Saturday’s League Cup semi final will be only the eighth meeting between Tain Thistle and Cromarty -- but one Jag in particular is certainly no stranger to the Black Isle natives. Before Cromarty joined the ranks of the Ross-shire Welfare Football Association, Thistle’s Brian Cameron was party to their efforts in the Ross-shire Amateur league.
"I started out playing football with Cromarty, having gone to school in Fortrose. With the amateur side, I started playing in 2004 and finished in 2007. It was Colin Burry who asked me to come to Tain for the next season, and I did."
Slotting into a busy and young Thistle side that year, Cameron would become an ever-present, going on to play in every one of Thistle’s games during the 2008 season, only narrowly missing out on a league winners’ medal thanks to a last ditch title push from Black Rock Rovers. Only 20 years old, the midfielder’s tenacity and gritty determination won the praise of many Thistle supporters.
Now as the 2011 season begins, Cameron reflects on the years past and the improvement made not only by himself but his former teammates at Victoria Park.
"The Cromarty boys are all older and more mature now than when I was there. When I was younger playing alongside them, we just wanted to play attacking football and forgot a lot about the defensive side of the game."
Attacking indeed. Cromarty knocked no fewer than twenty-three goals past Thistle in league and cup competitions last year, asserting a goalscoring dominance over Tain unmatched by any other team during 2010. But Cameron sees the affair being a lot closer this time around.
"It’s going to be a hard game to call. I don’t think we should fear them, but they should certainly be respected. If we keep things tight at the back, we have a good chance of going through. We have got to focus on our own game and as long as we play to our potential we should be more than capable of getting a result."
The semi final showdown between Cromarty and Thistle is scheduled for a 3pm kick off this Saturday at the Croms' Victoria Park.