McDonald hopes withering EK blossom after Lanark tie

LANARK UNITED boss Tam McDonald is vowing to boost his side's Central First Division step-up hopes by putting one over on his first club East Kilbride Thistle on Saturday.

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Lanark boss Tam McDonald will face his first club EK Thistle
Lanark boss Tam McDonald will face his first club EK Thistle

An improving Yowes host the league bottom markers and Rambo insists there is no room for sentiment given his focus is on picking up three points to leapfrog Larkhall Thistle into third-top spot.

It's 31 years since Tam first donned a Jags strip in a game against Forth Wanderers and he cannot fathom how his former club have been allowed to plummet to the depths of despair.

Relegation at the end of this season is a certainty even at the halfway stage in their league campaign. Even their faithful fans believe there is every chance Thistle will fail to pick up a single league point.

Indeed there are growing fears for the club's very existence if their freefall from grace continues much longer.

The Lanark gaffer said: "It's absolutely shameful that the only semi-professional team in the sixth-biggest town in Scotland is in such a state.

"Back when I signed, Thistle had just been crowned league champions and a year later team captain Joe Reilly was parading around Ibrox with the Scottish Junior Cup.

"The celebrations afterwards were attended by all the local dignitaries from East Kilbride Council and the Development Cooperation at the expense of rank and file supporters yet none of these bigwigs are to be seen anywhere near the Showpark now that the club is in deep trouble.

"The biggest problem is the ground itself which is like a building site both inside and in the immediate vicinity. There is no doubt a good playing surface and dressing room facilities are a big help when it comes to enticing new players to sign.

"It speaks volumes that when I initially took charge at Lanark that five players – David Middleton, Paul Hughes, Alan Smith, Gary Bryson and David Roome – made the journey week in and week out from East Kilbride.

"The same situation continues to this day as Alan McFadden, Brian Johnston and young goalkeeper Mark Brown are all EK residents."

Tam was freed by East Kilbride Thistle in 1985 and moved initially to Glenafton before joining Auchinleck Talbot, where he was to spend 16 years as player and manager, winning every possible honour in the game inclusive of being capped for Junior Scotland.

"I had come to Thistle along with Joe McGurn and Gary Climson from the EKYM Under-18s team and it was every local guy's dream to go and play for the Junior side, but sad to say that is no longer the case," he said.

"Yet the town still boasts a fantastic catchment area for up-and-coming players and I believe if all the local talent played for the club then they could be another Auchinleck.

"One of my former players, Paul McAnenay, now has the thankless task of coaching the existing squad and it's a sign of the general apathy shown towards the club that previously retired players such as Alan Watson and Martin McLaughlin are turning out for them.

"I sincerely hope Paul manages to turn things around."

Meanwhile, Cumnock have fixed up former St Mirren full-back Alan Cairns while near-neighbours Glenafton have picked up one-time Partick Thistle and Queen's Park striker Graeme Eaglesham.

Ambitious Super First Division leading lights Hurlford United have snapped up midfielder Stevie Masterton whose previous clubs include Kilmarnock, Clyde and Morton.

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