Talbot tiler Colin Spence relishing his chance to trade blows with part-time painter Ian Black

AUCHINLECK Talbot midfielder Colin Spence is looking forward to getting up close and personal with Hearts’ Ian Black during this afternoon’s Scottish Cup tie at Tynecastle.

Black was the target of a few bone-crunching tackles from Hibs players during Monday’s Edinburgh derby at Easter Road, and the man who resorted to some part-time painting during Hearts’ wages saga responded at the end of his side’s 3-1 win by lifting his strip to declare: “I’ll paint this place maroon”.

Spence, a tiler to trade joked: “Who knows, I might be able to talk him into a business arrangement. I could tile rooms and in his new guise, Black could paint them, so I might have a word with him about this.”

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Today’s kick-off cannot come quickly enough for the man from Dreghorn. He claims to still be sleeping well, but concedes the excitement is building, in spite of Talbot’s efforts to treat the big game as: “just another fixture”.

Only it isn’t, and hasn’t been since, whilst in the midst of tiling the bathroom in a house in Maybole, the house-holder shouted up to him: “You’ve got Hearts, at Tynecastle”.

“I didn’t believe him at first, but, now today’s come around and I’m looking forward to the match, because, it’s a chance to test myself against the best, although I’m a wee bit disappointed that Ryan Stevenson, who I played against at school, is unlikely to be in the Hearts’ side,” Spence continued.

Spence has previous Scottish Cup experience. As a trainee at Gretna he sat on the bench on a couple of occasions, under the Under-21 players rule. He actually made his Gretna debut at Hampden, against Queen’s Park, in front of 700 fans, but the arrival of the likes of Steven Tosh as Gretna spent big meant the end of his Rydale dreams, and, while he watched them run Hearts close in the 2006 Scottish Cup final, his concentration then was on the Junior Cup final, a week later, in which he helped Talbot beat Bathgate Thistle.

“I came here on a short-term deal from Gretna, and I’m coming up on seven years here,” Spence revealed. “I have happy memories of Gretna; we were well looked after, living in flats in Carlisle, while Brooks Mileson was great, he even paid for me to have my car repaired after a crash; and playing the likes of Darlington and Sunderland’s Academy side was great experience. I know Hearts’ Danny Grainger from my Gretna days, so I am looking forward to catching up with him this afternoon.

“But, I’ve had some great days at Auchinleck, three Junior Cup wins, league successes, although there have been bad days too, such as when I broke my leg against Cumnock and so had to sit out our last tilt at the Scottish Cup, when we lost to Stirling Albion.

“This afternoon is the biggest game in the club’s history and I, the other players and our two to three thousand fans are all going to enjoy the day. I’ve got 15 members of my extended family going and I hope we can show that the juniors contribute to Scottish football.

“I honestly think Talbot could compete in the SFL and today is our chance to show this belief to a wider audience.”

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Meanwhile, Talbot left-back Gordon Pope is also looking forward to catching up with old team-mate Grainger, even though the Hearts defender will be on the sidelines today nursing an injury.

Pope, a 22-year-old health and fitness student at Kilmarnock College, had his chance of football glory when he joined Dundee United straight from school. During his time as a trainee at Tannadice alongside the likes of David Goodwillie, Keith Watson and Johnny Russell, he formed a full-back partnership in the reserves with Grainger. His senior career was derailed by breaking the same bone in his foot on three separate occasions, and he is still upset at how it ended. “Craig Levein released me by letter, he didn’t do it face-to-face, which was brutal in the extreme”, Pope recalls. “But, I still think, if I get the chance, I can do a job at least at SFL level.”

Pope admits he never bought into the: “This is a good time to get Hearts” feeling which arose when the draw was made just over six weeks ago. With the way Hearts’ fortunes have improved since then, he acknowledges this game will be even more difficult.

But he is looking forward to the challenge of trying to curb the likes of David Templeton and is not too concerned that Talbot have had a few games called off since the draw was made. “We will get through it on adrenaline, plus the backing of the 2,500 to 3,000 fans we will take to Edinburgh,” he added. “We are all confident we can put up a good show this afternoon.”