More than 400 Perth High School supporters are expected to travel to Hampden Park for this evening’s “once-in-a-lifetime” fixture.
Fair City pupils will be in Glasgow to face Holyrood Secondary School in the Scottish Senior Shield – a game considered the pinnacle of schools football.
Perth High have only won the competition once before, in 2001, so this year’s crop of players could make history at Scotland’s national stadium.
Staff at the school organised three 55-seater coaches that sold out two weeks ago. It will leave this afternoon (Friday), 45 minutes after the players set off in their own dedicated coach.
Parents have also clubbed together to organise a 50-seater coach.
Add on those driving to the stadium independently and Perth High should be cheered on by more than 400 fans.
“There’s an awful lot of excitement around the school,” said Ross Robinson, school PE teacher and team coach.
“It is the first thing on everyone’s lips in the morning.
“Walking through the school different people talk to me about it every single day, which just tells us what a big thing it is for the school.”
Tonight’s opponents have four past wins
Just getting to this stage has been a grand achievement for the boys from Perth.
After all, more than 100 teams entered and the list of past winners is dominated by schools from Glasgow and the surrounding area.
These include tonight’s opponents Holyrood, located just one mile from Hampden, who have four previous wins to their name.
They are one of only seven SFA Performance Schools nationally, and the only one in Glasgow.
“We know they are going to be good but we can only control ourselves and make sure we are prepared,” Ross said.
“There is not a person in this team that I don’t have full confidence and trust in.
“If we can come away knowing we have given everything that will still be a success.
“Using the Hampden changing rooms and getting to play on that pitch in front of all those people is their reward for an incredible season.
“If they leave Hampden with a trophy that’s the reward for winning that game at Hampden.
“But the bigger prize is the experience because that happens once in a lifetime.
“All of these boys will have won trophies before, many of them will win further trophies.
“But not many will have the opportunity to play at Hampden with their friends.”
Manager has also been on a journey
The game is sure to be emotional – and not just for the players.
Ross, 32, started working at Perth High seven years ago.
At the beginning of his second year the S6 pupils who make up most of tonight’s team began at the school.
As S1s, Ross managed them to victory in the under-13s plate.
And he has been with them ever since.
But once this season is over 11 members of the squad will go their separate ways.
Ross said: “It has been quite the journey from winning that competition in S1 and then the ups and downs of the past few years, with not being able to play games during Covid.
“It’s the honour of a lifetime to work with boys who want to do well and give everything at represent Perth High School the best as they can.
“It has been a privilege to see them grow as footballers yes, but and also as men.
“I will definitely miss them as people, as well as footballers.”
Perth High aiming for the double
There are unlikely to be wild celebrations if Ross’s under-18s, who also include some S4 and S5 pupils, emerge victorious tonight.
This is because they still have to play Breadalbane Academy in the Perth and Kinross schools cup final.
The match will take place on the McDiarmid Park astro-turf on Friday, June 2.
Whatever happens over the next fortnight, the feel-good factor at Perth High has been firmly established.
“School football in Perth and Kinross is growing by the day in terms of the number of competitions we have, and the number of young people representing their schools,” Ross said.
“So this feels like a cherry on the cake in the process of raising the profile of school football in Perth and Kinross.”
The senior shield takes place at Hampden Park tonight, kick-off 7pm. Tickets cost £6 for adults and £4 for under 16s/over 65s.