You recently competed in your 200th 1st team match. Can you sum up what this achievement means to you?
It is hard to put in to words to be honest. EUAFC is very close to my heart and it is a massive honour to become a small piece of the clubs long history as one of the most capped players of all time. However, when I look back at my time at the club it will not be the number of games I have played that I remember fondly, but the quality of some of the matches I have been lucky enough to play in and of course, the people I played with.
You have received full blues from the university and represented Scottish Unis. Do you have any advice for the younger players?
I have always wanted to represent Scotland at some level on the football pitch and the day I was selected to play my first competitive match against Irish Colleges was a very proud moment. However, it did not come easily I can assure you. I was not asked to trial in my first year, was unsuccessful in my second season then it was not until my third year of university I successfully navigated the trials and made it in to the squad. I have never looked back since. As recently as last week I was given the prestigious honour of captaining the Scottish University side against Arbroath in a friendly in which we won 2-1. There is no secret I can pass on to the younger guys in the club. It is hard work that will get you there and confidence in your ability. I always believed I was the best goalkeeper in our league; whether that is right or wrong I will let you decide. Perhaps it is the nature of my position but I turn up to every game with a quiet confidence that I am the best goalkeeper and that to score past me you are going to have to produce something very special (unfortunately this is not always the case). Please do not confuse this with arrogance or being stubborn. It is far from it. I have a tremendous amount of respect for my opposition and never take my place in the team for granted. Hard work will take you anywhere you want to go in life. It was no surprise that after spending a large part of my summer between second and third year in the gym doing strength and conditioning with the excellent staff at the CSE that I noticed big improvements in my game. Combine that with a good work ethic at training and a healthy lifestyle off the pitch and you will go far.
What has been your highlight from your time at EUAFC?
It is impossible to pick only one. Winning the Scottish University league and returning the Queen’s Park Shield to its rightful home in the same season we got to the final of the British Championship at Bramall Lane stadium is hard to beat. It is rare to win cups for the University first team and to be a part of a team that won a trophy is very special. Those results have gone down in our clubs history and in doing so have immortalised the squad in EUAFC’s hall of fame. As I have mentioned, earning my first cap for the Scottish University team was a big personal achievement and in 2011 I was part of the squad that won the Home Nations trophy beating Wales, Ireland and drawing with England. Being awarded Players Player and Managers Player of the year for the 2012/13 season was a big surprise and real honour for me. A goalkeeper is often a thankless task and to be recognised by both my team mates and gaffer meant a lot. However, the nature of our club means that my fondest memories are not simply on the pitch. Joining EUAFC is not like joining any other football team. It is like joining a massive family. A major highlight from my 6 years would have to be going on holiday with more than 30 other EUAFC gents to Magaluf in 2010 and Zante in 2013. Although my memory of both trips is a little hazy I am assured I had a fantastic time.
Who is the best player you have played with during your time at EUAFC?
Tough question. There have been some excellent players at EUAFC over the last 6 years. An obvious choice would be James Craigen whom within 2 years of leaving the uni was playing full-time football in the SPL for Partick Thistle. His ego is already big enough so I hope he does not read this interview, but he was technically one of the most gifted players I have played with. He could simply see passes that other players could not and was always happy to receive the ball in any position, regardless of how many men were around him. However, he was allergic to defending, hated tracking back and could not header the ball for fear of ruining his hair so caused me equal amounts of frustration. EUAFC has a history of producing quality defenders and in my opinion Alasdair Mackinnon and Danny Main were 2 of the best centre halves (not full backs as they now like to kid themselves) we have ever had. Where James has style and finesse, these guys have heart and soul. They would run through a brick wall for the team every week if it meant stopping a goal. I remember beating Selkirk 5-0 away from home and in the last minute Danny tracked a man the full length of the pitch after we wasted a corner to make a last ditch challenge clearing the ball off the line to preserve our cleansheet. No one made a big deal of it, and he probably does not even remember the game but for some reason it has always stood out in my mind as everything you would want to be as a footballer. More importantly you could not find nicer guys and they are both 2 of my best friends off the pitch. Our current captain Tim Rawlinson is also up there when I think of the best players I have been lucky enough to play with. The mans commitment to the team, professionalism and ability amazes me. He rarely loses a header, wins tackles he has no right to make and is very good on the ball. He is a fantastic role model and ambassador for the club and is rightly the first team skipper. It is a pleasure to be his vice. He has the respect of all players in the league and if he manages to stay injury free I honestly believe he could make a career in the game.
What brought you to the Uni?
I have wanted to become a doctor for as long as I can remember and knew I wanted to stay in Scotland for my studies. However, Douglas Samuel- EUAFC first team coach at the time I was applying to universities- contacted me after one of his current players was doing a PE placement at my school and saw me in goals for the school football team. Sammy asked if we could meet to discuss what I was doing for football next year as his current goalkeeper was about to leave. I met him and his assistant coach Neil Irvine (ie the legend that is Zorro) at Beanscene at the West End of Princes Street as a scrawny 17 year old boy with my Dad there to hold my hand and ended up signing for the football team before I had even accepted my place at the uni through UCAS. Preseason started in July and freshers week was not until the end of September. I have never looked back since.
How would you describe yourself as a player?
Hard working. Honest. Loud. Demanding. Leader. I would like to think I set a good example for the younger guys in the club and try to be as approachable as possible so that the boys feel they can come to me if they have any worries or concerns. I like to think I know how to get the best out of my players, whether that be shouting and giving them a shake or instead putting an arm around them at the right time.
Who’s the best opponent you have come up against?
Another great question. I have come up against a lot of good teams with a lot of good players. I enjoy our battles with Stirling first team which are always hotly contested. However, Hartpury University of West England, the team we faced in the final of BUCS at Bramall Lane, is probably the best team I have ever played. They were bigger and faster than any opposition I have played against and you could never switch off in goal. In terms of individual opposition, Spartans veteran striker Keith Macleod is exceptional. I dread to think how many goals he has scored against me over the years. The guy is ruthless in the box and to make matters worse he is a gentleman off the pitch so you can’t even hate him for it! Alex King, Spartans centre midfielder in my first couple of years at the Uni was also horrible to play against. The guy was hard as nails and would always dominate whenever we played each other.
What are your hopes for your final season?
I still have a lot I want to achieve. I want to win the Scottish University league, regain the Queen’s Park Shield, win an East of Scotland trophy, and break 215 appearances which we believe is roughly the target to become the most capped player in EUAFC student history. I would also like to play a game for each team in the club which I think would be a big honour and try my best to get to know most of the guys in the other teams. They are the future of my club and so it is important they are taught the values of being an EUAFC club man. Since joining EUAFC the first team dressing room at fortress peffermill has had photos of past players on the walls which I look to for inspiration on match days. I hope that one day a picture of me could make it on to that wall.
Like many of the club, you have a very demanding schedule trying to balance your studies and your football. How do you organize yourself to excel at both?
Desire! If you want something enough you can make it happen. I have never wanted to stop football because of medicine and so I made it happen. I love football and could not imagine my life without it. It is a great distraction from a busy university schedule and is a good way for me to relax and unwind after a long day in the hospital/library. Although I have missed a few training sessions I have rarely let my studies stop me from playing matches. You simply need to plan ahead, manage your time well and make certain sacrifices. For example, staying in to catch up on work when my friends are wanting to head out for a drink in order to afford me the time come match day. I will always be able to have another night out but unfortunately I can see my games at EUAFC counting down in front of me. I need to savour each and every minute.
What are your plans after university?
The next few years for me are going to be quite hectic. I will be working long unsociable hours in the hospital which is going to make it difficult to continue football at a reasonable standard. However, I am hoping to get a junior doctor position around Edinburgh and if so I would like to come to EUAFC training/games whenever I have the time if the club permits.
What would you change about EUAFC if you had the chance?
Why do you love EUAFC?
EUAFC is not just a football club. It is like being part of a massive family steeped in history and tradition. I have played for clubs in the past were you simply turn up, train and play matches and that is it. However, at EUAFC we train together, play together, have meals every Wednesday and Saturday together, help each other out with our studies, and even go on holiday together at the end of the year. I see the boys in the football club more than my girlfriend or family. Thanks to this great club I have made friendships which will last long past my time at university. It has brought me together with people I would otherwise have never even have known and for that I will always be in debt to EUAFC.
How does it feel to be a club legend?
I am extremely flattered when people suggest I am a club legend but I am not sure that is the case. All I have done is play football. People like current committee members Stewart Mackinnon, Allan Chainey and Billy White who already served their time as EUAFC players and now give up their spare time to oversee the running of the club as well as turning up every Saturday to support the team and man the gates and tea room for no financial reward in all weather conditions not judging us whether we win lose or draw are true club legends and I cannot be considered in the same ball park as these men. I am just focussed on trying to be the best club man I can be. Of course, in 10 years time I would love for guys in the club still to be talking about the crazy goalie that made over 200 appearances and broke his nose saving the ball with his face or got concussed more times than he can remember (genuinely) but only time will tell. In 2028 it will be the clubs 150th anniversary where we will no doubt organise a celebratory dinner. I would simply be honoured to make it on to the guestlist for such an event, let alone turn up and be recognised/applauded by EUAFC members past and present.
One club, one love.