St Mirren v Broxburn Athletic: Scottish Cup run goes on for East of Scotland side

Broxburn have won five ties to reach the fourth round in their first Scottish Cup campaign
Broxburn have won five ties to reach the fourth round in their first Scottish Cup campaign
Scottish Cup fourth round: St Mirren v Broxburn Athletic
Venue: Simple Digital Arena, Paisley Date: Saturday, 18 January Time: 15:00 GMT

Brian McNaughton had just watched both his personal and work phones drop out of his jacket pocket and into the toilet.

It was the morning of Friday, 22 November, and it did not bode well for the weekend to come for the Broxburn Athletic manager. However, by that evening, the former Hearts striker learned he had become a grandfather for the first time, to baby Rudy.

Things took an even better turn the next day, when Broxburn travelled north to Harlaw Park and beat Inverurie Loco Works 1-0 in the third round of the Scottish Cup, thanks to Zander Miller's sixth goal in the competition this season.

The East of Scotland Premier League side, in their first season in the Scottish Cup, had now negotiated their way through five ties to set up a fourth-round meeting with St Mirren in Paisley.

"If we didn't have the preliminary rounds we'd be in the semi-finals by now," McNaughton told BBC Scotland.

"We've beaten teams from one or two leagues above. Inverurie from the Highland League, East Stirlingshire from the Lowland League, and Cowdenbeath from League Two."

'It's going to be like The Alamo'

McNaughton played for Hearts in a 5-2 defeat at Love Street in 1985, and says experiences such as those alongside the likes of John Robertson, John Colquhoun and Gary MacKay all help inform his approach.

Broxburn vice-president Johnny Hughes admires McNaughton's efficiency and says he's the kind of guy who "calls a spade a spade". But any time McNaughton's methods draw praise, the man himself attributes the credit for much of it to his off-pitch role as a post office area manager.

"I've been in the post office for many years and I think it's about treating people how you want to be treated," he says.

From watching Broxburn train, there's clear evidence of people being appreciated, and wanting to give what they can - even on a wild Monday evening as Storm Brendan rips through Scotland.

Take assistant manager Steve Hislop, who is the bad cop to McNaughton's good cop. "You guys need to understand it's going to be like The Alamo on Saturday," the former Inverness Caledonian Thistle striker barks during the training session.

Injured defender Shaun Harrison has turned up to watch and says "we need stuff like this" from Hislop, while bouncing up and down to try and retain some body heat.

Then there's goalkeeping coach Ian McLaren, who keeps Connor Wallace on his toes before going straight to work a night shift at HMP Edinburgh.

Brian McNaughton
Brian McNaughton, right, and assistant Stevie Hislop will lead the side to Paisley

'Win or lose, this is our final'

Also milling around, taking part in training and generally being a positive presence, is club chaplain, a twenty-something by the name of Andrew MacPherson.

He smirks graciously at Hislop's slight irritation at the latest player being wheeled away to do interviews with the media.

That player is probably the aforementioned Miller. His goals in the Scottish Cup, particularly the hat-trick against East Stirlingshire, have drawn attention to the bathroom fitter.

"The day job's stressful… stripping bathrooms, ripping tiles off, taking baths out. But then football straight after is the escape," Miller tells BBC Scotland.

The forward is just back from another escape - a snowboarding holiday. "Last time I went to do that I broke my elbow, so I made sure I wasn't going too fast down the slopes this time."

Miller grew up watching Falkirk and on Saturday might line up against a player he used to cheer, St Mirren's Ryan Flynn.

At least 13 supporters buses will help to take over 1,600 fans from West Lothian to Renfrewshire. It means tumbleweed will be blowing past Harry the barman at the town's Green Tree Tavern during the afternoon, yet he knows "they'll all be back" in the evening regardless of the result.

"Win or lose, this is our final," says Frank Greenan, one of his regulars. "I think we'll win 1-0."

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