As Boroughmuir prepare for a potentially make-or-break Premiership rugby clash at Stirling County on Saturday, one of the players they will be relying on has recalled how he could instead have been turning out for Hibs.
Current Scotland under-20 cap Keith Buchan had talks with the Easter Road club with a view to joining the youth set-up as a fully-fledged schools international footballer before the lure of the oval ball game prevailed.
Had he opted to try the footballing route to professional sport, Buchan would have been following in the footsteps of the likes of David Johnston, the 1984 Grand Slam centre who had previously made one appearance for Hearts, against Dundee. Also, another one-time Hearts prospect, Gary Parker, went on to represent New Zealand in a non-cap football international before returning home to score against the touring All Blacks for the South of Scotland in the mid-1990s.
As it is, Buchan did take a leaf out of Scotland striker Jordan Rhodes’ book by emerging from Cairneyhill Primary, near Dunfermline, but his footballing career peaked after turning out for a Scottish Schools XI against North of England at Lesser Hampden.
“I did meet with Hibs to see the facilities and discuss going there. I also trained with Dunfermline Athletic while Livingston introduced me to their youth set-up attached to Blackburn United Juniors for a while,” said Buchan.
“I did enough to get the chance to play on grounds such as East End Park, Almondvale, Stark’s Park and New Bayview but, by the time, I was talking with Hibs, I had been given a scholarship from Queen Anne High School, Dunfermline, to Strathallan School helped by my rugby.
“My thinking was that I would only get one chance of an education and, if football clubs were really interested, they’d come back for me.”
However, Buchan was also progressing through the ranks at a Dunfermline rugby club who had given Fraser McKenzie and Stevie McCall a foot up on a ladder leading to the English professional game.
“I actually made my first league appearance for Dunfermline aged 16 and, really, rugby was my preferred option having been part of the club since mini days when my dad took me along.”
The switch from Dunfermline to Boroughmuir is a well-worn rugby path and allowed Buchan to hone his skills at top-club level.
Injury prevented this utility back staking a claim for an under-20 cap in the last Six Nations series but, with an age-group World Cup taking place in South Africa last summer, selectors were keen to take advantage of his versatility.
“My main regret about turning my back on football was giving up on a schools trip to Australia but rugby allowed me to visit South Africa and play alongside several other Boroughmuir lads against Argentina and Samoa.”
In fact, Boroughmuir also contributed Michael Crawley, Harry Leonard, Alex Henderson, Robin Hislop and Jamie Swanson to that World Cup.
Moving up to date Boroughmuir will need all the experience available at Stirling, who are nine points ahead having played an extra game while second-bottom Dundee have a seven-point advantage over the Meggetland club.
“I’m confident Boroughmuir will climb clear of relegation,” declared Buchan.
“Of our six remaining games, four are at home and the other away match is at Heriot’s.”
That means Boroughmuir will be in the Capital throughout their run-in and Buchan is hoping that some Edinburgh players, whom he hopes one day to join in the pro ranks, will be turning out. “You learn so much playing in a back division that has the likes of Harry Leonard, Sep Visser and Ben Cairns turning out occasionally. As to which position I end up in ,I see myself as a centre who can also play full back or stand off.
“Flexibility is particularly important at this stage and I’m sure I’ll have shaken off a dead-leg (thigh strain) picked up when Scotland under-20s played Ayr recently to maintain my record of missing only one league game this season.”
That was against Edinburgh Accies when Boroughmuir lost 18-15, one of five defeats suffered by a single-score while a draw at Currie also embellishes this season’s record.
“There have also been matches where we have lost out in the last minute or been caught cold early and left ourselves too much to do but we are more than capable of staying up and hopefully the Stirling match will be the first step to survival,” added Buchan, who works as a fraud investigator for Lloyd’s TSB but who, so far as rugby is concerned, is very much the real deal.