Student footballers from the University of Stirling are aiming to make history this weekend as they take on Elgin City in the third round of the William Hill Scottish Cup.
The men’s first team – who have never previously reached the third round – are bidding to become the first ever university side to progress to the fourth round of the competition, where they could draw Scottish Premiership opponents, including Celtic, Rangers, Hibs or Hearts.
Chris Geddes, men’s football head coach at the university, said that, while supporters are dreaming of glamour ties in the next round, his team – currently 13th in the Lowland League – are fully focused on the challenge posed by Elgin, who are fifth in Ladbrokes League 2, at Forthbank Stadium tomorrow.
“The feeling in the squad is great and our preparations are no different from normal – but everybody here knows how big this game is,” said Geddes. “This is our biggest game of the season so far – and, for some members of the team, it will be the biggest game that they’ve ever played in.
“It is going to be a tough match; Elgin are a semi-professional team with seasoned players who have played at the top level. We know it’s going to be difficult, so we are going to give them the respect that they are due – but we are also going out there confident that we can get a result for ourselves, for the University, and for our family and friends.”
Asked what a win would mean to the team, Geddes added: “You can dare to dream – and there’s nothing wrong with that – but we have to keep that in check, respect Elgin and focus on Saturday. It is already a great achievement for this team – a group of students – to make the third round of the Scottish Cup. For me, if we were to qualify for the fourth round, it would be an unbelievable achievement.”
The team overcame two Highland League sides in the first two rounds of the competition. In their first-round match at Forthbank they won 2-1 against Keith, thanks to first-half goals from Blair Oliver Lyons and Kieran Hall.
Geddes’ side then travelled to Princess Royal Park in Banff to take on Deveronvale. Lewis Bonar gave Stirling the lead from the penalty spot on 60 minutes, before Deveronvale equalised just four minutes later. But Dominic Paul Slattery sent Stirling marching into the third round with another 2-1 win when he slotted home at the back post.
Club captain Lewis Hunter is confident that the players can continue their excellent cup form when they take to the pitch.
“The boys are confident and we believe that we can get a positive result,” Hunter said. “It’s a big occasion for the University and everybody is looking forward to the game. This is the furthest the University has got in the competition – so it’s one of the biggest games that we have played in.
“But we have a good squad and it’s a cup game, so we know that anything can happen. We are working hard in training this week, and we will hopefully take that into the game on Saturday. We have to be confident after the way we have played in the last two rounds.
“We are fully focused on the Elgin match but, of course, it would be brilliant if we could qualify for the next round. We could get anybody in the hat – like Celtic or Rangers, or another big team.”