Highland hike for Hawick

After a surprise win at fellow Borders club Berwick in the Scottish Cup, Hawick Royal Albert now travel to Elgin for Saturday’s third-round fixture. Victory could mean a glamour tie with a Premiership club. Tony Dawber speaks to Hawick fan Steven Drummond.

Ninety minutes away from a potential Scottish Cup tie with Celtic or Rangers, grandly titled Hawick Royal Albert FC travel to Elgin on Saturday for the biggest game in the club’s 70-year history.

Making the six-hour journey from the rugby country of the Scottish Borders to the most northerly league ground in the UK will be an intrepid band of supporters who followed Hawick to Edinburgh and Berwick in previous rounds.

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Destination Elgin: Borough Briggs, home of Elgin City

A first-half hat-trick from former Berwick striker Josh Morris allowed Hawick to win the Borders derby and gain passage to the Highlands. At stake on Saturday is a place in January’s fourth round, when all 12 clubs from Scotland’s Premiership enter, as well as holders Hibernian.

‘Hawick have finally got competitive against the teams who were demolishing them not long ago,’ says long-time supporter Steven Drummond.

‘The move from the East of Scotland League to the Lowland League has shown what a vast improvement this club has made.’

Not bad for a town synonymous rugby union. Hawick was the home of revered commentator Bill McLaren, ‘The Voice of Rugby’, and renowned British Lion Jim Renwick.

Alongside the rugby club’s Mansfield Park is modest, picturesque Albert Park, home of Hawick Royal Albert FC. Picturesque but sometimes flooded –the River Teviot alongside has been known to burst its banks, causing loyal volunteers to rush out and repair it in time for match day.

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All hands on deck: Another wet day at Hawick Royal Albert

With an uphill battle to attract players and fans to their remote, thinly populated town, Hawick began to look elsewhere for staff. ‘In the past, The Albert struggled through sheer lack of quality players interested in turning out for their home-town team,’ explains Drummond. ‘Meanwhile, the standard of football has improved. This has resulted in the club using a management team and recruiting players from Edinburgh.’

As Drummond points out: ‘A lot of people would agree that local players would improve crowds but it works the other way round, too. If you start winning and playing attractive football, that’s what people want to see. Attendances have improved slightly and it’s good to see people of all ages supporting the team.

While rugby still dominates, local media coverage of Hawick RA is up.

These days, membership of the Lowland League brings with it the chance of promotion to the Scottish Football League via the new pyramid system – though this is unlikely to happen for Hawick in 2016-17.

For the moment, Hawick’s focus is very much on the trek north to Elgin – and the chance of a glamour tie in January.

Elgin City-Hawick Royal Albert, Borough Briggs. Scottish Cup, 3pm, Saturday November 26.

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