OVER 100 years of Leslie’s sporting history has been saved, thanks to a pair of football crazy friends.
For Leslie Hearts Football Club, which twice won the Scottish Amateur Cup in its lifetime was about to be disbanded for good, ending the town’s century-long association with football.
But the team has been given a new lease of life by two Leslie lads who have big plans to revive the fortunes of the team and emulate its former glories.
“Every town should have its own football team and Leslie is no different”, explains Craig Noble, a lifelong football fanatic and former semi-professional player with renowned junior side Hill of Beath.
“I’m from the town and I want the local team to be part of the identity of Leslie once again.
“I also want to put the team back into the heart of the community where it belongs”, added Craig.
The 41-year-old has taken on the role of player and coach alongside friend and team manager Andrew Davidson. The pair are already expanding their squad of players , currently they have 20, ranging in age from 19 t0 41,and are in pre-season training ahead of the new campaign and with renewed optimism.
And it’s a celebrated history that the pair are trying to recreate.
Football had been played in the town as far back as the 1880’s under the guise of Leslie Our Boys, but the formation of Leslie Hearts in 1900 at last gave the town a football team they could really get behind.
Playing matches on the old Prinlaws Park, the team were bolstered with a number of early successes, scoring back-to-back East Fife Juvenile Cup wins in 1902 and 1903.
The club went into abeyance for the First World War years and came back in 1919 only to last another four seasons finally disbanding as a junior club in 1923.
It is believed the club then resurfaced around 1924 as a juvenile side.
Scottish juvenile football was slightly complex as it split into two sections - there was the Scottish Juvenile Football Association and also the Scottish Secondary Juvenile Football Association which later went on to be the Scottish Youth Football Association.
Leslie Hearts joined the Scottish Secondary Football Association which had an upper age limit set at 21 years.
The sides greatest achievement and one that is still talked about by old folk in the town was Leslie Hearts’ back-to-back triumphs in the Scottish Secondary Juvenial Cup, a celebrated and much respected cup competition to this day.
What makes Hearts’ win even more remarkable is the 10,000 fans that packed into Hibernian’s Easter Road ground in Edinburgh in the 1947 final.
A nil-nil draw brought Hearts and opposition - Campsie Black Watch - back for replay with a further 10,000 crowd witnessing Hearts secure a resounding 4-1 win to bring the cup back to Fife.
Leslie historian Campbell Morris remembers the match well.
“I was one of the 10,000 that went to Edinburgh and it’s safe to say it’s Leslie’s biggest sporting triumph, it was really big news”, Campbell explained.
“You would regularly get notable crowds watching matches, but then they were the halcyon days for sport just after the war”, he added.
The club continued to play in the juvenile league up until the 1980s before disbanding, and with several aborted attempts to revive the fortunes of the proud team, it brings us to the club’s latest chapter.
Hard work behind the scenes securing local business sponsorship and support from Leslie Community Council has certainly given Craig, Andrew and the team a secure footing in which to start the new season.
“It gives us a chance to concentrate on the real business of playing football, which is why we’re doing it in first place.’’ said Craig.
“With luck in a few years time, we might just honour those previous generations of players and supporters by once again bringing some silverware back to Leslie.”
The team train twice a week at Quarry Park, Leslie and are looking for other players to come and join them.
Leslie Hearts will this season compete in the Kirkcaldy District League Second Divison.
They will also compete in various Fife cup competitions including the Tom McIntyre Regional Cup, Division Two League Cup and the Peter Omand Trophy.
A friendly match at home versus Methilhill Stollers takes place on Saturday.
Leslie Hearts have also secured a mouthwatering freindly match versus one of the most feared and respected junior sides in Scotland - Hill of Beath Juniors at Hill of Beath’s Keirs Park ground on Tuesday, August 6.