Football: Young guns for Tranent to keep title within reach

KENNY YOUNG may be fast approaching his 36th birthday but his passion for football is the same today as it was when he signed for Hearts as a schoolboy more than 20 years ago.

He's been a man of many clubs since then – "I've not missed many teams," he jokes – and he is currently turning out for Spartans Juniors in the East Region South Division.

The club, famous for their exploits as an East of Scotland League side in the Scottish Cup over the years, are enjoying a remarkable first season after entering a side in the Junior leagues and tomorrow entertain Tranent in a crunch clash at Ainslie Park (2.30pm).

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Tranent go into the game leading the title race by six points from Broxburn and they are 14 points ahead of fourth-placed Spartans.

But the Capital club have four games in hand and know a win could change the complexion of the championship chase.

No matter what happens over the coming weeks, Young insists it has been a campaign that Spartans can be proud of. Not only have they punched above their weight but they've also overcome adversity to do so.

Mark Lamb, who was in charge of the team at the start of the season, resigned after a brawl during a game against Livingston United and was replaced in November by David Cowan.

The new manager lost his first three games but Spartans have since won nine of their last ten – the only setback being a 3-2 defeat at Tranent a month ago.

Young said: "If we finish first, second or third it will be a good season for the club and that will be down to Mark Lamb and David Cowan – both of them deserve huge credit."

"Most of the players were with Mark in the amateurs last season and have vindicated the faith he had in them, while David has also done a great job. Indeed, we've really kicked on since he came in."

Young is certainly enjoying his football at the moment, though, by the sounds of things, that has been the case virtually throughout his career.

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He was full time at Falkirk under Jim Jefferies and Billy Brown before moving to Berwick Rangers, where he played for Jimmy Crease and Tom Hendrie.

After a spell in Malta, he came back to Scotland and has played for a host of clubs, including Tranent, Bonnyrigg, Musselburgh, Craigroyston and Edinburgh City.

He added: "I also played for Spartans in the East of Scotland League but I didn't enjoy it there due to the fact they had a rotation system. I need to be playing every week and, at the moment, I'm just loving my football. I enjoy training and love my Saturdays.

"I'm in a team at the moment where all the other guys feel exactly the same and that's the bottom line in my book."

While Tranent boss Brian Johnston has been able to fork out a fair bit of money to assemble his table-topping side, Spartans haven't spent a single penny. Their players don't get paid either but, according to Young, that won't make a single bit of difference tomorrow.

He said: "I don't think many of the Tranent players would come here and play for nothing. Not many players from other teams would either, for that matter.

"There are no financial incentives for us but when that whistle blows at the start of the game it's eleven v eleven – money is not a major issue for us.

"Tranent deserved their win the last time we played but we're a better side now, having really knitted together in the five games we've played since then," said Young.

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"In fact, this is the best team I've played in when it comes to spirit and we have a chance to put the pressure back on Tranent.

"It won't be the end of the world if we don't win but we'll be in a good position if we do beat Tranent."

According to his manager, Young's impact on the Spartans team this season has been invaluable and is one of the reasons Cowan believes his side can chalk up the nine straight wins they'll probably need to be crowned champions.

"Kenny's energy and enthusiasm are amazing, while his fitness levels are as good as anyone else in the team," said the Spartans boss.

"He bought into what I was trying to do and that was very important because he's an influential player. He's a credit to himself and has been a massive help to me.

"Tomorrow is a massive game for both us and Tranent. They'll know that they can put us out of the reckoning by beating us but our destiny is still in our own hands.

"If we can win our nine remaining games, starting against Tranent, then we can claim the title."