Del Esplin has warned West of Scotland Football League clubs against
having the wrong impression of the Lowland League.

The stunning progression made by Kelty Hearts, Bonnyrigg Rose and Bo’ness United has undoubtedly whet the appetites of other clubs throughout the West.

The names Clydebank, Darvel and Irvine Meadow immediately spring to
mind among the WoSFL leading lights who were pulling out all the stops
(before the Tier Six season was declared null and void) in order to
further their lofty ambitions to go on and play at senior level.

But they can expect their upwards passage to be anything but
straightforward. Pollok midfielder Esplin is adamant that anyone who
thinks a Lowland League campaign will be just “another rung in the
ladder” is making a huge mistake.

Few can deny that the 29 year old is speaking from first-hand
experience, having only recently returned to the Newlandsfield fold
after Lok gaffer Murdie McKinnon called time on a November loan deal
transfer to L.L outfit Caledonian Braves (formerly Edusport Academy).

Del recalled: “I was very keen to keep playing after Pollok decided to
withdraw from the WoSFL so I didn’t hesitate when my ex-Rutherglen
Glencairn teammate Ross McNeil got in touch about a move to The
Braves, particularly as they play out of Alliance Park based in
Strathclyde Park itself which is just ten minutes along the road from
where I live in Cambuslang.

“And Ross is not the only ex-Juniors player on the books as our
dressing room also boasted the likes of Scott Forrester (Rob Roy),
Gavin Lachlan (Glencairn), Davie Winters (Pollok) and not forgetting
Corey Pearson (Auchinleck Talbot) who joined on loan around the same
time as myself.

“We have a full-time manager in Ricky Waddell (ex-Falkirk and Clyde),
a terrific coach whose training routines are exceptional and the rest
of our squad contains a fair representation of former Seniors so I
would say the overall standard of Braves players is very high and
ideally suited for the passing football game which is encouraged by
the abundance of astro-grass pitches to be found at Lowland League

“That said, the very fact that we are sitting down in 12th in the
table, fully 17 points behind Kelty, maybe backs up my opinion about
the sheer quality and competitiveness of other teams.”

Esplin never came up against kingpins Kelty, his loan deal went
through a couple of weeks after the Fife cracks ran out 1-0 winners at
the Alliance Park. However, he did face leading title challengers
B.S.C Glasgow and East Kilbride.

He said: “I played around a dozen games in total and felt as if I was
just getting into the swing of things when lockdown came, however
there’s no denying both B.S.C. and E.K. were among the most impressive
of our opponents.

“My last appearance was a 3-2 defeat by B.S.C whose best player on the
day was my Pollok teammate Daz Christie who did his best to get under
my skin withal manner of wind-ups out on the pitch.

“We had a good laugh about it afterwards but during that 90 minutes he
was no pal of mine.”

A similarly experienced ex-Junior winger, Chris Erskine (Kilbirnie
Ladeside ) also caught Esplin’s eye in a 3-2 New Year’s Day reverse at
the hands of East Kilbride.

He added: “Erskine was next to unplayable in that game and clearly
demonstrated he was too good to be playing at L.L. level so I wasn’t
surprised in the slightest to hear he went back to Partick Thistle on
loan at the start of this month.

“But his departure won’t damage East Kilbride unduly as their squad is
packed with other ex-Senior names (Paul Paton, Stevie Saunders and
Craig Malcolm to name but a few).They would certainly fancy their
chances of holding their own against the WoSFL finest, as would B.S.C
and probably the likes of Bonnyrigg, Bo’ness and East Stirling.

“I wouldn’t rule out the best West teams, Pollok included, coming to
the fore in the Lowland League over the next few years but it won’t be
any cakewalk.”