GHK have withdrawn from the Scottish Cup, just four days before their quarter-final clash against Premiership champions Hawick at Mansfield Park.
The Glasgow outfit will now play a home National League One fixture against Kelso (which was postponed in mid-December due to a frozen pitch) on Saturday instead.
This withdrawal highlights an underlying issue with the Cup related to the National One teams (who still have two or three of their 22 league games this season left to play) not being unanimously in favour of taking part in the competition in the same way as the Premiership clubs (who have already completed their 18 game regular season) are.
“We were very clear from before the season started, and we told the SRU, that GHK as a club did not want to play in the Cup,” explained Peter Wright, who is stepping down as head coach of the Anniesland outfit at the end of this season.
“There are several reasons behind that, including the fact that we have 22 games to play in the league and it has been really tough to get the buy-in from the players for that, so adding more cup games into the mix is just too much.
“The mistake we made was not pulling out before our first round match against Stewart’s Melville, when they beat us to the punch by forfeiting due to insufficient front-row players. Then our second-round game against Stirling County last Saturday was doubled-up as a league match so that pushed the situation back another week. But we’ve now reached the end of the road.
“We had several of our most experienced players saying they are not prepared to play this weekend, and we lost out tight-head prop to injury last Saturday, so we would have ended up going down to Hawick with a really weakened team to play the Premiership champions, who are a really physical side by all accounts, and I think there could be a safety issue there.
“Remember, the Premiership is still allowed to pay players, so you’re talking about semi-pro players against amateurs. I thought we were trying to get rid of that.
“We are disappointed as a club because we know it reflects badly on us – but, ultimately, we’ve had to make the right decision for the club.
“We’re just trying to be up-front and honest and say: ‘We don’t want to be in this competition and we don’t think it is the best interest of our players to fulfil this fixture’. We’ll just have to deal with the flack that comes our way.”
Watsonians forfeited their round two game against Marr last weekend due to insufficient front-row players, while Kelso retained only three players from their previous week’s crucial league match against Ayr when they welcomed Heriot’s Blues to Poynder Park (they lost the game 38-12).