Student stories - Red Brigade win Scottish university football's top league
Our men's football team – the Red Brigade – recently made Abertay history by becoming the university’s first team ever to win the top league (BUCS Scottish Division 1A) in Scottish university football!
This was a fantastic achievement – and no mean feat considering the size of the institutions they were up against.
The win means the team will face a play-off against Sheffield Hallam University for a place in the British Northern Premier League, potentially playing against the likes of Loughborough, Durham and Northumbria next season.
No date has yet been set, but we’ll keep you posted as things develop.
In the meantime, we caught up with the team’s captain – fourth year student Stewart Macrae – to find out more about the team and what the win means for them.
How does it feel to be 1A champions?
“It’s an incredible achievement for Abertay to win the league – especially considering the universities we play against who have considerably more students and access to many more resources than us with regards to things like training facilities, equipment and staff.”
Did you know beforehand that you’d be top of the league, or did it all rely on that final match?
“It all came down to the final match against Heriot Watt which we went into knowing that we had to win if we were to win the league. The team had just come off the back of a couple of poor results since the turn of the year and, despite confidence not being as high as at the start of the season, there was still an inner belief within the squad that we were more than capable of winning the league.
“However, in all honesty, we didn’t really think this would be possible at the start of the season. After finishing mid-table last season and losing key players, this year we felt that matching the achievements of last year – which included a third place finish in 1A – would be incredibly difficult. If you had said to the team at the start of the year your final game would be at home to Heriot Watt to stay in the league we would have gladly taken it.”
Could you give us a bit of background to the team?
“Last year was the team’s first ever experience of the top division in Scottish university football. Prior to gaining promotion the team had been in a competitive 2A knocking on the door of 1A.
“Getting to 1A was an incredible achievement and the team were overjoyed to be presented with the opportunity to play in the top division, so securing our place in the league last year was also an incredible achievement and gave us the platform to build upon for this season.
“Throughout my four years at Abertay the team has always had a close-knit group of players who see each other not just as team mates but friends off the pitch as well.
“The majority of the boys in the team study sports courses at Abertay. However, each year there are usually a couple of boys outwith the sports courses who try and claim that they are much more intelligent – something that doesn’t go down too well!
“It’s a mixture of boys from first year to fourth year which is something I personally love about university football. It’s great to get all the new boys embedded into the team at the start of the year in the same way I was when I was a first year.”
Why are we called the Red Brigade?
“Historically we were the only team at Abertay to play in a red kit and we still feel it is important to remember where we started this incredible journey. Halfway through last year’s season we were given new blue and yellow kits – the official university colours. Although this was not something we were happy about at the time, we have since embraced the new colours but still feel it is important to recognise the red strip era.”
Who is the coach for the team?
“Kurt Herd is the coach for the first team. Kurt joined us as a direct entry into third year this year, and was relatively new to university football. However, after meeting with Kurt at the start of the year and talking to him about his coaching experience I knew that the team would take to him. His coaching experience abroad was what impressed me the most having coached in Sweden, Australia and New Zealand. In addition he also played football for a year in Australia and New Zealand.”
How much help and advice do you get from sports staff at the university?
“I’m always in regular contact with Mikey Devlin – the university’s Sports Development Officer – either by popping into the sports office for a chat with him or through emails.
“Mikey has helped me immensely as a captain by supporting any decisions I’ve made and also offering his opinion on any dilemmas that have occurred. It’s also great to see him supporting us at our home games as well as the other teams that are playing that day.
“Throughout my years at Abertay I have also witnessed members of the academic staff come along and support us in some of our biggest games, which is something that the team are very thankful for.”
How are you feeling about the playoff that’s coming up?
“As a fourth year I see it as one of my last games for the university and also a huge opportunity for the remaining boys to go and create more history for the club. I think it will be an incredible experience to even just play in the playoff, which will be against Sheffield Hallam – a well-recognised sporting university.
“There hasn’t been any confirmed date for the playoff as of yet. With the season being over normally we would only have Varsity to look forward to, so the possibility of another game together before the boys go their separate ways is something that the team are very excited about.”
Are you able to put any of the things you learn in your Sports Development lectures and on any placements into practice as the team captain?
“Overall, I would say that studying Sports and Development has helped me understand how the team is run with regards to the Sports Development Officer and the decisions that are made. The placements I have carried out have been incredibly useful as each year a different opportunity has been presented to me.
“In the past I’ve worked in local primary schools and high schools, working alongside Active Schools to deliver sessions. My current placement is at the University helping to deliver a new module to first year students.
“We’re encouraged to try and get a new placement each year to further our skills, instead of doing the same one every year, and this has been really beneficial for me as the team captain as I feel I’ve worked alongside others from different backgrounds and areas which allows me to understand the different needs players have within the team.”
What made you want to study this subject and what’s next for you?
“Participating in sport and physical activity has always been prominent throughout my life. This is one of the main reasons I chose to follow a sport pathway at university. I had a friend who was already at Abertay before I chose to study here. This was a massive influence as he highly recommended the course to me.
“I’ve applied to do a PGDE in secondary physical education after I graduate from Abertay. This is something I’ve wanted to do from the very first year of university, so hopefully I will be successful in gaining a place on the course.”
How do people join the Red Brigade?
“We recruit most of our team at the start of the year at the Sports Fayre. However, some people miss this and I will often get emails about people who didn’t know how to join so usually they will be given the chance to come up and train. I know that Mikey is also working on a recreational football team, as we only have two competitive teams at the moment so places are tough to secure. That’ll be good, as so many people love football, so it’ll be great if there are more opportunities to participate.”
To keep up-to-date with the team, you can follow @Red_Brigade on Twitter.
To find out more about our sports courses, please visit our webpages.