Following a season of ups and downs, Dundee West 2003s picked up three trophies and secured their place in next season’s top flight. YFS spoke with manager Eoin Boylan to find out about their super season.
Despite a seventh-place finish in the 2015/16 season, Dundee West saw themselves relegated, but Boylan explains how he and his coaches used this disappointment to create a siege mentality within the squad.
“The boys were disappointed to be relegated and we challenged them to prove to everyone that we should be in the top league.
“We went on a good run near the end of the season to take us away from ninth and tenth. If we won two points more we would have stayed in top league as we would have finished sixth.
“Our main aim was to gain promotion and we would have been delighted to reach a cup final.”
After a strong start to the season, Dundee West suffered a major blow midway through the campaign.
“We made several forced changes to the squad as we lost five players around November time.
“We were delighted to see captain Kyle Geekie sign for Dundee and then four other players decided to leave the club around the same time.
“We brought in forward Luke Miller and defenders Ritchie Grubb and Morgan Harrow.”
It was this period that Boylan felt tested his players the most.
“We faced league leaders Monifieth in early December with only 11 players and lost 4-3.
“A win would have put us a point ahead at the top of the league. The boys gave everything in that game and we were very unfortunate not to take anything out of it.
“The result saw us drop four points behind Monifieth with the same amount of games played. The league was then out of our hands.”
While many players may have buckled under the pressure, the Dundee West boys bounced back in spectacular fashion.
“The following week we faced Riverside with only 10 players, the boys could again could easily have given up but they played the game like we had 12 men winning 5-1 against a tricky side.
“It was probably one of the best performances of the season. They fought for every ball and played some great football.
“We felt this was a huge turning point in the season.
“The new players slowly arrived shortly after that game and the boys went on a fantastic run losing only once in the remaining 18 games of the season.”
Dundee West’s cup runs saw them face fellow treble winners Pitfour, and title contenders Fairmuir, and it was the games against these sides that many of the players found most challenging this season.
Striker Cammy Wilson said: “Fairmuir have been the best team we have faced, they are strong and determined.”
While 40 goal forward Cavan McLaren believed that Pitfour were West’s biggest test.
“Pitfour have good players and they gave us a good fight.”
Pitfour lost just one game in the DS Rennie league this season, but the Wellgate Cup saw Dundee West pick up two victories against them. However, Pitfour were victorious when the sides first clashed early in the season, as Boylan explains.
“We faced Pitfour in the J Duffy Cup quarter finals losing 3-1.
“We had two key players suspended for the game and played one or two boys out of position. We lost the game 3-1 but there was not much between the teams and on the day and Pitfour slightly edged the game by taking their chances.
“When we saw the draw for the Wellgate Cup, the boys were confident they could get a result against Pitfour.
“Both games were great to watch and from a Dundee West perspective the boys again showed how well they can play against the better sides in the league.
“The first game was two weeks prior to the Mac Brown Cup final and the result gave the boys a huge lift going into their first ever final.
“Again, in the second game the boys knew they could win the tie and progress to the final, again they played some great stuff and again deserved the win.”
Against Fairmuir, the matches were even tighter, with both ties going to penalties. The first saw Dundee West edge the shootout 3-2, and the second tie was won 5-3.
“Both games against Fairmuir were fairly even with us just shading the first game in the J Duffy Cup. We felt we should have won the first game in 70 minutes but Fairmuir are a tough side to beat.
“In the first penalty shootout, the boys showed great confidence missing only one penalty from five.
“Our keeper David Boylan was the hero, saving three from five faced.
“In the second game, there was nothing between the two teams on the day as it was a pretty nervous game from both teams.
“Again, in the second shootout the penalty takers were excellent again scoring all five pens. Once again David saved one penalty and was unlucky not to save a second.
“The boys know that there is a good chance that David will save at least one pen in a shootout and as long as they score their pens we have a great chance of winning.”
While much has been made of Dundee West's attacking prowess this season, the players agree that David Boylan was very much the unsung hero of the season.
Forward McLaren said: “David Boylan our keeper has really helped us this season and been one of our best players.”
While one of the squad’s midseason signings Morgan Harrow was especially pleased to have such a reliable keeper behind him.
“If I made any defensive mistakes David was always there to help and stop the goals going in, not just for me but the whole team.”
As well as performing his penalty heroics, Boylan kept 12 clean sheets throughout the season and even played a hand in six goals, assisting five and scoring once. And who said that goalkeepers can’t play football?
As for Eoin Boylan, he emphasised that all of Dundee West’s players have played their part in such a successful season.
“We always say to the boys that we win and lose as a team and there have been a high number of strong individual performances all season.
“Every player in the squad has played a huge part in our success this season.”
Following such a trophy filled campaign, some of the players told us their favourite moments of the season.
For David Boylan, the best moment was: “When we beat Ferry Athletic because we won the treble.”
Morgan Harrow also pinpointed the Wellgate Cup triumph as his moment of the season.
“When we beat Ferry 7-1 and won the Wellgate Cup because it was the first cup final I had played in and we won.”
Midfielder Ryley Duncan bagged a brace that day, and unsurprisingly, it was also his moment of the season.
“My favourite moment was winning the treble and scoring two goals in the final against Ferry.”
Next season, Dundee West will be plying their trade in the top flight. Whether that is an eight-team league or a 15-team league is currently unknown. But whatever the setup is, these players certainly won’t be content with a mid-table finish.
As David Boylan makes clear: “Our aims for next season are to try our best and to win as many matches as we can.”
While for cup final hero Duncan, his sights are set on one of the biggest prizes.
“My aim is to win the regional cup next season and to continue playing together well and enjoy our football.”
Midfielder Keir Skinner clearly doesn’t lack confidence in his teammates.
“We’re aiming to go undefeated and win another treble.”
And as for captain Callum Rae, his message to his teammates was clear.
“Win more trophies.”
With the season finally finished, manager Boylan had a final message for his players and their parents.
“The players have really matured and worked hard this year and fully deserve the success they have had. It has been a magnificent effort from them and we are really proud of them.
“We would like to thank all players, family and supporters for their continued support this year.
“The parents have been a huge help giving the boys their backing and support when it’s needed, turning up week in week out and helping out the team behind the scenes.
“We could not manage without them.”
This Dundee West team will certainly not be taken lightly by any of the top clubs next season. The speed at which they counterattack teams is frightening and their forwards are some of the most clinical at this age group. Add into that a strong defensive unit and a hard-working midfield, it’s clear that all the tools are there for them to continue being successful in the coming years.
Next season, they will be without one of their key players Jamie McCann, who is moving into pro-youth. Numerous managers have described him as the best player in either of the U14 leagues, and having seen him play, it’s easy to understand why. His goals and assists have been crucial to Dundee West’s success this season, and will be difficult to replace in the future, but players moving to pro-youth is the sign of good setup, something that Dundee West clearly have.
As for the rest of this Dundee West squad, many of them have spent all their careers at the club, and have progressed from seven-a-side, into treble winners. There is something nice about seeing their loyalty rewarded and their hard work pay off in such a spectacular fashion. Considering that before this season, they hadn’t played in a cup final, they looked comfortable in a setting where many players freeze and struggle to perform.
Whether or not they will ever repeat this feat is hard to say. They will likely be involved in a four-club race with Pitfour, Arbroath and Fairmuir for the league title, while all the clubs at the 2003 age group are capable of being successful in the cup competitions. But, whatever the coming seasons hold, they have achieved something special this year, and have done it playing the Dundee West way.
Dundee West 2003 treble winning squad: David Boylan, Callum Rae (c), Lee Clark, Jude McIntosh, Cavan McLaren, Ryley Duncan, Logan Smith, Luke Miller, Logan Piggott, Cameron Wilson, Jamie McCann, Joel Grant, Morgan Harrow, Glenn Scott, Keir Skinner, Godswill Oke, Ritchie Grubb