EVERY morning George and Carole Palmer pull open their front bedroom curtains and gaze over Beechwood Park, home of the legendary Auchinleck Talbot.

“There is no better sight in the whole world to wake up to,” declares George as Carole lovingly rolls her eyes and grins in support. “Every day I think that.”

Fans do not come more loyal than George, a 51-year-old bus driver. And it’s a trait Carole likes. “I’d never miss a game, home or away,” he grins from under a hat emblazoned with the Talbot shield. What would have to happen for him not to go and see his team? “Dead,” butts in Carole, 47. George, laughing at himself, admits escaping weddings to watch Auchinleck.

Their semi, on Beechwood Avenue, sits just opposite the Talbot clubhouse. On their gate, in careful metalwork, is another shield, above their door, two flagstaffs.

But the Palmers are not the only family to go full black and gold, the Talbot colours. Much of town has. Along its Main Street, the last few shops and pubs have put up flags and bunting. Why?

Auchinleck, a junior club, has made it in to the fifth round of the senior Scottish Cup. After slaying Ayr United, the professional team from its county town 14 miles away, they are off to Edinburgh, to challenge premiership giants Hearts.

This weekend at least 19 buses will leave the former pit village for the capital. Some 1800 tickets have been sold. That is one for every second resident of the town.

“Everybody is hyper,” says George. “The town feels great.”

Things are not usually easy in Auchinleck. The coal mines - the very reason for its existence - are closed, their remnants now post-industrial tourist attractions. The old shops, the Co-Op’s butchers and haberdashery stores, went decades ago, replaced, eventually, by a Tesco on the town’s edge. Unemployment here in East Ayrshire is twice the national average.

Soon the secondary school will shut, to be merged in to a new campus in neighbouring Cumnock. There is no cafe in the town centre open in an afternoon.

Auchinleck is losing all of the little focal points that cement a community. Except Talbot. Football binds this place together, winning football, that is.

Talbot may not play in the big leagues. But that means it is used to success and crowds of what would seem an impossible size for the community. Beechwood Park has a bigger capacity, around 4000, standing, than Auchinleck has a population.

“We have a terrible problem with apathy,” says local councillor Neil McGhee. “People, especially young people,have no hope. There are so few jobs. If only they would improve the roads or help bring some industry to the town.

“People talk a lot about austerity. Well, we have had it for 30 years, ever since the mines closed.”

Neil, in a black Talbot windcheater, knows the power of football to raise the mood of the town. “The place is buzzing,” he says. “The team carries our spirit now.”