Playing Record and Achievements
In 1973-4 the 1st XI won the District League again, this time under Angus Scott, and in the following season were runners-up.
A Scottish National League was instituted in 1976 and in the first very demanding year of this competition Western, under Bobby Hunter, did extremely well to come second to the now-dominant Edinburgh Civil Service. In fact Western were runners-up to ECS every year from 1976 to 1981. The best performance in the Scottish (Scotsman Cup was in 1979 when they lost 1-4 to ECS in the final.
The Club did achieve one notable success in this period: Due to other commitments ECS were unable to represent Scotland in the Great Britain and Ireland Club Championship (Isle of Man) in 1980. Western took their place and returned victorious with the Silver medal.
The bogey of the 1960s - many times the bridesmaid but never the bride - continued to dog the 1st XI in the 1970s and early 80s; in fact National success of any kind eluded the whole club. There was an exception in 1976 when the 3rd XI became the first Western team to win a National trophy: Under Captain Ian Thomas they won the Reserve Cup, beating Hilton HC 1-0 in the final.
The 80s were notable for an astonishing run of success by the 2nd XI which brought the District Cup to Auchenhowie in three consecutive seasons, 1979-81. The 3rd XI appeared in three Reserve Cup finals between 1980 and 1983, winning two. The 1st XI failed at the semi-final stage of the Scottish Cup in 1981, but at last, in 1986, took the trophy, beating Dundee Wanderers 3-2 (a.e.t.) in the final. The successful Captain, Gordon McKenzie, agonisingly had to miss his finest hour due to a business trip.
As 1986 Cup winners, Western again represented Scotland in the Great Britain and Ireland Championship (1987) in the Isle of Man. This time Captain Neil Menzies led the team to the Gold Medal.
There followed an unfortunate series of near misses in Scotsman Cup finals:
1991 (Capt. Mike Starling). Lost 0-2 to ECS
1994 (Capt. Murray Laing. Lost on penalties after a 1-1 draw with Grange.
1995 (Capt. Roddy Philp). Lost 1-2 to Gordonians.
Season 1991-2 saw potential disaster for the Club when the 1sts were relegated for the first time to the 2nd Division of the National League. However during that season the Club was delighted to receive the Torrie National League award for “The greatest achievement of a league club during the year”, in recognition of the way in which they fought their way back to the top division for season 1992-3.
Then, in 1996 under Roddy Philp, success at last returned when another Scotsman Cup battle against Dundee Wanderers ended in a 3-1 win for Western (now playing under a new sponsor’s name as "Western Grasshopper”).
For the rest of the 90s Western were never very far from the top of the National League, but didn’t reach it until 1997, then again in 1998, both times under Roddy Philp. When, in May 1998, the Scottish Cup was added to the League Trophy, the Club was proud to claim the title of “Scottish Champions” in its Centenary Year. Even better, the team won the Cup final comfortably, trouncing old rivals ECS (now called MIM) by 6 goals to 2.
This huge achievement turned out to be only the beginning of the best decade in the club’s history, with more successes at home and in Europe:
Playing Record and Achievements 1999-2009
In the Scottish League from 1998 to 2004 Western took premier position for 6 out of 7 seasons. 1998-99 was particularly memorable when, under Euan Miller's leadership, the league was won with a 100% record. Latterly Kelburne and Grange have reasserted themselves with the former being particularly successful in the past four years. As a result Western couldn’t quite make top spot, but were never out of the top three.
Western repeated their Centenary success with the League/Cup double two years running, disposing of Wanderers in 1999 and Kelburne in 2000; but in 2001 went out to Gordonians in the semifinals, losing in a penalty shoot out. In 2002 they were not allowed to compete in the Cup “due to National team preparation”, but beat Menzieshill 3-1 to clinch a place in Europe. There followed 3 years’ tussle with main rivals Kelburne: in 2003 they won 3-1 (3-0 after 20 minutes, “playing their best hockey ever”. The Club were now playing under the title of Western Wildcats.
Cup Glory (from Go West June 2003)
A ten-minute blitzkrieg secured the Scottish Cup and rounded off an outstanding treble season for the Wildcats. Roared on by a boisterous, White Russian inspired travelling support, the boys had the Cup as good as safe and sound in the Auchenhowie trophy cabinet with less than twenty minutes on the clock.
Dougie Simpson set the bandwagon rolling in the eighth minute, brilliantly sweeping a cross from the right into the roof of the Kelburne net after a superb run up the wing by Barry Kane.
Seven minutes later, a carbon copy movement brought the second goal, though it was the outstanding Simpson this time who made the run up the right wing, his cross finding Graham Joyce in position to ram the ball home. Almost immediately from the restart, Andrew Sewnauth’s good work in defence released the ball to Joyce, who fired an unstoppable shot high into the net to make it 3-0.
A vicious reverse stick strike gave Kelburne a glimmer of hope before half time as the teams went into the break at 3-1.
The second half was a much scrappier affair as Western relaxed and Kelburne strove to come back into the game, forcing three brilliant saves from Gav Somerville.
On the hour, the Wildcats should have put the game beyond doubt when they won a penalty stroke, but Euan Miller’s effort was well saved.
In 2004 the score was 2-2 at full time with Western winning on penalties and in 2005 they outplayed Kelburne, the score of 2-1 being much closer than the game.
2011 saw silverware in the cabinet for the first time in several seasons with the Scottish Cup lifted for the ninth time. Western cantered through the early stages of the competition before hitting scintillating form in the semi-final with a brutal 7-0 demolition of Menzieshill. The final, against arch-rivals Kelburne, was something of a classic with Western a goal up early on before going 2-1 down and then pulling it back to 2-2 just before half-time. In the second half the sides exchanged goals and Kelburne missed a penalty before a Scott McCartney rocket and the predatory instincts of Dougie Simpson established a two-goal lead. Kelburne came back again but the men from Milngavie held on for a famous 5-4 win. This meant that long-time Captain Andrew Sewnauth finally had the opportunity to lift a trophy as Western skipper.
The real measure of how a Scottish club is placed in hockey is how it rates against European competition. Here the seeds were sown in 1997 in Cardiff when Western took bronze in the European Cup Winners’ Cup (B Division). In 1998, Centenary year, with Euan Miller at the helm they hosted the C division of the Club Champions Trophy at Auchenhowie. Winning this trophy lifted Scotland into the B Division. Western won the right to contest it in 1999, in Milan, where a bronze medal was achieved again. This success was topped the following year in Belfast when Western became B Division Champions for 2000, thus projecting Scotland for the first time into the top European competition. In 2001 in Bloemendaal, now facing the best club teams in Europe, Western came a creditable 5th, perhaps the highest point in the club’s history. Next year at Antwerp they unfortunately came only 7th, resulting in Scotland’s demotion to the B Division. In 2003 Western contested the Cup Winners’ cup in Hostivar which they duly won, and in 2004 in Prague it was back to the Champions’ B competition again, the trophy being lifted by new Captain Vishal Marwaha. Once again, in 2005, Scotland were in the A Division, but the stiff competition in Amsterdam forced them into 7th place. In 2006 in Reading it was the Cup Winners’ Cup, A Division, and again only 7th place was attained and Scotland were consigned to Division B. Bouncing back again in 2007 under new Captain Andrew Seuwnauth they triumphed at their old hunting ground of Prague, winning the Cup Winners’ B trophy for the second time in 5 years.
These excellent results indicate that Western in the first decade of the 21st century, was among the top teams in Europe, excelling in the second tier and competing well in the top division. But it was still “work in progress”.
A measure of the work to be done was experienced in 2008 when Wildcats and Kelburne flew Scotland’s flag in the new European Hockey League (EHL). Both teams were eliminated in round 1. The Wildcats returned home with their tails between their legs, having conceded 6 goals in the first quarters of both their games against Rotterdam and Reading. The contrast between the Scottish league and European competition is becoming ever more stark, so it becomes important for ambitious clubs to make certain of qualification for the EHL.
Having failed to qualify for Europe the following year, 2010's second place finish in the league was enough to enure a trip to Rome for the European Trophy during Easter 2011. A disappointing group campaign, marred by injury and suspension, saw a 2-0 defeat to Akademischer of Austria in game one, a bad-tempered 4-4 draw with French side St Germain in game two and a very poor 1-0 defeat to Welshmen Whitchurch in game three. Western restored some pride with a strong 3-1 win over Czech outfit TJ Pilsen Letice to come seventh overall.
Other Club sides:
The 2nds started off the 21st Century strongly, holding the top position in the Regional (Central) League from 1999 to 2002, but thereafter struggled to take silverware in either Regional League or District Cup. In 2004-5 they lost in the semis of the Cup 2-3 to Kelburne who ultimately took the trophy, and went out in 2006-7 to the same team by the same score, this time in the quarter finals. In 2007-8 they were knocked out by Grange in the semis. But persistence paid off, and in the last year of the decade, 2009, Western at last held the District Cup, a success made sweeter by beating bogey team Kelburne 4-1 in the semis and then Inverleith 4-1 in the final. In the Regional (Central) League the the 2nds competed well every year from 2005 to 2009, yet never managed better than second spot.
The 3rd XI won the Reserve Plate in 1999 and the Glasgow Cup in 1998 and 1999. They also topped the West District League in four seasons between 2000 and 2004. The highlight of the period was the undefeated 2002-3 season when they became the first Western side in 20 years to win the Reserve Cup. The 4s won successive West District Divisions rising from Division 4 to Division 2 between 1997 and 1999.
From 2004/5 to 2007/8 the 3rd XI and 4th XI generally got no further than the quarter finals in the Reserve cup until season 2006-7 when the 3rds triumphed over Clydesdale in a penalty shoot-out adding the trophy to their West District League Championship. The 3rds achieved further success in 2008-9 when they beat Dundee Wanderers 3-2 to take the Reserve Cup, and, again, came top of their league. The following season they made it a double-double, winning the West District league once more and demolishing Wanderers an incredible 12-3 in the Reserve Cup final (in which Barry Kane scored 5 goals).