East of Scotland League

As well as competing in inter-university competition on Wednesday afternoons during term time, the Watt competes in various grades of weekend football. The First Team plays in the East of Scotland League. This is a Senior League which, until the establishment of the Lowland League in 2013 was one of the main feeders to the Scottish Football League.  When a vacancy in the SPFL last arose (prior to the establishment of play-offs for promotion into the Scottish League), four East of Scotland League clubs applied to fill it and one – Annan Athletic – was successful. East of Scotland League games are mostly played on Saturdays, with some midweek fixtures as required, mainly towards the end of the season.

During the summer of 2013, the Scottish Lowland Football League was introduced as a counterbalance to the Highland League in preparation for the implementation of plans to try to introduce a “pyramid” system within Scottish football.  This new League is positioned between the national league structure (now the Scottish Professional Football League) and the East of Scotland League.  At the end of season 2015 – 2016, successful applications by Civil Service Strollers and Hawick Royal Albert brought to ten the number of clubs which had moved from the East of Scotland League to the Lowland League. The Lowland League has now attained its target membership and unless a member club resigns, there will be no prospect of any more clubs moving into the League by any other means than promotion, although to gain admission by that method requires a club to hold a licence which few of the current members of the East of Scotland League have so far obtained.

Heriot-Watt has been a member of the East of Scotland League since 1971. Erosion of the League’s membership, mainly due to the inception of the Lowland League, has reduced the number of clubs in the League, but from a low point last season of eleven clubs (down from a peak of twenty-six in season 2012 – 2013), thirteen clubs are competing in the East of Scotland League this season, after the relegation of Preston Athletic from the Lowland League (the promoted team having come from the South of Scotland League) and the decision of Kelty Hearts, the Junior Superleague Champions, to move to Senior football in an attempt to reach the SPFL.

The Watt’s record in East of Scotland football since the year 2000 shows highs and lows, but the successes are in the majority. The League operated in two divisions between 1987 and 2014 and after winning promotion in season 2004 – 2005, the Watt side, managed by Billy Henderson, finished second in the Premier Division the following season, losing out on the championship itself by only two points. The League Cup was also captured during that momentous season.

After the departure of many influential players at the end of 2005 – 2006, the Watt struggled the following season and was relegated, but under new manager John Young, the First Division championship was won again to restore Premier Division football to Riccarton. When John moved back into the Scottish League to join his friend Dick Campbell at Forfar, the Watt appointed former Hibernian player and Berwick Rangers manager Michael Renwick as Head Coach.  After being promoted as champions in 2008, Watt had three seasons in the Premier Divison from 2008-2009 onwards, during the first of which it won the King Cup in 2009. The club then dropped back to the First Division for a season before returning as champions again to the higher division for two more seasons.

When Michael Renwick departed to take up a coaching position in California, Watt’s Under-21 Coach, Chris Smith, was promoted to the top job.  Watt was again relegated at the end season 2013 – ’14, but would have been promoted once more for last season had the two-division structure been retained.  Chris Smith resigned at the end of the season before last to enable him to pursue opportunities arising from his S.F.A. position.

At the start of season 2015 – 2016, Ian Little was appointed as Head Coach.  In his playing career, Ian represented Meadowbank Thistle, Stenhousemuir, Alloa Athletic and Berwick Rangers.  At Berwick, having topped the 500 mark in Scottish League appearances, he served for three and a half years as player-coach, followed by two and a half seasons as player-Assistant Manager, then two seasons as Manager.

When Ian Little accepted a position at Livingston F.C. prior to the 2016 – 2017 season, the Club returned to the internal promotion route to appoint his successor, recognising the excellent work done by Banji Koya as Under-20 Coach. ‘Bejay’, as the Head Coach is known to all, is a fine game analyst and a superb coach. He is accredited to UEFA ‘B’ licence standard and is currently taking his ‘A’ licence. His enthusiasm for the game and his love of the Club are legendary and in his first season in the top job, Heriot-Watt finished fourth in both the East of Scotland League and the Lowland and East of Scotland Under-20 Development League.