After the Pars' League 1 season ended in April , the football drug that many of us need led to my son and I going to watch Kelty Hearts three times. One reason for going was to see one of my favourite ex-Dunfermline players, Stephen Husband, who joined Kelty in 2015. I enjoyed the games and returned to see the Pars Under 20s and Kelty take part in a pre-season tournament this summer at Kelty's New Central Park home. I was impressed with the tidy ground, the friendly welcome, and the attractive football played by Kelty. This season, Dunfermline have forged closer links with Kelty through the use of New Central Park for the Pars Under 20s home games and announced a partnership agreement in October:
Kelty Hearts were formed in 1975. They played in the Fife Junior League until 2002, when the Scottish Junior FA restructured the League system, by which time Kelty had won the competition 6 times. Kelty joined all other Fife Junior clubs in the East Region, along with clubs from Lothian, Central and Tayside. The new pyramid system would be a top division (East Region Super League), Premier League, and then North, Central and South Divisions. Kelty were promoted to the Super League in 2006 and became champions in 2014/15. Last season they were runners-up. Kelty have also been runners-up in the Scottish Junior Cup twice. They have made a tremendous start to this season, as the League table shows here:
One of the driving forces behind Kelty's success is player/manager Thomas Courts (pictured, left). A former Livingston and East Fife player, Courts first joined Kelty early in his career, in 2002, and has remained at the club since his return in 2007. Capped at Junior level by Scotland, he captained his country in 2013. The same year he became manager of Kelty and has led the club to top 2 finishes in his 2 full seasons in charge to date. I contacted the Kelty boss when preparing this article, and asked him if he would comment on his ambitions for the club and how he feels about the season so far. This is what he said:
"Our season so far has surpassed expectations with us being in the latter part of November and still undefeated in all competitions. Our squad is currently fit, healthy and full of positive competition so we're enjoying the challenge of maintaining our spot at the top of the league and navigating our way through three cup competitions.
My relentless ambition is to make Kelty Hearts the very best semi-pro team in the country. I aim to do that with a very clear identity that draws on the community spirit of the village people that we represent, whilst playing in a manner that excites the fans and allows them to relate to my players and their style of play."
Before going to Paisley to see Dunfermline play St Mirren on Saturday, I went to watch Kelty's Scottish Junior Cup 3rd round game against Ashfield. Kelty swept their opponents aside with a brand of football that was very good to watch: skillful, fast and incisive. 4-0 up at half time largely due to Brian Ritchie's hat-trick, the final score was Kelty 7, Ashfield 1.
The photos below were taken by Pars Review during the game.
Kelty are very proactive on social media and can be followed on Twitter at twitter.com/KeltyHeartsJFC.
The club's official website is at www.keltyhearts.co.uk/home/4584810869 , which also contains links to their Facebook page and YouTube channel.
There is much to be admired about the on and off-field activities at Kelty Hearts. The development of their ground continues - a 4G artificial pitch was laid in 2015, and this summer 2 enclosures were built - and they have a popular social club within New Central Park. As noted above, Dunfermline Athletic have close ties to Kelty which includes back in the 1990s with the signing of Kelty's prodigal son, Andy Tod. A visit to New Central Park will not disappoint when kick-off times allow Pars fans to watch what could easily become every Dunfermline fan's second team.
Thanks to Thomas Courts for his contribution to this article, and to Kelty Hearts for the great work they are doing on and off the park - they are an example to all provincial clubs on how to conduct their business.
All photos by Pars Review.