The University of Stirling’s men’s football team have capped an incredible season by winning their third title of an outstanding eight-competition campaign in dramatic fashion.
In their 71st – and final – match of the season, the students won the East of Scotland Qualifying Cup for the first time ever, with an extra time winner against an impressive Sauchie Juniors side.
The 3-2 victory sealed a hat-trick of trophies for Chris Geddes’ side in 2022/23 – following title wins in the British and Universities Colleges Sport (BUCS) Premier North Division and the Queen’s Park Shield. The successful campaign also saw the team make history in the fourth round of the Scottish Cup, playing Dundee United at Tannadice with the support of football legends Sir Alex Ferguson and Lilian Thuram; secure a brilliant fourth-place finish in the highly competitive Lowland League; and narrowly miss out on the BUCS National Championship title.
The curtain was brought down on the memorable campaign with a close encounter against Sauchie Juniors in the 114th final of the East of Scotland Qualifying Cup. In front of a 500-strong crowd at Armadale’s Volunteer Park on Sunday afternoon, Stirling struck twice in the first period – through forward Cameron McKinley and midfielder Ben Heal – giving them a 2-0 lead at the break. However, a dominant second half performance from their opponents saw Sauchie draw level in injury time.
But it was Stirling striker Ben Maciver-Redwood who settled the encounter in extra time – heading home with 99 minutes on the clock. The students held out and lifted the trophy aloft in front of their vocal support who had made the journey from Stirling.
Club captain James Berry – who is set to graduate this summer – finished the season the club’s top scorer with 23 goals from midfield. Speaking after his final match, he said: “I didn’t think we were at our best today – and I have to say fair play to Sauchie because they made it really difficult for us to do what we’re good at – but in cup finals it’s all about the end result. I’m absolutely delighted that we managed to get over the line.”
He continued: “In terms of the season overall, it’s personally been the most enjoyable that I’ve ever had – and I’m sure all the boys would echo that. We’ve had some incredible experiences – like the Scottish Cup games – and made memories for life, so it’ll be sad to move on.
“I’d like to thank all the coaches and people behind the scenes for all their hard work, as our success this season wouldn’t have been possible without them.”
Head Coach Chris Geddes said: “To say I’m proud of our performance today – and over the course of the entire season – is an understatement.
“Sauchie posed a real challenge to us today and our players showed great character to push on and score the winner after the game was levelled in the final moments.
“It is a superb end to a special season – one in which we’ve had lots of ups, and a few downs. Not many teams can claim to play more than 70 matches in a season – and this group of players have given me everything and I thank them for their hard work, dedication and positive attitude over the past year.
“We have several players graduating this summer – so we wish them well as they move onto the next chapters of their lives, pursuing careers both on and off the pitch. For those staying, we now have a short window to enjoy some downtime, rest, reflect and recharge ahead of pre-season, which is due to begin in just a few weeks’ time.”
Cathy Gallagher, Executive Director of Sport at the University of Stirling, said: “Once again, the University of Stirling men’s first football team has shown why we are Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence – putting on a brilliant performance against a talented Sauchie Juniors side to win their third title of the 2022/23 season.
“Our players and coaching staff are a credit to the University, and I wish them my warmest congratulations on an exceptional campaign which has delivered moments that will live long in the memory.”
David Bond, Head of Performance Sport at the University of Stirling, said: “Congratulations to the men’s first football team on what has been an outstanding season. To win three out of the eight competitions they have competed in is phenomenal and we are incredibly proud of the efforts of the players, coaches, and support staff.”
On route to the final, the University beat Craigroyston (3-0), West Calder United (1-0), Blackburn United (3-0), Coldstream (5-2) and Dundonald Bluebell (3-1).
Geddes has been supported this season by assistant Sean Roycroft, coaches Nuno Almeida, David Binnie and Adam Crook, performance analyst Haepyeong Jeong, and a physiotherapy team led by Alan Rankin. The club is supported by a small team of volunteers including club chaplain Gary Caldwell and Jeff Melbourne, and a media team consisting of John Turnbull, Andrew Robson, George Vekic and Greg Christison.
The men’s first team compete in the Lowland League, BUCS Premier North Division, the Scottish Cup, the Lowland League Cup, South Challenge Cup, East of Scotland Qualifying Cup, BUCS British Championships and the Queen’s Park Shield.
The University has six men’s and three women’s football teams – both senior and amateur sides – and all benefit from world-class on-campus facilities, including a state-of-the-art fitness centre. The dedicated football coaches are supported by strength and conditioning experts, physiotherapists, and sports scientists, and the top players have the opportunity to combine their studies with high performance football through a scholarship programme.