The 2017/18 season was one to remember for Kirrie Thistle as they completed a league and cup double.
YFS caught up with manager Chris Kettles and members of the squad to find out more about their super season.
Kirrie’s first season at 11-a-side football saw them finish fourth in the Café Royale League, and manager Kettles is delighted with the progress his players have made over the past 12 months.
“My aims at the start of the season were to improve our passing style to a level that would make us a better team and harder to beat.” He explains.
“They have all progressed so well. It took us ages to decide the Most Improved Player award due to so many of them coming on this season!
“They are getting better technically and learning our style and applying it better, but there’s still lots to improve on with that too.”
Kirrie were the form team in the league as they went on an unbeaten run that stretched seven games, with Broughty United inflicting their first defeat in February.
The two would face off again in the semi-final of the Reilly Falconer Cup seven days later in a match that would prove to be one of Kettles highlights of the season.
“My favourite performance was away to Broughty in the semi-final. The first half display was like nothing I’d ever seen by a team so young!
“They’d beaten us the week before in the league, and to then be 6-0 up at half time, having missed another four or five good chances, was simply unbelievable!
“A day when the boys were quite outstanding!”
Dundee West would be the opponents in the first of Kirrie’s two cup finals, and defender Cammy Simpson was expecting a tight match after the side’s first meeting. He explains “We won 3-2 but it was a very tough game.”
Kirrie did come out on top by six goals to three and it was winger Jake Kettles that grabbed the headlines with two goals and two assists.
Manager Chris was full of praise for the contributions the winger made to the side throughout the campaign.
“He picked up Player’s Player and Supporter’s Player and has also been so important for us. Whether playing centre mid or in attack, he always plays well and scored 30 goals this season. His awareness and ability on the ball is fantastic.”
Defender Simpson also netted in the final, and the manager was full of praise for the central defender.
“He’s one of our centre backs and must be scary to play against! He’s so strong and determined, and always gets the task of marking the opposition’s danger players, which he usually does very well at!”
Kirrie conceded just 15 goals in their 20 league matches, and Kettles was quick to acknowledge the contributions of defender Bradley Milne to the side’s impressive defensive record.
“Bradley is our captain and he picked up Player of the Year as he’s been tremendous for us as sweeper.
“He’s improved so much and reads the game well. Not much gets past him and he’s very important for the way we pass out from the back.”
While Kettles, Simpson and Milne all made telling contributions throughout the campaign, the manager believes that the efforts of Rory Davidson encapsulate what Kirrie’s success had been built on.
“Our regular keeper got injured badly during preseason and we didn’t have a backup. Rory volunteered to go in for as long as I wanted him to and played most of the season there.
“I then changed the goalie with four games to go and his attitude was fantastic, still smiling and being willing to do his bit for the team, wherever that was!”
The final few months of the season saw Kirrie working through their backlog of fixtures.
April and May brought the first Angus derbies of the season as Kirrie took on reigning champions Forfar Boys and Kettles admits there was little between his side and their neighbours.
He said, “Both were very close! They won 2-1 down in Forfar, with two ‘dubious’ penalties! We beat them 1-0 in a very tight game to effectively end their title hopes late in the season.
“My favourite match was probably beating Forfar at home, as that put us in pole position to win the league, and of course it’s a local derby, and we felt hard done by against them twice before!”
Amidst their league fixtures was a second cup final of the season as Kirrie returned to North End Park to take on title rivals Celtic Boys.
It wasn’t Kirrie’s day as they went down 4-0 despite Davidson putting on one of the goalkeeping displays of the season, and captain Milne admits that Celtic were worthy winners on the day.
He said, “We played well against them in the league by beating them and we also beat them in a semi-final, but in the cup final we weren’t at our game and they played much better.”
There was no hangover in the league as Kirrie kept up their fine form, eventually clinching the title with a 3-0 win against Brechin.
With Celtic Boys and Forfar both three and five points behind them respectively, Kettles is expecting another closely run title race next season.
“It has to be Celtic and Forfar again. Finishing second and third shows they’re the closest to us.
“Celtic strengthened their team during the season, and Forfar will try to do the same, as I know their manager is trying to get some of my players!
“We’ll just be along similar lines, and try to improve the players we’ve got, although I wouldn’t be surprised if the pro youth teams try for a couple of our players again.”
As for the squad, Cammy Simpson is aiming for “To have more clean sheets.”, while Jake Kettles is hoping to “Be more consistent throughout the season.”
After tasting success, the captain is hoping to “Win the league again and get to more cup finals.”
Kirrie Thistle 2004s Double Winning Squad: Rory Davidson, Dagan Bell, Connor Smeaton, Cammy Simpson, Logan Richardson, Jake Kettles, Kian Martin, Archie McLean, Robbie Waddell, Sam Ellis, Keir Crighton, Sam Murray, Zak Innes, Thomas Duffy, Bradley Milne