Keith McLeod has Scottish Cup memories aplenty, and he is out to make more with Vale – starting this weekend.
The veteran was an integral member of Spartans’ giant killing squads in 2003-04, 2005-06, 2008-09 and more recently in 2014-15. He scored goals against league sides Arbroath and Alloa, while Berwick Rangers, Queens Park, Clyde, Morton and Elgin City were all put to the sword by the Edinburgh side during those runs, with First Division side St. Mirren being taken to a replay. McLeod twice reached the fourth round of the competition with his old club, and they played in the fifth round under the new format in 2008-09.
His focus this weekend turns to the East Kilbride tie, which presents Vale with a tough nut to crack. Kilby are top of the Lowland League with a 100% record and only three goals conceded from eight matches. They reached the fifth round last year before bravely going down 2-0 to Celtic. McLeod is aware of how difficult it will be, but knows more than most how to cause an upset.
He said: “At this stage of the competition it is one of the hardest draws you could get. You’re looking to avoid the top junior sides, and you would be looking to avoid East Kilbride as well. But we have nothing to fear. A cup game can be a lottery and we will go there looking for a result, while being under no illusions about who we are up against.”
Vale have won their last four matches, moving up to fifth in the league, and McLeod added: “At any level, a good run of form breeds confidence. We have had some hard games in that run and overcome different challenges. So we have grown in confidence and the group, which is a new one, has gelled through that period. We go with confidence as we have shown we have something about us.”
The striker is not the only member of the squad with vast experience in the cup. Danny O’Donnell, Kevin Motion and Robbie Manson were also part of those historic Spartans sides and manager Chris Anderson said after the draw: “East Kilbride are certainly a challenge but we’ll go there and give it our best shot.
“We have a few players who have enjoyed runs in the Scottish Cup over the years and we will be looking to them to use all their experience against East Kilbride.”
McLeod is confident their other team-mates have enough in their locker to see them through but is willing to lend a hand where required.
“There are a few other lads within the group with lots of experience. We will try and pass that on but most of the boys know what it’s about.”
Invited to go down memory lane, he picked out two games from different stages of his Spartans career which stand out in his mind.
“Early on in my time at Spartans we played Arbroath when Mickey (Lawson) and Sam Lynch were the managers. They were top of the third tier which was called the Second Division at that time and were flying. We went 1-0 down and then I equalised and we went on to win 4-1. We were phenomenal that day, absolutely terrific.
“And a couple of years ago we played Morton who are full-time and beat them 2-1. I would have been 36 or 37 and I just felt it was a good way to bow out of the club. It had been a bit of a goal of the club’s to beat a full-time team so it was good to get that monkey off the back.”
After all that nostalgia, McLeod slipped back into the present day and stated excitedly: “They are great memories but hopefully this weekend we can make more.”