The clashes between Irvine Meadow and Troon had been yummy, however hopefully the needle is gone, says Colin Spence

Colin Spence saw both sides of a fierce rivalry between Irvine Meadow and Troon during his playing career.

Promotional slug fests, punch-ups on the field and humiliating punches – he was right in the thick of it during the spells at both clubs.

Meadow fans might want to forget it, but co-boss Spence played a leading role in the Seasiders 8-0 win against their team in October 2015 – the third worst defeat in the club’s history.

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Later that same season, he gave a man of match performance in another embarrassing loss when Troon won 6-2 at Meadow Park.

But football is, as they say, a fun old game, and just a few years later Spence was a meadow hero after joining his hometown team and playing a pivotal role in their promotion to the top tier of junior football.

Games against Troon have rarely been anything but controversial since then. The climax of the rivalry may culminate in an ugly full-time brawl in December 2018, with troon duo Jonny Baillie and Steven McCreadie and Meadow couple Jared Willet and Jordan Maguire in hot water over their behavior.

Colin Spence

Before Spence takes on the Portland Park squad as a manager for the first time this weekend, Spence reckons the end of eras has lost bad blood at both clubs.

He said, “The year I signed for Meadow, the two teams were looking for promotions and I think that’s the reason for the recent rivalry.

“Both teams showed up and I think there has been a bit of a needle since then. Usually there is a red card in games where both teams really get stuck.

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“That said, there has been a little changing of the guard over the past year and that should help get things under control.

“I think we have few players left on the team that won promotion and Troon has been doing well lately too.

“Both teams are challenging up there and there is potential for us to move up to second place if we beat Troon so there is still really healthy competition there.

Spence, second from left, played a role in Troon’s famous 8-0 win over Irvine Meadow

“I also know during my time as a player that Meadow is considered a big scalp regardless of the opposition, so Troon will come here for a result.”

An admirer of the football brand Troon plays under his old boss Jimmy Kirkwood, Spence has been impressed with their start in the campaign.

But he reckons with the most recent 5-2 loss to title hopes Darvel – their first league loss of the season – and suspects that this may have been their first real test of the season.

He said, “Jimmy likes when his teams play right and they are fine.

“Troon has had some good results against the bigger teams in recent years, but their fall may have lost to teams that are expected to beat them.

“Darvel was their first big game of the season and maybe it was the first time they were tested.

“In any case, we have to make sure that we do our best on Saturday.”

Spence is increased by returning to the availability of four players for the clash.

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Striker Jamie Martin is back after a period of self-isolation, care provider Mark McLennan has recovered from his illness and frontman Ryan McKie is fit again after an injury.

There’s more good news on that front: striker Brendan Sharpe is only weeks away from returning and longtime Crock defender Calum Gow is set to resume training for the first time this season.

Spence added, “It’s always healthy to have options, but I’m especially excited that the great Gowser gets the green light after really struggling with injuries for some time.”

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