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Last Updated: Monday, 27 March 2006, 11:52 GMT 12:52 UK
Gretna - Living the dream
By Alasdair Lamont

Gretna owner Brooks Mileson (left) and manager Rowan Alexander
Gretna owner Brooks Mileson (left) and manager Rowan Alexander

In a game renowned for its fairytale successes, the story of Gretna Football Club could soon rank with the best of them.

Having secured the Second Division title on Saturday, they now have a Scottish Cup semi-final to look forward to.

If they can beat Dundee at Hampden on Saturday - and despite being from a lower division they are favourites to do so - they will become the first club in the modern era from the third tier of Scottish football to reach the national cup final.

All this for a club that only made its debut in senior football in 2002.

After two years of learning their trade in the new arena, they romped to the Third Division title last season and have done likewise at the first time of asking in Division Two.

Their success owes much to the commitment - both financial and otherwise - of owner Brooks Mileson.

Mileson, a self-made multi-millionaire, stands behind the goals with the fans, chain smoking his way through games.

His wealth has attracted players from the SPL to the ambitious club, which has an infrastructure many top-tier teams would be proud of.

Yet physically the affable 59-year-old is as far removed from the archetypal footballing supremo as it is possible to get.

He eschews the formality normally associated with football boardrooms, sporting a long ponytail, goatee beard, jeans and cowboy boots, as well as the obligatory fag.

But he is as astute as they come, and while he has been happy to invest heavily, and will continue to do so as Gretna climb the leagues, he is implementing an academy he hopes will one day see the cream of the local youth feature alongside his big-money buys.

The club are also in the early stages of planning a new stadium - Raydale Park still resembles a Scottish Junior ground - which will hold 6,000 people to comply with SPL regulations.

For there is little doubt that is where they are bound. Manager Rowan Alexander, whose own contribution should not be down-played, will almost certainly strengthen his squad over the summer.

The standard of the First Division is such that, with a few good signings, Gretna should be among the promotion candidates at this time next year.

In the meantime, they know that victory over Dundee on Saturday will mean a Scottish Cup final date against either Hearts or Hibs.

Who is to say that they can't add that trophy to their growing haul of silverware?

Gretna 2-1 Alloa Athletic
25 Mar 06 |  Scottish League


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