Like the virus itself we all knew it was coming; the suspension of Scottish football due to the oncoming Covid-19 storm. When it did arrive however it came as a bit of a shock to most I imagine, it certainly was to me. On Friday the 13th of March 2020, as a quarter of a million attended the Cheltenham Festival, when fifty thousand prepared for that weekend’s Old Firm game and while schools as well as pubs remained open for business, the SFA and the SJFA pulled the plug on every fixture for the foreseeable future. I had just completed a thousand word introduction about the team I was due to visit the very next day when I was informed that Beith Juniors versus Kirkintilloch Rob Roy was off, yet gutted as I was at the time hindsight clearly shows it was exactly the course of action the country needed.
I didn’t find out about football’s furlough from radio or TV, teaching as I was in the classroom at the time. It was a text I received from Beith Juniors President John Boal that told me not only was my visit to Bellsdale off, every other game was too. Since I was unable to head to North Ayrshire anytime soon John kindly agreed to answered a few questions; on the shutdown, a move to the new West of Scotland Football League as well as his role at ‘The Mighty’. First however lets look at a bit of background about the man himself.
John Boal was born and raised in the North Ayrshire town of Beith until the age of fourteen when, after the death of both parents, he was taken to Glasgow to be raised by his elder sisters. He has remained in the Dear Green Place his entire adult life where he married, had two sons and two grandsons as well as a career in logistics until retirement only just a year ago. While he now has more time on his hands to spend with family & football he is also an avid hill runner & mountain climber with a love of music. With hills and fitba out of bounds due to lockdown however there was time aplenty to answer my questions, here’s what he had to say…
I was glad to hear that you and yours are well during this unprecedented Corona crisis. How do Beith Juniors fare during this difficult time?
The club are in a healthy position at the moment. We recently appointed a new management team and there is a positive vibe about the place, one which will hopefully continue upon resumption. Beith Juniors are like all others in that we are missing the football and the camaraderie, but obviously there are far more important issue for everyone to deal with for now.
What does being president of ‘The Mighty’ entail? What have been your highs & lows in post and have you had a finest hour at Bellsdale Park?
As for being president, I’m not one for titles as we operate a very flat structure at the club, we each have different skills and abilities with nobody any more or less important than anyone else. This has worked for us and has been a success so far, but the most important thing is we continue to uphold the good name and reputation of our club. Simply put he best part of the job is when games are won and the worst is when we lose. Winning Premiership titles have been great moments but our Scottish Junior Cup win (in 2016 after victory over Pollok at Rugby Park) was the greatest thus far.
If it wasn’t for the Coronavirus the big story would be the transition of West Region SJFA clubs into the senior pyramid by way of the new West of Scotland Football League. Your club has decided to take the leap, was this always the plan or did something happen to change the minds of the committee?
We have always maintained we needed to be where our main rivals are, we didn’t want to go it alone. We are an ambitious club, operating within our means, and see the new setup as positive because it allows for progression. I must admit I am not keen on conferences but can understand why it has to be like that due to the uncertainty of the current season.
Where do you see Beith going in the pyramid, do you have ambitions to enter the SPFL?
Time will tell to be honest. We have a bit of work to do in order to allow us to gain our SFA licence, mainly the installation of floodlights which would need to be done before any success on the pitch that might lead to promotions. The SPFL may be a bit beyond our reach due to budget constraints, but never say never. Our first priority will be securing tier six of the pyramid for the start of the 2021/22 season.
What changes will the club have to make initially for entry into the new WoSFL?
Not a lot really, hopefully it will be business as usual. Getting sponsors on board in the current climate may be more difficult however. One important exception is our new changing room facilities, that will be ready for the start on the new era.
Finally, as a senior side are there any plans to change the club’s name from ‘Beith Juniors’ as some in the East of Scotland Football League have done or will you keep the ‘Juniors’ moniker as my local club Sauchie did?
There isn’t at the moment. We were a senior club until 1938 before becoming Beith Juniors. We need to keep our feet firmly on the ground and not forget where we’ve come from. Any future change would require a vote by our supporters but I don’t see the need for that just now.