Park makes it 500 not out for Locos

Steven Park, with daughters Amara and Layla pictured with Locos Chairman Willie Lippe prior to his 500th match for the Harlaw Park side on Saturday.  Both teams provided a "guard of honour" before the match.
Steven Park, with daughters Amara and Layla pictured with Locos Chairman Willie Lippe prior to his 500th match for the Harlaw Park side on Saturday. Both teams provided a "guard of honour" before the match.

IT is hard to believe that Steven Park is now one of the veterans in the Locos squad at the age of 33 but John Innes caught up with him to look back on a great Locos career, spanning almost 17 years back to junior days.

How great it must have been to be running out to a Guard of Honour. When were you made aware of this going to happen? “First of all it was very nice of the club to set it up and for Buckie to form the guard as well.

“It was a proud moment having the girls in my arms, and walking out to see both sets of players. My mum let it slip in the morning but Kenny and Scott only announced it just before the game.

You must have been desperate to see the team carry on the good work from the Rothes game rather than the way they played against Forres and Brora?

“Nobody was happy with the Forres and Brora games, we struggled to create and it was changed at Rothes where Craig Ross was pushed up top with Stuart McKay and Nicky Gordon wide. It was one of our best games in a fast flowing attacking sense. Once again on Saturday we could’ve given them a hiding but for Kevin Main.

“None of the players were really aware pre match about the Guard of Honour but they all put in a great shift. Locos’ mistakes cost the two goals otherwise we limited them. It was open end to end stuff and for me Roy of the Rovers stuff. I went up for the corner, it was cleared, got it’s way back to Clark Bain. A great ball from him and I couldn’t have connected better. What preparation goes into playing in the first team now you’re a “veteran”?

“I take longer to recover after a game but it’s all down to warming up properly and recovery. The ice wheely bin is in the room after games, I feel a lot better after it. Family life doesn’t affect me as much as in the sense I still ensure I get two training sessions in ahead of a Saturday game. The younger lads take the time to put in the additional gym sessions but for me what I do has to be enough.”

Do you remember your first game at junior level?

“It was June 1996 the end of a very long successful season trophy wise for the club. Dave Cormie was still in charge and I was drafted in to the squad for the Wick Allan Memorial Trophy match against Deveronside.

“It was Cammy Ross’s stagger and a lot of the first team squad were away so Greig Pirie, Neil Reid and myself got taken in. I went back to Colony and after Dave left for Cove I eventually signed for the club with Sandy McNaughton and Kenny Taylor in charge.

And the first ever Highland League game played at Harlaw, a goalless draw with Clach in August 2001, also a very special day?

“Central midfield, captain of the club, the thing everyone remembers was the very heavy rain storm at the start. The size of the crowd was something else, a decent game, we had our chances but everyone pleased with a 0-0 because we were playing an experienced Clach team.”

How long can you keep going? The League challenge gone, can one be sustained next term?

“I’m nor sure but I’ve spoken to ex-players like Ian Thain who say you can’t go back on it when you decide to pack in. I’m contracted to the season after this one.

“I guess it’s really about being able to play and train every week and as long as the Co-Managers want me. If I struggle to get into the team that is often the deciding factor. I’d like to think next season and possibly one more after that.”

The League Cup holds happy memories for Locos. The most recent success against Fraserburgh in 2009 so going into the Huntly game, that has to be the ultimate aim of defining a sort of successful season?

“Our aim as Locos players is to try and go out to win every game we play in. 11 League games so 33 points at stake, we’ll try and pick up as many as we can. Nobody is expecting us to win the League now so the League Cup is a big challenge for us.

“Huntly is always a tough opponent and have a great record at Harlaw, we will need to closely watch deadly Polish strikers Lukasz and Andrzej, I didn’t play in the last game against them. We want to finish the season well and start looking to make Harlaw a fortress again. And to have a squad challenging for the League.”