In a season where one of the longest-standing sporting curses was erased from memory and Hibernian won the Scottish Cup, St Peter’s FC under 17s could finally also claim their spot amongst Scotland’s elite. After so many near misses and promising runs, it was their turn to finally lift the Scottish Youth FA Cup for the 2015-2016 season.
The success didn’t stop at that cup win though, as they fought their way to the Paisley Johnstone and District league, topping the table with 104 points and averaging nearly four goals a game. Remarkably though, they only secured the league title on the final day of the season, with a goalless draw against local rivals and nearest challengers, Rutherglen, who they had faced a number of times over the course of the season.
Going into that last-day title decider, St Peter’s had run out winners in their two cup meetings earlier in the season, with the first league clash between the two also ending in a stalemate. Coach John Dalziel spoke exclusively to Youth Football Scotland to describe his side’s emotions as they prepared for such a big match; “We went into the game in confident mood, we have been in this position a number of times over the years with league deciders and cup finals so having that experience certainly helped.”
He added: “We also knew how Rutherglen would approach the game, the boys knew of Rutherglen’s strengths and how we could get at them in the final third. Although we only needed a point to win the league, we set out to win the game and as the game went on we created a number of chances to do so, but in the end the draw was good enough to clinch the 4th consecutive league trophy.”
However, Dalziel describes the triumphant Scottish Cup campaign as his personal “highlight of the season”. Considering the previous disappointment his side had to endure; exiting the competition in the fifth round in the previous four years; it’s difficult to blame him.
Their success in the biggest cup of them all is perhaps even more special when you take into account the sides that they had to overcome to get there, knocking out some of the country’s best; such as Hutchison Vale and Fraserburgh Link-Up; along the way, as well as edging past a talented Airdrie side in the final on penalties.
It was then at the Excelsior Stadium where St Peter’s put their previous misfortunes behind them and finally got their hands on that elusive trophy. After 90 of normal time, and a gruelling period of extra time, penalties was the only way to determine the winner. A series of fantastic saves from goalkeeper Ryan Mclaren gave Thomas Cruden the chance from the spot, and he was never going to pass up such an opportunity, slotting the ball to the opposition keeper’s left.
As well as that, St Peter’s also had a regional cup win to celebrate and top off the perfect season with. After Thomas Cruden scored both of his side’s goals to take Hillwood to a 2-2 draw and penalties, it was the double act of Cruden and McLaren who once again turned the penalty shootout and cup final in their favour to complete a glorious treble.
Dalziel believes that it is the minor details that separates the winners and losers, and his side are well-experienced in being the former; “The boys have a winning mentality and have the experience of winning a number of trophies over the past 4 seasons, they never know when they are beat and that is a fantastic quality to have.”. he said.
“We have a fairly settled squad with the core of the side being together for a few years. As well as talent, it is equally important that the boys have the personality and the work ethic to compliment what we already have in the squad”.
Ryan McLaren’s heroic efforts in goal and great contribution to the cup wins were acknowledged at the end of the campaign, being awarded the Player of the Year award. Team captain Niall Herron and defender Darren Robertson both had exceptional seasons in their own right, picking up the Player’s Player of the Year award and Parent’s Player of the Year award respectively.
Congratulations to St Peter’s FC Under 17s on a memorable treble. Regional Cup, Scottish Cup and PJ&DYFL League winners.