Sir Alexander Fleming is “the most famous thing Darvel has produced”, but the scientist who discovered penicillin now has rivals in the shape of the Ayrshire town’s local football team.
So says John Gall – although the owner of Darvel FC is leaving it to others to decide if his sixth-tier side’s defeat of Aberdeen, who lie fifth in the Premiership, is the biggest shock in Scottish Cup history.
No other top-flight side has previously lost to a team five divisions down the pecking order, but the managing director of ‘Brownings The Bakers’ says the West of Scotland League has all the ingredients to be an even greater hotbed of latent talent.
Darvel won their Premier League last season but missed out on promotion to the Lowland League – which acts as a feeder to the Scottish Professional Football League – after losing to East of Scotland champions Tranent.
Asked if this was the Scottish Cup’s biggest shock, Gall told BBC Scotland: “The West of Scotland Football League I reckon is one of the best leagues in Scotland. Auchinleck Talbot is the most famous club in the league, but we’ve also got Clydebank, Pollok, Irvine Meadow.
“We have the pyramid system now. Well done to the Scottish FA for agreeing to do this, but it now needs looked at. I think last night shows the strength of teams. We can be a force in Scottish football, but we need this pyramid system to work better for us and enable us to get up the leagues.”
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Indeed, Aberdeen are not the first senior side to have felt the heat produced by baker Gall’s XI.
A 3-1 roasting of Clyde in an October friendly was like an oven warning light before another League 1 side, Montrose, were battered 5-2 away from home to set up their meeting with Aberdeen in front of a crowd of 3,500 – the capacity temporarily increased from 2,200 – plus a nationwide audience watching live on BBC Scotland.
Another third-tier side, Falkirk, are next up in the last 16 for the side again leading the West of Scotland League, with Gall saying the tie will once more not be moved from the town – population 3,900 – eight miles east of Kilmarnock in search of a bigger gate and more financial rewards.
Talking of which, the owner, who was last out of Recreation Park as he locked the gates after the TV crews had left, revealed that his collection of joiners, plumbers, managers and teachers would not receive a specific bonus for beating Aberdeen.
“They’ll get a good bonus in the round that they exit and any cut of TV fees we get,” Gall explained. “That’s the arrangement I’ve had with them for two years now and they’re happy with it. But last night they’re saying ‘gaffer – I can’t believe we’re not getting a bonus for winning!'”
So was it the biggest Scottish Cup shock of all-time? Here are its rivals – judge for yourself:
1959, first round: Fraserburgh 1-0 Dundee
Fraserburgh, who would finish runners-up in the Highland League, dumped out Dundee, fourth in the top flight, thanks to Johnny Strachan’s winner.
1967, first round: Berwick Rangers 1-0 Rangers
Rangers had lost the League Cup final to Celtic and would later also finish behind their city rivals in the league before suffering defeat by Bayern Munich in the European Cup Winners’ Cup finale. But losing to Sammy Reid’s goal for Berwick Rangers, who would finish 10th in the second tier, has long been remembered as the pinnacle of Scottish Cup upsets.
1967, first round: Elgin City 2-0 Ayr United
Overshadowed by Berwick’s exploits, reigning Highland League champions Elgin City knocked out top-flight Ayr United, whose season would also end with relegation.
1987, third round: Rangers 0-1 Hamilton Academical
Graeme Souness’ rebuilt Rangers would go on to win the league and Hamilton Academical would be relegated, but it was Adrian Sprott who sent the hosts crashing out of the cup.
1995, fourth round: Stenhousemuir 2-0 Aberdeen
Tommy Steele was on song for Stenhousemuir as the side who would finish fourth in the third tier beat an Aberdeen team who also went close to relegation before winning a play-off as the Ochilview side progressed to the quarter-finals.
1997, semi-final replay: Celtic 0-1 Falkirk
Paul McGrillen’s goal sent Falkirk, who finished fifth in the second tier, into the final against Kilmarnock after a Hampden win over a Celtic side who were runners-up to Rangers in the Premier League.
2000, third round: Celtic 1-3 Inverness Caledonian Thistle
The famous ‘Super Caley Go Ballistic Celtic Are Atrocious’ headline followed the win by Inverness Caledonian Thistle, who would finish sixth in the second tier yet beat hosts who would again be runners-up to Rangers in the top flight.
2003, quarter-final: Inverness Caledonian Thistle 1-0 Celtic
Celtic, who had just beaten Liverpool to reach the Uefa Cup semi-finals and would go on to the final, were ousted domestically by Dennis Wyness’ winner for a Caley Thistle side who were destined to finish fourth in the second tier.
2006, third round: Clyde 2-1 Celtic
Roy Keane’s Celtic debut was ruined as the side destined to become Scottish champions were beaten by a team assembled by manager Graham Roberts via summer trials and who would finish fifth in tier two.
2021, second round: Brora Rangers 2-1 Heart of Midlothian
Highland League champions Brora Rangers knocked out Hearts before the Edinburgh side made amends by winning promotion back to the top flight.
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