Blair Tolmie has been on the books at both Hibernian and Celtic but he hopes that the biggest game of his football career has yet to come.
Nephew of Alex Cropley, the Spartans centre back came through the ranks at Hibs with the likes of Paul Hanlon and Lewis Stevenson but, while they enjoyed longevity at Easter Road, Tolmie was cast aside by Mixu Paatelainen.
“I was signed when Tony Mowbray was manager and got to train with the first team. That was an enjoyable time. The training was great and when you’ve been signed straight from school, you think you will always be a professional footballer. But it’s cut-throat and it doesn’t always work out. It changed a bit under John Collins but I think he still liked me. Mixu wasn’t a fan, though, and you have to accept that.”
Released, he was picked up by Celtic after accepting an invitation from former Hibs coach John Park to play in a bounce game and doing enough to convince the then-manager Mowbray to give him a shot at Parkhead.
It was a case of heart ruling head, though, according to the 28-year-old. “Looking back, I probably shouldn’t have taken the deal. I don’t think there are many stories of someone being released by Hibs and then going on to play for Celtic the next season. I was unlikely to break through and should have been more realistic. I probably should have gone somewhere else but I was a Celtic supporter growing up and when I got that opportunity, I couldn’t turn it down. When I was there, guys like Robbie Keane came in. There were some top players and I can look back and say ‘well, at least I gave it a shot’.”
There were appearances in pre-season friendlies, against the likes of St Pauli and AZ Alkmar, but the lack of first-team football means Tolmie does not have the kind of experience many of his Spartans team-mates enjoyed, with several featuring in notable cup runs, facing Premiership and Championship opposition, or facing Rangers, in front of crowds of 40,000, as they moved up through the leagues.
“When I look back I can’t really think of big games I have played in like some of the other guys. But I’m hoping we can do something in the Irn-Bru Cup or the Scottish this season and get a tie against a big club.”
Spartans host Linfield in today’s Irn-Bru Cup tie at Ainslie Park and Tolmie says it is a game they are looking forward to. “We all know the last time Linfield were in Scotland they were playing Celtic in Europe, and when you look at the way Celtic have been playing, if someone offered me a 6-0 aggregate over two games against them, I’d take that,” he added. “So we know Linfield are a decent team and they will be tough to beat but we will give it our best shot.”