Neil Hobson catches up with Scotland star Kevin Thomson to talk about coaching, the Scottish Cup, 3G pitches and signing for Peebles Rovers

THE date was 27 October 1991, the scene was Hampden Park; the home of Scottish football.

The game? It was the Scottish League Cup final, which was, of course, then going by the name of the Skol Cup.

A total of 40,000 people crammed into the national stadium that night, as Hibernian and Dunfermline Athletic did battle for the cup.

Keith Wright and Tommy McIntyre were the men who bagged the goals, and the trophy, for the Easter Road club in a 2-0 win on a memorable night for all of a green and white persuasion.

Amongst the joyous mob, those gleeful Hibees that lined the Hampden terraces, was a young fan from Peebles called Kevin Thomson.

“Even today, I can still remember getting the Peebles supporters bus to Hampden for that final,” he smiles as he sits down with the Peeblesshire News.

It was one of the first footballing memories for a man who would go on to make over 340 professional appearances, lift five pieces of major silverware, play for Rangers in the 2008 UEFA Cup final at Old Trafford, and help guide his boyhood heroes to their first Scottish Cup triumph since 1902.

Needless to say, the former Peebles Thistle player has carved out a decent career in the game.

It’s changed days for Thomson now though. Once, he was the midfield general in Scottish football - a hard-tackling player who emerged into the limelight as part of a ‘golden generation’ of young players at Hibs under Tony Mowbray in the early noughties.

These days, he’s diverged onto a wholly different path with the establishment of his own football academy for youngsters - the Kevin Thomson Academy.

Footballers moving into coaching following their playing career is about as surprising as finding out that water is wet. However, Thomson’s case is unique as he openly admits that becoming a coach was never the plan.

“I’ve got my own academy now so that takes up a lot of my time these days. It’s great, but the thing is that I was never overly interested in coaching kids at first.

“If you asked me if I wanted to move into youth coaching when I was in my late 20s, I probably would have told you I didn’t have the patience to coach kids. But, now I’ve got sons of my own and they’re really into their football!

“My academy looks to help players right through from grass-roots to young professionals - I treat them all the same, and I’ve got a real passion to help and improve their game.

“I’m still building up experience at the moment, but my goal one day is to be a manager. I wanted to do it slightly differently, I wanted to give something back first.

“I’m growing an academy that I’m really proud of, one that can hopefully help a lot of kids and give them a realistic idea of what it takes to make it to the top of the game.”

With all the talk of coaching, it’s hard to believe that Thomson is still only 32 years-old.

His last club in professional football was a five-month stint with Hibs last year - his third and shortest spell with the capital team although, arguably, the most memorable as he became part of a squad under the tutelage of Alan Stubbs that went on to lift the Scottish Cup. It was Hibs’ first triumph in the competition for 114 years.

Whilst Thomson missed out on being in the squad for the final, he featured in previous rounds, including a heroic performance against Hearts at Tynecastle in the fourth round where he made a superb goal-line clearance to keep them in the game.

So, for the boyhood Hibs fan, how did it feel to see his team lift the trophy? An infectious smile swiftly spreads across Thomson’s face as he talks about those days.

“Like I said, going through to watch Hibs win the Skol Cup in 91 as a fan made it even more surreal 25 years later.

“It was obviously tough missing out on the final, but being on the bus afterwards as a player and a supporter going down Leith Walk was pretty special.

“Just to be a part of the squad and the club was the stuff that dreams were made of.”

Amongst his memories of playing at the highest level, one issue firmly rears it’s head in the interview - namely the continued issue of a 3G pitch in the Peebles.

It’s a story everyone’s familiar with by now, and as the debate continues in the town. Thomson voiced his support for the expansion of facilities in Peebles.

“For me, it was very frustrating growing up with no facilities in the town. When I was a youngster, we used to make do with whatever we had; we sometimes even went up to the golf course and played there!

“I have heard about these plans through the grapevine, and I do think it would be a great thing for Peebles. It’s always been a town that’s been a great place to grow up in for young kids, but I always thought that when the facilities did get better they were always limited.

“If the resources are there, and there’s money in the pot to spend, it’s certainly something that should be explored.”

Finally, after such serious discussions, one huge question remained; would he like to link up with former Hibs teammate, Ger Rossi, and sign for Peebles Rovers?

“I’m surprised Ger’s not phoned me up yet!”, he laughs

“It’s funny, I probably get asked every second day If I would ever consider getting my boots back on and play again.

“I tried playing a bit of junior footy with a few of my mates, but to be honest it was probably a bridge too far. Now, I’m just concentrating on my academy and being the best coach that I can possibly be.”