The 2017/18 season was one to remember for Fairmuir 2002s, as they completed the league and cup double undefeated.
YFS caught up with manager Graham Buchan and captain Mark McCrory to find out about their super season:
Fairmuir watched rivals Dryburgh complete a domestic clean sweep in the 2016/17 campaign and manager Buchan admits his sides aims for the new season were simple.
“The aim this season was to try and win at least one bit of silverware and to give 100% every game.
“We started off pre-season with a strong squad, but we decided to go with a new set up, a new formation.
“It took a while for the lads to get used to but after a tough pre-season of fixtures and after four or five league games, the boys really started to kick on.
“In terms of progression; the biggest progression was the cohesion of the squad. There were no longer any individuals on the pitch. The team played as one and fought for each other.”
As well as long-term rivals Dryburgh, newcomers to the league Jeanfield Blacks were fancied to challenge for the titles, and captain McCrory felt the Perth side were more than a match for his Fairmuir teammates.
“Our toughest opponents this season, for me, would have to be Jeanfield. One of our first games of the season was against them and we grabbed a 3-3 draw, but it gave us a taster of what they were about, and they weren’t messing about in the league.
“They were there to prove themselves. Our second meeting with Jeanfield was at home at the closing end of the season and they proved to be tough opponents as predicted but our boys didn’t give up and were able to come out of the game with a narrow 1-0 win.”
Buchan added, “I’d have to say Logie, Ferry and Jeanfield were all difficult games. They are all very good teams in their own way with different strengths throughout their teams.”
One of the few games played over the winter months saw Ferry knock Fairmuir out of the John Clark Motors Cup. The effects of the winter weather left Fairmuir with half of their league fixtures left to play over the final six weeks of the season, while rivals Dryburgh remained unbeaten at the top of the table.
Buchan was delighted with how his side navigated their hectic end to the season.
“The boys were simply outstanding in the final few months. We were low on numbers due to injuries etc. as we went into most games with a maximum of one sub. This was a massive challenge.
“On top of three games a week, most players also had big games for their school in between. It was clear to see in some games that we were fatigued but the fighting spirit took over that saw us grind out important results to produce an outstanding season.”
After 17 league fixtures, the season climaxed in a winner takes all encounter between Fairmuir and Dryburgh at South Road.
“To be honest, there wasn’t much of a team talk needed before this match. This game meant everything to the players, to the supporters and to the coaches” admitted Buchan.
“I told the boys not to go home after the match thinking, ‘What if I had done that? What if I had just pushed myself that little bit harder?’
“I told them to have no regrets, to give their absolute everything from the first whistle to the last whistle and not to let their heads go down if we conceded and went behind because we are capable of scoring at any stage of a match.
“They had the instruction of ending the match as league champions.”
The pre-match huddle is something of a Fairmuir trademark, and McCrory provided some insight into what he said to his teammates before the biggest game of their season.
“When it came to the Dryburgh game I was reassuring the boys that we had nothing to lose, so we go out there and give it our all. In the huddle I was trying to motivate each of my players to help them get out at the other end as winners and lift the league shield.”
The match between the two longstanding foes proved to be a classic, as Fairmuir, inspired by Jake Grady’s hat trick fought back from 3-1 down to win 4-3 and clinch the title.
Both McCrory and Buchan look back on the Dryburgh game as the highlight of their season.
McCrory said, “The feeling of beating Dryburgh in the last game of the season, coming back from 3-1 down with 20 minutes to go was just unreal.
“You couldn’t ever imagine it in those circumstances but the Fairmuir boys showed fight and pride for the badge and gave it their all to came out on top.”
Buchan added, “To win the league by beating our rivals was an amazing feeling. Our whole season boiled down to this one game, all or nothing. A great achievement!”
The season wasn’t done there for Fairmuir, with the Queen’s Jubilee Cup quickly added to the trophy cabinet after a convincing 5-1 win over Ferry.
Glenrothes Strollers denied Fairmuir a shot at the treble with a penalty shootout win in the semi-final of the East Region Cup, but the Glenrothes result didn’t take the shine off the season for McCrory.
“To win the Queen’s Jubilee cup in the fashion we did, the boys should be pleased at the way the season has played out.
“Lastly, to get put out in the semi-finals of the East Region Cup is obviously heart-breaking but we couldn’t have asked anymore from the boys, they gave it their all and that’s all there is to it.”
Buchan was quick to emphasise that Fairmuir’s success was down to strength of the squad.
He said, “I honestly couldn’t single any player out. There were so many top performers throughout the season; every player deserves a massive mention.”
McCrory added, “There are many key players that I can think of for being our unsung hero, but overall Fraser Nelson takes the cake for me.
“He’s been improving massively throughout the season just progressing every game he played. Without him our team could have been in real danger throughout the season.”
Having won back the title from Dryburgh, Buchan is expecting them to be challenging his side on all fronts once again but knows his players will be ready for the challenge.
“They have a good strong squad throughout and they will be determined to get back on top.
“There is a great confidence amongst the squad and we will only get stronger. We don’t think we are better than anyone else; the players go into every game with the same mentality, just to give 100% and enjoy the game.”
For both manager and captain, 2017/18 is their second invincible season, and both believe that this season’s achievements top those of the 2013/14 campaign.
McCrory said, “Obviously being part of that invincible 2013/14 season was an unforgettable moment. However, it doesn’t come close to comparing with this seasons efforts and outcome.
“To be unbeaten in the league with the best defensive record, it’s a tremendous achievement for the boys and they should be really proud of their contributions.”
Buchan added, “The first season was unforgettable with excellent life long memories for everyone involved.
“This season for me though tops the first season for the simple fact of how hard and competitive the season has been. Every game is a difficult game with so many good teams throughout the league.”
Both McCrory and Buchan had a final message for the Fairmuir squad and supporters.
McCrory said, “I’d like to say how proud I am of each one of my teammates and coaches. None of it would have been possible if it wasn’t for all the time the coaches put in to get us where we needed to be, and our supporters have been brilliant throughout the season.”
Buchan added, “Thank you to everyone who pulled on the Fairmuir jersey this season! Each and every one of you have really been outstanding and it’s been a privilege to share this season’s success.
“We go again next season!”
Fairmuir 2002s Double Winning Squad: Cameron Hendry, Evan Adam, Mark McCrory, Alex Stewart, Ben Tolmie, Logan Bonella, Ross Hazel, Jake Grady, Jamie Timmons, Rory Jagusinski, Ethan Samson, Ethan Tosh, Kane Hynes, Fraser Nelson, Matthew Nelson, Nairn Bonner, Seff Mohammed