Local girl’s funeral hours before Spartans cup win

The Spartans squad celebrate a famous Scottish Cup victory. Picture: Steven Scott Taylor

The Spartans squad celebrate a famous Scottish Cup victory. Picture: Steven Scott Taylor

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AS DOUGIE Samuel addressed reporters just moments after Spartans had created yet another Scottish Cup shock with victory over Morton on Saturday, his equilibrium belied the pandemonium of a jubilant home dressing-room that he had just emerged from.

After such an achievement, it would have been easy for any manager to get carried away by the occasion and utter words that they may look back to regret.

Instead, Samuel imparted an eloquent and moving example of what a win like this really means for a small non-league club with close ties to its neighbourhood.

“It’s fantastic for the whole project here,” admitted Samuel, who saw his side reach the last 16 with goals from Willie Bremner and Jack Beesley after Andy Barrowman had given Ton a deserved first-half lead.

“It might sound corny, but we’re blessed. We get to play for a whole community here, we get to make that community proud.

“There’s a lot of negative news comes out of north Edinburgh and, do you know what, there’s a lot of amazing people in this area who do amazing things and it’s great that they can hang their hat on something as positive as this, because it’s been a tough week.

“Sadly, we lost a young girl last week, someone who took her own life way too early.

“It’s been really tough for our youth workers and for the community as a whole.

“She was buried at lunchtime on Saturday and we couldn’t make the funeral for obvious reasons.

“But it’s funny how life can bring such a terrible low and such a huge high in the same day.

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“We’re really proud of how far we’ve come. We’re on a journey, both in terms of the project itself and in terms of the football club itself, which is on a journey to the professional leagues.

“I hope I can be the man who leads them there, but if not they’ll definitely get there within the next ten years – and when they get there, they’ll stay there.”

The young girl that Samuel referred to was Elie Mcilwaine, a 13-year-old who is understood to have recently taken a fatal overdose of drugs.

Mcilwaine had been part of the Spartans FooTea programme that gives kids a chance to play football and have a meal.

The community certainly has a club to be proud of. Samuel’s charges produced a stunning comeback in front of 1,288 fans at Ainslie Park to add Ton to their list of cup scalps.

At half-time in this contest, however, it seemed highly likely that their Scottish Cup adventure was about to end.

Morton deservedly led through a 25th-minute Barrowman strike from close range having controlled the first half.

But the hosts were a different side after the break. The equaliser arrived in the 71st minute when Bremner shot past Morton goalkeeper Jamie McGowan from inside the box.

The visitors then had Stefan McCluskey sent off after the forward collected a second yellow card ten minutes from time.

With Scotland manager Gordon Strachan – patron of the Spartans Community Football Academy – in attendance, Beesley secured victory in the 90th minute when he cooly found the net from close range.

Many of the part-timers’ past cup exploits took place at their ramshackle City Park across the road from their current state-of-the-art complex in the north of Edinburgh. But the home of Spartans continues to be a cup graveyard for the league clubs, as Clyde had already discovered in the last round.

Spartans captain Keith McLeod, a veteran of memorable past cup victories over the likes of Alloa, Arbroath, Queen’s Park, Annan and Elgin, hopes their latest escapade reinforces that they are not to be taken lightly ahead of today’s last-16 draw.

He added: “In the past, teams came here with it in their head about what we’d done at the old City Park, but it’s a whole new set-up now.

“Maybe Saturdy changes that, maybe teams will fear us again. You can’t be a non-league club and have success in the Scottish Cup every year. It goes in cycles – and maybe this is a start of a new cycle for us. Before this, the best cup moment was probably drawing 0-0 at home to St Mirren in 2006. City Park was packed that day and we had a chance right at the end to win it. But this surpasses even that, no doubt.

Morton winger Jamie McCluskey said: “We have to get this out of our system quick. I know it’s hard to swallow but we have a big game against Stranraer next week and we have to make sure we get a good week in training.

“It’s a tough one to take but all credit to Spartans, they kept going. With 20 minutes to go on the park, you could kind of feel it coming.”

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