Monifieth Athletic had a dream season in 2017/18, as they completed a domestic treble, losing just two league games in the process.
YFS caught up with manager Andy McCafferty and captain Aidan Lorente to find out about their super season:
The 2003 age group consisted of just one league, rather than the two seen at the other age groups. Monifieth had finished as runners up in the 2016/17 Watson McInally League, and McCafferty admits that silverware wasn’t his priority for the season.
“Our aim at the start of the season was to be one of the best footballing teams in our league, not necessarily the most successful in terms of trophies but to pass the ball better than the previous season and to be brave in possession of the ball across the whole of the pitch.
“I think in the main, we achieved that aim although it was tough at the end of the season to maintain the level with so many games played in a short period of time.
Monifieth started the season with a 10-game unbeaten run in the league before losing 1-0 against Dundee West in November.
The adverse weather put a halt to Monifieth’s progress, as they were kept out of action until the new year.
McCafferty was delighted with the attitude of his players during their hiatus.
“The players have turned 14/15 during the season and have worked hard consistently to keep fit over the winter months and be physically prepared for the long run in to the end of the season.”
Monifieth were thrown back into the deep end as they faced off against Fairmuir in the semi-final of the Jean Pierre Babin Cup after their lay off, and the match would prove to be one of McCafferty’s highlights of the season.
“We had just had a very frustrating seven-week break over the winter and were back in mid-January to a very tough away cup tie plus our top scorer at that point, Arran Ferry was out with tonsillitis!
“We gave away a goal after two minutes which then looked like we had a mountain to climb but the boys didn’t panic, applied themselves brilliantly that day, scored some great goals and got the team to their first ever cup final.
“That was a great moment for me this season.”
Captain Lorente was the hero that day as he bagged three of the goals in the 4-1 win, and he believes that his goal that gave his side the lead was his best strike in a goal-laden campaign.
He said, “I managed to score a hat-trick that day but my second from 25 yards with my left foot was my best goal all season.
“I think Fairmuir were our toughest opponents this season. We played them four times this year and each game was very close, luckily, we were able to win three of them including the two semi-finals.”
McCafferty echoed his captain’s sentiments about Monifieth’s games against Fairmuir.
“Fairmuir were excellent against us and again, the four games we played against them were very tough games.
“The league has been very competitive this year with not much between any of the teams. Aside from Fairmuir, I think Riverside and Celtic Boys have definitely got stronger as well as ourselves and will be better again next year.
“Dundee West also beat us 1-0 early in the season and have always been tough opponents but we have always enjoyed playing against them as they too like to try to play good football.”
Four more wins in the league and a second semi-final win over Fairmuir left Monifieth sitting pretty at the top of the table and with two cup finals to look forward to after the Easter break.
With 10 league games and two cup finals to play in the final six weeks of the season, Monifieth, like their title rivals had a relentless schedule ahead of them.
The first of their games saw them take on reigning champions Pitfour away from home. McCafferty was full of respect for the team that his side would face four times before the season’ conclusion.
“Pitfour have consistently been the team to beat in the East Region in our age group and for them to have maintained that level over a number of seasons is an indicator of how well they have done as a group and how well Dave and the coaching team have done at St Madoes.”
It was Monifieth that took the points away from St Madoes as they recorded an emphatic 7-2 win. Seven days later, the side’s faced off in the final of the Tommy Clark Trophy.
As they had done in the league, Monifieth came out on top thanks to Arran Ferry’s second half strike that secured them a 2-1 win. Despite the league result, McCafferty wasn’t surprised by low scoring final.
“The cup finals were very tight affairs and always destined to be a one goal margin of victory for either of the sides – luckily, we got the goals to win them which was fantastic.”
Four games in seven days brought Monifieth another 10 points as they closed in on the title, and McCafferty was full of praise for how his players navigated such a hectic schedule.
“Mentally I think it was a terrific achievement and showed their character and determination to succeed.
“Being honest, I think the football suffered a little with so many games in such a short period of time which meant it was difficult to coach over that period as the focus was on playing, recovery and then the next game – however, I couldn’t be prouder of the boys commitment and determination which was outstanding all season.”
A trip to Graham Street put Monifieth on the brink of the title as Ferry netted both goals in a 2-0 win over Fairmuir.
Five days later Pitfour were beaten 2-1 again with Greg Will and Lorente making it a cup double. Fairmuir’s 5-3 win over Pitfour meant a win over Broughty United would complete the treble, and Monifieth did it in style as they ran out 7-1 winners in their penultimate game of the season.
Captain Lorente admits the season surpassed all expectations.
He said, “Winning the treble was amazing, the team has never won anything before so to win three trophies in one season was a great experience.”
Monifieth boasted the league’s best defensive record with 27 goals conceded in 26 games, seven of which came in their final day defeat against Pitfour, and McCafferty believes their fine form at the back was the catalyst for their success.
“I think our two top goal scorers, Aidan Lorente and Arran Ferry both had a big part to play this season, but I also think that our back four of Ben Dorward, Sean Kydd, Jamie Lannon and Aaron Dewar were excellent all season and the key to our success was built on being difficult to score against.
“Until we shipped in seven goals in the last game of the season! Which still hurts a bit, but I can forgive them one bad day at the office!!
“Greg Will was outstanding in the midfield for us all season. He’s super-committed and good on the ball when in possession.
“Elliot McCafferty’s set piece deliveries were outstanding all season and I know how hard he has worked in the last 12 months on his technique.
“Thirdly Thomas Welsh our goalkeeper who has a terrific attitude, always wants to do well and has made some really important saves this season at crucial moments.
With 11 clean sheets in the league and two penalty shootout wins, Lorente also feels Welsh has been instrumental to Monifieth’s success.
“Thomas our goalkeeper has been brilliant this season. Goals win games, but Thomas has made some amazing saves in big games this year.”
With preseason for 2018/19 already underway, McCafferty is relishing the challenges the new season will bring.
“There’s definitely some added pressure for the boys who have now put the spotlight on themselves
“However, the goal from my perspective and from a Monifieth Athletic perspective won’t change from the last six years or so - which is to try and improve each individual within the squad and to improve the way the team play football.
“If success in the form of trophies comes again, then great but as a club we are trying to develop technically good players who can adapt to different systems of play and hopefully the ones who work really hard can go onto achieve something in the game.”
Lorente added, “My aims are to win more trophies next year and maybe go further in the Scottish Cup and East Region Cup.
“We went out early in both these cups this season which was disappointing for everyone in the team so hopefully we can do better next year.”
After their treble winning season, McCafferty had this to say to his players.
“I am extremely proud of what the boys achieved in season 2017/18 and more importantly, the way in which the boys tried to play good football even when things were going against them was really satisfying.
“Their discipline and sportsmanship were also fantastic, and I don’t think we had a red card all season and very few yellow cards. If they keep working hard and focussing on good habits, there is no reason they can’t have more success next season, but the boys should also remember how great it feels to win a trophy or two because it may not happen again.”
The new league format for the 2003 age group was always going to throw up some surprises, but Monifieth’s story is one that very few would have predicted.
To contextualise their achievement, Pitfour won 18 games to complete the treble in 2016/17. This season, Monifieth won 33 games to seal all three pieces of silverware and write themselves into the club history book.
As well as that, for long spells of the season the title was very much a four-horse race with Dundee West, Pitfour and Fairmuir all finishing on over 60 points, meaning there was little to no margin for error for Monifieth.
Ultimately, it was their strength as a team that got them over the line on all three fronts, and their ability to grind out wins during the final weeks of the season. No matter the opponents, they approached every game with the same attitude and more often than not out-passed their opponents.
While Aidan Lorente and Arran Ferry both had fruitful seasons in front of goal, it was the other end of the park where Monifieth shone, as they boasted the best defensive record in the league.
The Scottish and East Region Cups will both be areas for improvement next season after first round exits in both, although no national competitions to compete in during the run in certainly aided their title challenge.
Next season will bring about new challenges as Monifieth try to defend their titles in what is becoming a stronger league every season. Whether they can reach the heights of this season is yet to be seen but if they continue play the same style of football and show the same work rate and determination, it’s going to take a very good side to beat them.
Monifieth Athletic 2003s Treble Winners: Thomas Welsh, Aaron Dewar, Cameron Watts, Bartosz Kwiatek, Elliot McCafferty, Sean Kydd, Jamie Lannon, Aidan Lorente, Arran Ferry, Ross McLean, Paddy Boyle, Greg Will, Ben Dorward, Cameron Knight, Lewis Banks, Matthew Thoms, Dylan Ferguson, Ruari McQuillan