Beith Juniors FC: My Site News: Evening Times Article: Derek McCulloch interview

Thursday, February 12
Evening Times Article: Derek McCulloch interview

DEREK McCULLOCH is resigned to the fact he will probably never be considered an Auchinleck Talbot legend despite a silverware-laden six years with the Ayrshire cracks.

But he could take a massive stride towards becoming a Beith one if he helps Johnny Miller's men overcome Talbot when returning to his old stomping ground on Citylink Scottish Junior Cup duty this coming Saturday.

That's because whoever emerges victorious in this fifth round clash is being tipped to go all the way.

Del Boy, who works as a joiner, admits he is every bit as determined to get his hands on the Holy Grail as he was when stepping through Beechwood Park's gates for the first time all of 15 years ago.

Back then he was a raw talent on the rebound from being rejected at Senior level following a spell at Queen of the South.

When a trial at Ipswich Town similarly came to no avail, the sweeper signed for local Junior side Maybole where his displays led to unsuccessful outings with Motherwell and St Mirren.

More crucially, he also caught the eye of then Auchinleck gaffer Dennis Gray who doubled as Scotland Juniors boss.

His initial recognition came in appointing Del as captain of the triumphant Junior Scotland Under-21 side of that time.

It was no real surprise when Gray moved to snap up the classy defender as he started out on the job of rebuilding Talbot in the wake of their halcyon period of five Scottish Cup wins between 1986-92.

Del recalled: "A few remnants of the great Auchinleck side were still playing like Kenny Patterson, Tam McDonald and Billy Thomson so Dennis tried to harness their experience into helping bring on myself and other younger lads such as Billy Mason, Sam Frew and Neil Gilmour.

"And to be fair he made a pretty good fist of it because we went on to win every possible Ayrshire honour, but unfortunately the big two trophies (Scottish Cup and Whyte and Mackay Cup) always seemed to elude us.

"We did hit the Scottish Cup crossbar twice in losing semi finals to Tayport (2-0) and Renfrew (1-0) while our making it through to a one and only Whyte and Mackay Final appearance in 2001 turned out something of a personal nightmare.

"Billy McLafferty scored the only goal of the game as Maryhill beat us and to make matters worse I was sent off with a few minutes left to play after a challenge on their goalkeeper John Thomson.

"Nevertheless I have nothing but great memories of my time there and the terrific players I was fortunate to play beside."

Gray's resignation in June 2001 saw Del taking stock of his own position and decide upon heading for pastures new at Arthurlie.

He'd probably be first to admit the grass turned out to be anything but greener as he struggled to find his best form.

He was off on his travels a mere season later, to Beith and a reunion with former mentor Gray who had moved into the Bellsdale Park hotseat.

They teamed up to comparative great effect over the next four seasons in racking up three Ayrshire Cup wins as well as a notable Jackie Scarlett Cup success when overcoming Auchinleck in the final.

Gray finally calling time on his managerial reign saw Del Boy depart for a short-lived four-month spell at Irvine Meadow before moving on to their great rivals Kilwinning Rangers, who he helped reach the Citylink Junior Cup semi finals of 2007 only to disappointingly go down 1-0 to unfancied Kelty Hearts.

The now 36-year-old said: "The combination of losing a third semi-final and having to play it on the Astro-grass at New Douglas Park totally brassed me off and I quit playing altogether.

"And my retirement might have been permanent but for John Boal of Beith getting on my case and getting me to go back down there to have talks with manager Johnny Miller.

"The upshot was I signed on again and I couldn't be happier as Beith are a club who appear to be on the up and the dressing room is packed with quality."

If his memory serves him well then Del might be considered something of a lucky omen by Beith fans ahead of going up against Talbot in their own backyard.

Two previous cup showdowns wearing the black and white stripes against his former club (Jackie Scarlett and Super Cup) saw Beith come out on top, however he does recall losing appearances with Irvine Meadow and Kilwinning Rangers.

"I know only too well that it doesn't come any harder that Talbot on their own turf," he said.

"Someone pointed out they have not lost a Scottish tie in regulation time in almost four years which just about sums up their terrific cup tradition.

"But we are a team that is also playing well and have every good reason to feel confident about holding our own down there, especially if we get away to a good start."

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