Heriot-Watt University Firsts completed the double in the BUCS competition this season. Watt clinched the Division 2A Championship way back in February when they disposed of a University of Stirling Thirds team 5-1. To add to this, Watt retained the BUCS Scottish Championship Cup with another impressive scoreline, 5-1.
Head coach of Heriot-Watt University Football Club, Banji Koya, expressed his joy in being crowned the champions.
“As a group, we are naturally delighted to be champions. Most pleasing part was the manner in which we achieved it. Maintaining our playing style and showing humility in our journey.”
To win the league is no easy feat, but to win it that early in the season and remain unbeaten makes the achievement even more impressive. Banji claimed that the heartbreak of last season, drove the team on to win it this year.
“Our expectations to win the league was determined when we drew 1-1 with Glasgow Uni (last season champions) on our ground, which gave them the championship and dented our hopes. We as a group decided on that day that our expectations was to win the league this year. From the first day we got in, the players, old and new, have all embraced the pressure and delivered in style.”
In terms of the performance of the team, the head coach was full of praise for his players, giving a shout out to the first-year players who were prominent in the squad.
“I mean this, I am honestly a fan first, then a coach due to the way they have performed. The performance level has been extremely high, even when we drew our first game against UWS, we remained calm. Another pleasing aspect - this season I decided to go with a lot of first years in the first team, they have been quick learners and have embraced our system of play but most importantly they have been good around the group. This bodes well for the club's future."
The unbeaten run was hanging by a thread when the Watt travelled up the coast to rivals St Andrews. The team found themselves 2-0 down after the first twenty minutes but fought back to clinch an important victory.
“The most pleasing moment was our game against our biggest rivals St. Andrews away. We won 4-3 after being 2-0 nil down after 20 minutes, 3-2 down with five minutes to go and scored with the last kick of the ball, really boosted our confidence. Our marksman and captain Anton Dowds scoring a great hat-trick.
As with almost every team, injuries are bound to take their toll at one point in the season, but Banji believes that after being faced with that problem, the team proved their worth and showed the determination to be champions.
“Our magical moment was away to Stirling in our 6th game of the season. We were down to bare bones, players playing out of position, five minutes for a warm up and on a difficult pitch. 0-0 with ten minutes left and young player Mathew Law - making his debut - came on and scored two goals to win the match 2-0. In that moment I knew we would win the league.
“In our last match against Stirling to win the league, to be 4-0 nil up at half time in a such a high-pressured game and to then put in one the best performances seen at HWUFC says a lot about the players. I can't praise them highly enough. We won 5-1”
The mentality of the team was put under pressure for most games, with last minutes goals and big chances being common. But a particular win against Aberdeen Uni stands out for Banji.
“Tough test moment of the year has to be Aberdeen away 2-1, for anyone involved in BUCS knows how difficult this is. I have been involved but as a player and coach.
"This was the toughest yet, Aberdeen posed us a lot of difficulty in their approach to the game both physically and mentally, but we stood up to it. Our goalkeeper (Calum Reid) made a great save in the last minute to preserve our three points.”
With Watt being the league champions, they will play in Division 1A next season, the top division in the Scottish conference. But Banji expects it to be a challenging test and his aim is to stay up.
“The aim for next season is to stay in the Division 1A which is going to be difficult due to many of our players moving on (graduating) and playing in a very competitive league. It's one we are looking forward to and am sure our players will embrace the challenge. We will aim to maximise everything within our control to achieve it.”
An impressive season to say the least for the Watt Firsts, to go the season unbeaten as well as winning the league and retain the Scottish Student Sport Conference Cup. This will no doubt make them a formidable force for next season with the quality of players in the first team as well as the momentum and confidence they will have gained from winning the league and the cup.
Next season the Edinburgh outfit will be playing the likes of rivals Edinburgh University Firsts and Glasgow Uni Firsts, a step up for the Watt team but one they will be relishing and the opportunity to retain the Conference Cup for a third consecutive year.