It always seems slightly patronising to focus on players’ occupations while analysing a part-time team’s heroics when on cup duty against full-time opponents.
© Bonnyrigg Rose goalkeeper Mark Weir celebrates his side going 1-0 up during the Scottish Cup tie wit…
In the case of Mark Weir, however, it’s too good an opportunity to let slip – an error the Bonnyrigg Rose ‘keeper doesn’t let happen often judging from his display against Dundee on Saturday night. His remarkable performance was seconds away from being the major reason why Bonnyrigg Rose so very nearly produced one of the great Scottish Cup shocks of all-time.
Asked afterwards, in time-honoured fashion, what his day job was, Weir revealed he was a savings expert (of course) with Aegon, the Edinburgh-based pensions giant.
“So that’s what I will be doing on Monday – working from home for them,” he said. He won’t even have the thrill of being hailed by his colleagues when he walks back into work, as would have been guaranteed in more normal times. There will be no water cooler moments recounting his string of incredible saves in the live televised encounter.
© Bonnyrigg Rose goalkeeper Mark Weir makes one of several saves against Dundee in the Scottish Cup th…
It’s a tale of what-might-have-been for Weir and his teammates. With the minutes ticking down, the enormity of what they were getting closer to achieving was beginning to dawn on the big ‘keeper.
Having led from as early as the 25th minute, when Lee Currie tucked away the first of his two penalties, there was a lot of time in which to contemplate this possibility – a fraction too long it turned out. What became incessant Dundee attacking finally yielded a goal from substitute Jonathan Afolabi in 90+4 – referee Gavin Duncan had decreed there would be five minutes’ injury time.
© Bonnyrigg Rose have just conceded an injury-time equaliser to Dundee’s Jonathan Afolabi and they can…
“I kept looking over my left shoulder and saw the scoreboard going to 90 minutes,” said Weir. “I didn’t know long the referee was adding on, but we had it in one hand. We could almost feel it.”
One photograph showing Weir and several teammates all splayed out around the goalmouth summed it up. They were literally floored. And yet, somehow, they found the reserves of energy and mental strength to go ahead again on the stroke of half-time in extra-time.
Currie did what he does – this time converting his penalty into the other corner. But further goals from Lee Ashcroft – who Weir had denied with a stunning stop from a header late in the second half of normal time – and Osman Sow secured Dundee’s place in the third round, where they will host St Johnstone.
As well as being a former Rangers youth, not so long ago Weir was an actual Wichita lineman after moving to the United States on a football scholarship – he played in goals for FC Wichita, even scoring from his own box on one occasion.
That moment is immortalised on Youtube, as in time will be his latest bravura performance in front of the cameras. It’s one consolation. He can watch again and again that save from Ashcroft, the one from Charlie Adam in the first half, the flying stop from Sow’s long-ranger, the dive to his right to deny Paul McGowan’s header.
Even when the increasingly desperate Dundee finally produced their first equaliser, Weir pulled off perhaps his best save of the night to claw Sow’s header away, before Afolabi netted the rebound.
Which stop was his favourite? “I can’t really say,” he said. “Maybe I’ll be able to pick one when I watch it over again. That’s my job at the end of the day – in the same way Lee Currie’s is to put the penalties away. It doesn’t matter if I make a great save or if I get lucky. I’ll take every one as it comes and treat them all the same.
“There have been games when I have played really well but on a personal note that has to be one of my best games,” he acknowledged. “The result did not go the way we wanted but on a personal level it is always great to be live on television and play as well as I did, I just wish we could have held on for another few minutes and got into the next round. I just hope tonight shows the whole of Scotland that the Lowland League is one of the best and most competitive leagues in the country.
“Some people might look down on us because we are a few leagues below but, if you look, we have ourselves, Kelty Hearts, Glasgow BSC, East Kilbride….It’s a great league. But we don’t just want to be in the Lowland League. We are a top team, we want to keep pushing. We have gone to toe-to-toe with a top Championship club there.”
As well as being a case of back to the day job for Weir, it’s back to league business too – Bonnyrigg Rose currently lie fourth.
After his side had given a good account of themselves in the Scottish Cup against Stenhousemuir in 1999, current Spartans manager Dougie Samuel, then a Whitehill Welfare midfielder, was asked what he and his teammates would do next. “We’ll do what we do at this level, we’ll go home and dream,” he memorably replied.
Robbie Horn’s version of this answer was not quite so poetic when he was asked afterwards what happens now. The Bonnyrigg Rose manager said he would be advising his players to go home and get some rest – “because we have leaders Kelty Hearts away on Tuesday night”.