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  • Kevin Welsh in Daily Mail 

    Monday, April 05, 2010 12:58:38 PM

    IT'S the dream of every amateur player who pulls on their boots and head out into the muddy grass each weekend. That a waiting scout is about to transform their life, and soon they will be plying their trade before a packed Ibrox or Parkhead. Well, that exact scenario actually happened to Kevin Welsh, a full-time electrician and left back with Harestanes AFC, who lived the dream by making his professional debut for Hamilton Accies in front of 50,000 fans, a fortnight after his last match for the Kirkintilloch amateur side on a public park in the little Lanarkshire village of Eddlewood. Yet, while the whole experience has a certain Hollywood rags-to-riches fairytale flavour to it, the bitter reality left the 25-year-old cursing his rotten luck. And when Accies return to Ibrox tomorrow for the first time on league business since, Welsh won't be with them. Before we get to the crushing disappointment of his SPL debut in a 4-1 defeat against Rangers at Ibrox in August, however, the story begins last summer when the unknown defender took his first steps on a remarkable journey by accepting a call to play in a trial match. The link between the world of amateur and professional football was provided by Scotland manager Craig Levein's recently-appointed national team scout Michael Oliver, who used to manage Welsh at Junior side Rob Roy. 'Mick set up a trial match between Hamilton and St Johnstone last summer and he needed a left back,' Welsh explained to Sportsmail. 'He told me I was the best player on the park and Billy Reid agreed. Billy asked me to come to Accies but I had groin trouble at the time and I couldn't go. 'When I got better I played a few more games for Harestanes, the last match away against Eddlewood, then I let Billy Reid know that I was fit again and that Alloa Athletic were also wanting to sign me.' Welsh duly joined Hamilton on a part-time contract in mid-August, arranging to train once-a-week due to work commitments but with the ultimate aim of earning a full-time SPL contract. Within a fortnight he was facing Rangers. The night before his big day at Ibrox, the electrician was working late at a factory in Clydebank, oblivious to what the new dawn would bring. 'I was working alongside Rangers fans and we were talking about the game,' he recalled. 'It didn't even cross my mind that I would be playing. 'I had absolutely no idea. I didn't even expect to be in the squad because I had only been able to train on Sundays. 'I just found out on the Saturday morning when Hamilton's assistant manager, Stuart Taylor, told me to make sure I got a big breakfast in me because I was in. It was a massive surprise since I had only played three games for Harestanes before then.'
    An unfit Welsh was duly given a torrid 45 minutes by Rangers and the rookie was replaced at half time by David Louhoungou, who could not help 2-0 at the break becoming 4-1 at full-time. Not even comforting words from friends could soothe the former amateur's sense of despondency afterwards. 'It was disappointing because if I had been fitter and stronger I could have done myself more justice,' he said. 'I just felt the opportunity came too early for me, but I was hardly going to turn it down. 'I was up against Steven Whittaker, Steven Davis and occasionally Madjid Bougherra on one of his forward runs as well. I didn't really play well. I know I could have done a lot better and I left the pitch a bit disappointed. 'People say "at least you got to play at Ibrox" and that I lived the dream but I don't think of it like that. I was just a bit gutted because I hadn't been able to do myself justice. 'It was my big chance but it just came at the wrong time. I'm just so disappointed that it came when I wasn't fit. 'Billy Reid and Hamilton were fine with me but it was difficult to fit in there when I was on a part time contract and the rest of the squad were full-time. It was all just a bit annoying.' Within 14 days of his glamour debut, Welsh was duly loaned out to Alloa and was lining up in front of just 1200 for Second Division Alloa in the
    less-glamorous surroundings of Recreation Park. The goal was still to win an SPL contract with Hamilton but just one more appearance followed for the Second Division side before injury struck once again for a player who spent 15 months out injured during two years as a trainee at St Johnstone, an experience which forced him to turn to a career as an electrician to pay the bills in the first place. Welsh headed in for a couple of operations, capping a roller-coaster past few months for the player, who became a dad for the first time in the weeks after Ibrox when partner Jennifer gave birth to baby daughter Sienna in September. January saw the end of his SPL dream when Hamilton released him from his contract but it was not the end of his hopes of playing professionally, as Alloa boss Allan Maitland signed him for the part-timers until the end of the season. Welsh has now found the root of his injury problems and has his sights trained on ending the strangest season of his career by lifting silverware, should Second Division leaders Alloa clinch the title. 'I went in for a scan after arriving at Alloa and I had to have an operation on my hernia on to cure a hole in my groin,' he said. 'That's what was causing my long-term injury problems. But when you play for Harestanes AFC you don't get sent for scans so you don't get to the bottom of these things. 'I don't regret anything about what happened at Hamilton. Playing at Ibrox like that is not something that happens to everyone and the overall experience was brilliant and I feel better for it. I'm enjoying it at Alloa and it could end up a successful end to an interesting season,' he added.

    brian.marjoribanks@dailymail.co.uk
    This article orginally appeared in Daily Mail on Friday 2nd April, 2010

    Kevin Welsh v. Clyde 6th March, 2010

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