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Spiers on Saturday: meeting an Albion Rovers stalwart who believes they can finish off Rangers on Monday

Scott Chaplain knows full well what many are murmuring.

Scott Chaplain is  one of the Scottish game's classic unsung footballers. Picture: SNS
Scott Chaplain is one of the Scottish game's classic unsung footballers. Picture: SNS

The Albion Rovers midfielder is aware of the theory: that Albion had their chance against Rangers in their 1-1 draw at Ibrox last Sunday.

The theory now goes that, come Monday night in a Scottish Cup quarter-final replay, the wee Rovers will get cuffed.

"Of course, people will say we are going to get cuffed, but those same people said we would get cuffed in the first place," Chaplain argues. "The way I look at it, no-one gave us a hope of going to Ibrox and getting a 1-1 draw - and it was a hard done by 1-1 draw in our case.

"I know the old cliché - that the wee team only gets one chance. We're aware of that. But it will motivate us. Equally, are Rangers going to have two off-days against us? Maybe not. They're going to be well up for this replay."

Here speaks a typical product of the football culture in Scotland. Chaplain is a gifted player, with a strange knack of getting one over on Rangers, whose career has twanged back and forth between part-time, full-time and part-time football again. Away from the game this 30-year-old attacking midfielder works for Glasgow 2014's Commonwealth Games preparation, and also does some sports lecturing and coaching of kids for the Scottish Football Association. On a Saturday, though, and come this Monday night, Chaplain is at the heart of all that Albion Rovers are about in this weird, exciting season.

He has been everywhere: as a kid with Rangers, as a full-timer with Ayr United, then at Partick Thistle, Dumbarton and Annan Athletic, and now back for his third tour with Albion Rovers, a club with whom he feels a special affinity.

"I've had great times with Albion Rovers," he says. "It's a hard-working, honest club. They don't kid on to be something they're not. The people in and around the club chat to you, they know the players. I like and respect this football club. Also, the fans take to me because I can score a few goals.

In some ways Chaplain is a classic case of an unsung footballer. Many over the years have looked at him and believed he could perform at a higher level, but for all sorts of random reasons, it never quite worked out. He played a part in the 2002 League Cup final for Ayr United against Rangers. In 2008, playing for Partick Thistle, he starred in their 1-1 draw at Ibrox in the League Cup. Last year, wearing Annan's colours, he helped defeat Rangers 2-1 at Ibrox in the old Third Division.

"I signed Scott Chaplain for Partick Thistle in 2007 and the Jags fans loved him," says Ian McCall, the former Thistle manager.

"He was capable of real quality and timed his runs perfectly into the box and got us goals."

Yet again, though, after two years at Thistle, Chaplain drifted back down to play for Dumbarton.

"I don't know what the answer is to why my career has gone up and down," says Chaplain. "All I ever wanted to do was be a professional footballer. At school, when I was asked what I wanted to do, I'd say, 'a professional footballer, nothing else.' But it's true that - at Ayr and Albion and Thistle and Dumbarton and now back at Albion - I've been up and down. I guess I've never fully established myself."

Intriguingly, last weekend at Ibrox, Chaplain believed that something was badly amiss with the wee Rovers before one of their greatest results. "I was a bit anxious before the game at Ibrox. Apart from me and Neil Parry, our goalkeeper, no-one in our team had experience of playing in that type of arena or that atmosphere. So I was just trying to give the guys some advice before the game. During our warm-up we tried a few passing drills, and the standard was shocking.

"I was thinking, 'what's going on here?' So we tried to rattle a few heads and get the guys focused. Then we got that early goal and it settled us. We were suddenly thinking, 'hang on . . . we've got the lead here at Ibrox.' It gave us something to hold on to, and we managed to frustrate Rangers.

"I wasn't scared of Rangers at all. I'd been there twice before and got results, with Thistle and Annan. My job was to speak to the boys, be vocal, help them stay focused. Even when we scored I wasn't celebrating, I was just trying to make sure we kept our concentration."

And then, with 13 minutes left, Rangers got their controversial equaliser following Bilel Moshni's collision with Parry.

"No point in banging on about it," says Chaplain. "I thought it was a foul. Maybe there were things that our keeper could have done differently - maybe punch the ball - but goalies nowadays are protected in that situation. Ours wasn't last week at Ibrox. It was very contentious, but it's done now. I don't envy the refs in the job they have to do. It's a hard enough job for them."

Chaplain says the gulf between a full-time club like Rangers and Albion Rovers is huge, though it does not deter him from feeling he can ruffle Rangers again on Monday night. "What makes the gap so big is the full-time aspect. If you are full-time, you are in training every day and working on every aspect of your game: the physical, the technical, the tactical, the mental.

"If you are at part-time level, you finish work, you go home for a quick bite to eat, and then you go out to training, and only then do you get a chance to think about the football.

"That is a massive difference. I've been both: part-time and full-time. If you are part-time, the balance of work and football is pretty tough."

That said, can the wee Rovers threaten another bloody nose? "Rangers will be high on motivation this time," says Chaplain. "But we will go and ask them the same question - can you break us down? We'll find out, won't we? We are what we are. We've come this far in the cup because we've been disciplined and organised. When opportunities have come our way, we've taken them. That remains our game-plan."

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