The end of an era beckons at Lesmahagow tonight with club officials set to conduct interviews with their shortlisted candidates for the position of manager at Craighead Park.

The 136-year-old Lanarkshire outfit’s vacancy only came about after legendary boss Robert Irving recently tendered his resignation from the dugout where he has been a permanent fixture for the best part of 17 years.

The one-time midfield dynamo arguably spent the prime years of his playing career (1986-94) at the Gow, prior to Billy Whitefield enticing him to join Cumnock, but returned as No.2 to close friend and former team mate Sandy Robertson in 2004 before taking up the reins ever since other than a brief couple of months (2011) when ex-Partick Thistle ace Billy McDonald took the helm with Irving as his assistant.  

Supporters, will doubtless be left bemused by the breaking news as it cannot be considered a reflection on results, given the Gow were one of the teams to withdraw from the inaugural WoSFL season, however neither will they be surprised to hear the highly respected Irving made his decision with the “best interests of the club at heart.”

And a further fillip ahead of next season was revealed last night by the 54-year-old confirming he is not so much stepping down as stepping upstairs.

He insisted, “To be fair, the three of us [assistant manager Davy Jackson and goalkeeping coach Eric Watson the others] always knew the day was coming when we would have to consider taking up different roles.

“Ours is an aging committee, [long-serving Chairman George Brownlie recently celebrated his 80th birthday] and Lesmahagow as a club cannot possibly continue to rely on the same group of willing individuals to carry out the multitude of behind the scenes tasks involved with running a football team.

“That is easier said than done when fresh and enthusiastic bodies are thin on the ground in a small place like Lesmahagow so the time is right for the likes of us to do our bit in helping the club plan a way forward.

“Eric’s day job as a Financial Consultant makes him a stick-on for the job of Treasurer but unfortunately a parting of the ways has come with Davy (joining the Fire Service) after 8/9 seasons working as my No.2 however it’s no exaggeration to say he will forever be welcome around here.

“No position has been earmarked for myself and I’ll be happy just helping out wherever needed but you can take it as read that I’ll not be taking part in the process of choosing the new team manager and I’ll only give an opinion if specifically asked for one.”

In keeping with many other WoSFL withdrawees, Lesmahagow released or loaned out every player on their books at the start of this season and currently have only long serving pair Jordan Whitefield and Darren Lygate fixed up for the 2021/22 campaign.

Rab revealed, “It would like to think Neil Schoneville who went to Bellshill Athletic , Kris Jarvie (Newmains United) and Glen Eadie (Kilsyth Rangers) to name but a few will all return to the Gow but I’m long enough in the tooth to know that might not be the case.

“It’s a fact that some guys haven’t played a single game since leaving us but they might feel settled in their new surroundings which is something the new manager will have to take on the chin and address as he sees best.

“And in that respect, I know from experience that he will get the backing from everyone connected with this club.”

Asked to reflect on his long Gow tenure had Irving immediately recalling the highs and lows of his side’s stirring 2018 Sectional League Cup run.

He said: “Taking a 7-0 drubbing by Auchinleck Talbot in the Final is not one of my better footballing memories even though  I was proud to see so many Gow supporters turning out, bedecked in club colours ,to support the team.

“By way of contrast, our John McStay inspired semi–final victory over Petershill when we were rated outright underdogs has to be one of the best performances served up during my time in charge.

“A of complacency had the Peasy players thinking they only had to turn up to win the game but we swept them aside and were 3-0 to the good inside the opening half hour before eventually coming out on top by a 3-1 scoreline.”