Whitehill WELFARE, 15 years ago this weekend, had drawn the Scottish Cup holders Celtic at home and played the most famous game in their history at Easter Road in the third round on Sunday, January 28, 1996.
The 0-3 result does not tell half the story of what was a triumph for all fourteen Whitehill players, their management team of David Smith and Graeme Woodward, and especially for their goalkeeper Scott Cantley, a postman who denied the might of Celtic's attacks on numerous occasions.
"It was not until just before the kick-off when the referee blew his whistle and called forward our captain David Millar and the Celtic captain Paul McStay to toss the coin that I realised the enormity of the whole occasion," recalled Cantley. "In the early part of the game all I wanted was a touch of the ball or a routine save. It happened when Pierre van Hooijdonk had a shot from the edge of the penalty box which I held comfortably. There was a huge roar of approval from our supporters and that boosted my confidence."
Whitehill had qualified to play Celtic by virtue of winning a second round replay 2-1 away against Highland League club Fraserburgh, with the third round draw already having paired the Rosewell side with the Glasgow giants.
"It was a terrible day and we had the elements against us in Fraserburgh," said Cantley. "I thought that if we go in 0-0 at half-time then that would be good. As it happened we led 1-0, then 2-0 and although Fraserburgh scored a late goal we wanted a result more than them."
The following week Whitehill lost 3-2 to Civil Service Strollers and Cantley admitted: "I had a nightmare. I was not allowed to play my normal game and from early on my performance regressed. To be honest, I think that most of our minds were drawn to the forthcoming Celtic game.
"On the Sunday morning of the game against Celtic we went to the George Hotel for a light lunch and on the way to Easter Road the Celtic team bus passed us and we were all waving at them!"
"Having eased ourselves into the game we lost a goal just before half-time when Van Hooijdonk scored. Then I remember our substitute Ricky Smith hitting the outside of the post which raised both ours and the fans' expectations. However, I think that incident upset Celtic who were suddenly camped in our penalty box for the last 15 minutes and Simon Donnelly and Van Hooijdonk again made the final score 3-0. At the end of the game I got a hug from Van Hooijdonk who said that I had played very well."
Cantley was awarded the Tennent's Man of the Match honour and now the 44-year-old, who is the goalkeeping coach with Whitehill Welfare having only hung up his gloves three seasons ago, concluded: "If I am being honest that was the biggest game that I ever played in and the one I will always be remembered for but it really was about a fantastic Whitehill Welfare team."
The Whitehill manager for that memorable occasion was David Smith who added: "On the Saturday immediately before the game the following day all of the team went to Easter Road to watch Hibs play Kilmarnock in their third-round tie, a game which Hibs lost 2-0. We also kept getting updates on the Keith versus Rangers tie - a game which Rangers won 10-1 - and colleagues of mine at work were saying that Whitehill would suffer a similar fate. However, on the day we performed really well against a Celtic side which treated us with respect and they had to work hard to score their goals.
"My abiding memory is that at the end of the game our players walked towards our huge support and threw their strips to the crowd. Also, Pierre van Hooijdonk asked Ian 'Bomber' Brown who was marking him if he was a full-time player. Bomber replied 'yes, every Monday night for two hours!'. All of our players were prepared to listen and they all played, including the three substitutes, to the peak of their performances.
Whitehill Welfare: Scott Cantley, Stewart Purves, Raleigh Gowrie, Willie Bennett, Derek Steel, David Millar, Ross Middlemist, John Bird, Mike Sneddon, Ian Brown, Lawrie Tulloch. Subs: Jamie O'Rourke, Darren Cameron, Ricky Smith.
Celtic: Gordon Marshall, Jackie McNamara, Tosh McKinlay, Tom Boyd, John Hughes, Peter Grant, Matin Wieghorst, Paul McStay, Pierre van Hooijdonk, Andy Walker, John Collins. Subs: Simon Donnelly, Brian O'Neil, Brian McLaughlin.
Referee: L. Thow (Prestwick)