ROOKIE boss Ian Gray today looked back at a roller-coaster first year in charge of Junior newcomers Rossvale – and backed his team to rise to new heights.
A quirk of coincidence has him preparing his Bishopbriggs-based club to play Wishaw on Saturday, exactly a year after chalking up a 2-1 victory over the Lanarkshire outfit enabled the new kids on the block to move off bottom rung in the Central Second Division ladder.
Today, Rossvale currently sit third top of the table with 15 points and only three defeats to their name from 10 league fixtures to date. And that is a clear sign of progress.
One-time Glenafton full- back Ian, a member of the Alan Rough steered Glens side that won the Scottish Junior Cup triumph over Tayport in 1993, certainly believes this to be the case.
He said: "Rossvale Juniors have come a long way from those frantic beginnings. We really only had a handful of weeks to put a team together from scratch.
"A few hefty hammerings came our way to start with, but overall I felt the players went on to cope reasonably well with the demands made on them by this level of the game.
"The biggest success story belongs to Ross Hepburn, whose midfield displays earned him a move to Pollok where he continues to hold down a regular start.
"His step up to Junior football's top flight reflects well on Rossvale as a club because it's important for players coming here to know we will not stand in their way if they do well enough to attract signing approaches from bigger name clubs.
"What was a steep learning curve for players also applied to our management team and the very fact only six of the guys remain at the club who started out last season clearly shows it was felt necessary to make strengthening moves.
"A total of 11 new faces were brought on board and our current playing squad is very much on the youthful side with eight or nine of them either teenagers or in their early twenties.
"Results to date and the fact we are already close to matching the points total accumulated for all of last season undoubtedly indicates a better quality of player at the club and we have high hopes of emerging as one of the promotion contenders."
Among the Bishopbriggs side's youngsters catching the eye this season are Andy Collins, 18-year-old Jordan Banks, who was previously on the books of Stirling Albion and midfield loan signing Jack Hamilton from Stenhousemuir.
Team boss Gray added: "The biggest compliment I can pay the new boys is to say they have not looked out of place in any of our games so far.
"Unfortunately, three of them – Niall Crawford, Alan McGraw and Chris Docherty – have picked up injuries which could rule them out for the rest of this season, while another setback has come from our English-born striker Lee Malcher deciding to leave the club to go back and live down south.
"This club is not blessed with transfer funds to go out and bring in replacements.
"However, what we do have going for us at Rossvale is a phenomenal feeder system and the hope is that some of our under-21 side will step up to the mark before too long.
"Bringing through players with strong ties to the club is definitely the way forward and it's encouraging to think we are in a better place than when we started."