“I didn’t think it could get any better after last week but it’s definitely got better!” says Craig Campbell, a massive Rangers fan who has helped write Brora Rangers’ name into the Scottish football history books.
Having celebrated the Scottish Premiership title as a fan, Brora’s assistant manager helped mastermind the fifth-tier club’s massive 2-1 victory over Scottish heavyweights Hearts on Tuesday night. The Cattachs, who are part-timers and play in the Scottish Highland League, were buoyant at full-time, and their celebrations after the victory against the Jambos, currently top of the Scottish Championship, went viral across social media.
“The place is absolutely buzzing,” Campbell tells The Sportsman. “The phone’s been non-stop and it’s the same for all the boys, we’ve been getting messages from all sorts of people who want to speak to them and get an interview. Obviously it’s a bit different to what we are used to playing in the Highland League as we don't get much publicity so it's been good enjoyable.”
After taking the lead through a stunning Jordan MacRae strike, Christophe Berra’s 70th-minute equaliser could have spelt trouble when you consider Brora have only played once in 2021 because of the Coronavirus pandemic. However, the hosts responded five minutes later, with Martin McLean getting the winner.
“Deep down we knew we had a chance,” Campbell reveals. “We’ve had Scottish Cup ties before and we’ve beaten teams in the leagues above us in the last couple of seasons so we always think we've got a chance. But obviously, with the circumstances with Covid, we haven’t played since early January.
“We only had two weeks to prepare and managed to get five training sessions in and a friendly in that time, so it wasn’t ideal but we had a chance if we could perform like we know we can.”
Perform they did. Somehow, despite only playing 10 matches since the start of the pandemic, adrenaline, determination and a steely togetherness saw them through.
“We’ve got a small, tight squad,” says Campbell. “That’s the way we wanted to run it, we didn’t want to have boys sitting out and missing out at that level.
“A lot of the boys, we've known each other for a long period of time now and have come through it together so there is a good base. We've always just freshened things up as the years go by, adding in some younger boys.
“We not only like good players but characters to fit into our culture at the club too, and I think that takes you a long way.
“We made three substitutions but once Hearts equalised… you could see the boys were starting to feel it and a couple went down with cramp. But once we went 2-1 up they seemed to get another wee energy boost and managed to carry on for 90 minutes.
“Hearts is a huge football club in Scotland so it’s always good to be playing against clubs like that. We've had games against clubs that sort of size before and they’re the games the boys want to play in. They did themselves proud last night.”
This was a classic Scottish Cup giant-killing. While Campbell is a bricklayer, a lot of the players work locally, and manager Steven Mackay is in charge of a fabrication facility and is currently travelling up from Dunfermline for training and matches.
“It’s very difficult for the boys,” says Campbell. “A lot of people don't realise the commitment it takes. We train twice a week and then when we've not got games we train on Saturday at the moment too, so three times a week the boys are having to juggle training and games as well as their full-time jobs.
While the Brora number two admits beating Hearts still feels like a dream, reality will hit again when they host Stranraer in two weeks’ time.
Having knocked out Hearts, Brora will be confident of dispatching the fourth-tier Blues. For a club like Brora, an away tie at Celtic or Rangers would be massive.
“Absolutely,” Campbell agrees. “I’m a Rangers fan so my dream would always be to be playing against Rangers, and with Steven Gerrard and the season he’s had it would be great to go against that team, have that opportunity and it would be good for the club financially as well.”
Brora Rangers achieved one dream this week and will be aiming for a repeat. Campbell may have to put his phone on silent.