President Brian Winton thinks the Scottish Cup clash with Championship Raith Rovers is just reward for more than a decade of work on and off the field at Banks o’ Dee.
North Region Junior Superleague kings Dee host second-tier contenders Raith in the fourth round on Saturday, with Winton convinced it’s ‘the biggest game in the club’s history’.
An all-ticket capacity crowd of 800 are expected to pack into a revamped Spain Park for the fixture.
It will be a hectic week for the Dee president – who insists he’ll manage a ‘few winks of sleep’ – but it is a tie the club have spent years laying the groundwork for.
Winton said: “It’s been a busy spell leading up to this and we’re looking forward to the day.
“When I reflect back, I joined Banks o’ Dee in 2011 and we put a 10-year plan in place. We’re now 10 years down the line, which is absolutely incredible.
“We did the pitch and the lights back then, and here’s us upgraded them again. We’ve also done the community changing rooms, the new enclosures at the far side, all the egress/access roads and pavements within the club, the boardroom, the training rooms and the hospitality suites – all of that.
“All of this has been going on in the background on the basis that one day we’re going to get a big tie.
“East Fife (third round) was a big game for us, but we’re playing a team now at the top of the next division.”
Scottish Government Covid rules limiting outdoor events to 500 people, which were lifted on Monday, meant Dee faced a wait to find out how many supporters they could let into Saturday’s game.
Winton says Raith Rovers, who are bringing 440 away fans to Spain Park, have been ‘great’ in helping get tickets printed, while he also thanked League One Cove Rangers for assisting Dee with their preparations for hosting a bumper crowd.
Although – win or lose – the tie with Raith will be a significant financial boost for Dee, Winton also thinks it’s great for lifting the club’s status outside of the city, saying: “The financial side is one thing, but it gets Banks o’ Dee’s name out there.
“Everybody just thinks there’s Aberdeen, and Cove Rangers are a team to be reckoned with from the city as well, but we’re sitting in the background here.
“We’re playing junior football, and I think it’s fair to say we’ve dominated it over the last few seasons – and Covid has probably robbed us of a couple of opportunities around more silverware.”
Winton insists competing in the fourth-round of the national trophy – as well as potentially having the opportunity to compete in a promotion play-off to step up into the Highland League at the end of the season – require the right ‘foundation’.
He said: “The foundation for me is the facilities and the playing staff that’s capable of going to that next level.”
Can Dee get the better of Championship opposition this time?
While Banks o’ Dee knocked out East Fife in November’s third round, prevailing 2-1, their previous landmark Scottish Cup tie was a 6-2 third round loss at home to Championship Ayr United in 2017.
It was 2-2 until late in the first half on the day, with current Dee co-manager Jamie Watt netting a brace of penalties, before a quickfire Ayr double before the break saw the game run away from the Spain Park side.
Can they go one better against Championship opposition this time?
“I think we’ve got a stronger starting 11 and stronger squad now than we did against Ayr,” Winton said.
“I just wish I had a young Jamie Watt playing in the team to be honest! A prolific goalscorer.
“I keep saying to Jamie and Roy (McBain, the other co-manager): ‘if I had you playing in this team, we’d be able to go to another level.’
“But I think we are a better team, and a better squad.
“Unfortunately, we lost Jamie Buglass last week as he’s gone to join Derby County’s physio set-up. He’d been with us since he was six years old.
“Kane Winton is out through suspension, as he picked three yellows in the previous rounds. He’s the captain of the team, so that’ll be a massive loss.
“It’s not just him as a player, but – when he’s playing – Kane gets a lot more out of others in the team.”
Winton added: “I want it to be a showcase – a spectacle. I just want us to play well, and come away at the end and say: ‘we did ourselves proud today’. That we can hold our heads high and either get ready for the next round or next season.”
Tribute to Dee stalwart Tom Ewan
There will be a poignant moment before Saturday’s Scottish Cup tie as Banks o’ Dee pay tribute to club stalwart Tom Ewan, who recently passed away from lung cancer, having latterly served as secretary for the Aberdeen side.
Dee president Winton said: “I talked to Tommy after the East Fife game and he was delighted about that.
“He was raving about that because, in all the time he’d been at the club, we’d never been able to win the Aberdeenshire Cup, which we won this season.
“We’ve now got to this round of the Scottish Cup and we’re in the final of the Aberdeenshire Shield, so it’s a big, exciting season, and unfortunately he was in hospital during that time.
“He passed away at the weekend.
“On Saturday, we’re having a minute’s applause for him before the game, and his grandson, Ewan, will lead the teams out as the mascot.”