FOR Mike Lawson, the memories and emotions induced by his return to old club Stirling Albion for last weekend’s Scottish Cup encounter threatened to overshadow the occasion.
This week, the reminiscences have been well and truly packed away, so much so that the Whitehill Welfare manager insists today’s replay is “just another game”.
When the second round draw was made in mid-September, Lawson claimed he had not given a second thought to the prospect of facing the Binos, a club where he is revered as a legend following five free-scoring years. But, as last Saturday’s game neared, old programmes were dusted down and press cuttings dug out as he fondly remembered his playing career.
Now 64, Lawson was warmly greeted with handshakes and requests for photographs last Saturday before steering his Lowland League side to a 2-2 draw that earned them a replay at Ferguson Park in Rosewell today, when both teams will fight it out to face Highland League outfit Turriff United away in the third round. With a reunion with some former team-mates, and one-time Stirling manager Alex Smith, to celebrate the 60th birthday of Billy Steele taking Lawson back to Forthbank for a second successive day last Sunday, he is adamant that the nostalgia surrounding today’s opponents is an itch that has now been satisfyingly scratched.
“It was a bit emotional last weekend,” he admitted. “I met an awful lot of people who remembered me and a lot of supporters who wanted to have their photos taken with me on the Saturday, and then guys like Alex Smith and half a dozen old team-mates on the Sunday.
“It was an enjoyable weekend and obviously managing to get a draw on the Saturday to bring my old club back to Ferguson Park was a great achievement for the team. In the week building up to the game I wanted to get the nostalgia out the way early and then get on to the football after that and that’s all finished with now.
“This week, I haven’t mentioned my old days with Stirling. It’s just another game. What was there last week, in terms of the memory lane stuff, is no longer there and it’s all about the result of this game. It’s a one-off and history gets rewritten all the time, so why not this time?”
Twice during Lawson’s previous spells in charge in the 1990s, Whitehill have suffered the pain of losing to league sides in replays. Stranraer escaped Rosewell with a 4-0 win in a first-round replay in 1993 after a 3-3 draw in the first tie and Stenhousemuir saw off their visitors 2-0 after drawing 1-1 at Ferguson Park.
Lawson is eager to learn from past experiences. “What’s happened in the past is the opposition have played better in the second game and have managed to go through,” he explained. “We need to forget about last week. Stirling will be better and they will know what to expect this time, so we’ll have to approach the game in a different manner. History says if you just go out and do the same thing again it doesn’t happen for you.
“We need the same attitude, that we can beat them, but mentally we have to know it’s going to be harder. It’s going to be very, very difficult to go through but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done.”