if we won on Saturday, we go three points ahead with a game in hand and we have a 20 plus goal difference on them.

“Even if we lose at the weekend, if we win our last two games we win the league so it is in our hands. We just need to get it over the line.

Scott has struck 19 goals this season and his younger brother Noel has emerged as a Vale star, netting in the promotion-winning match on Tuesday for his 12th strike of the campaign.

Islavale co-manager Robert Scott (right) with his brother Noel after the Elginshire Cup success in Maud. Islavale FC Facebook
Islavale co-manager Robert Scott (right) with his brother Noel after the Elginshire Cup success in Maud. Islavale FC Facebook

Both Scott’s trail top scorer Brodie Christie, who has netted 29 times and will be determined to break through the 30-goal barrier in Saturday’s big match.

Vale will be relishing a stint in north junior football’s top league and Scott sees no reason why they can’t do well against the top Aberdeen sides.

He is however prepared for the possibility of losing some of his best players.

“We’ve got 15 of the squad signed up for next season. There’s a couple of Highland League teams sniffing about our players and we would never get in the way of boys playing at a higher level. We are allowing a couple of clubs to speak to our players just now and we will see what comes of that.

“From where Islavale were last season to now, it shows the big improvement and we have done our job and the players have done theirs and the hard work is paying off.

“We will look to bring in another couple for next season in the Premier League but I feel the boys are ready to give it a bash and see where it takes us.”

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