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The Kelty Hearts Invincibles? Kevin Thomson on Walter Smith lessons underpinning Scotland and England’s last unbeaten league record

Title-chasing: Thomson
Title-chasing: Thomson

Liverpool were the last to fall.

As Sadio Mane’s gilt-edged injury-time header drifted wide of the post on Sunday, West Ham were able to celebrate a statement victory.

It also marked the Reds’ maiden league defeat of the season.

A proud unbeaten sequence ended, just like Rangers, Hearts, Chelsea, Bournemouth, Plymouth and Exeter City before them.

It leaves Kelty Hearts as the last club standing; the only invincibles in senior league football in Scotland and England.

West Ham see off Liverpool

“I’ve had a few people getting in touch telling me that [unbeaten] fact after the weekend,” boss Kevin Thomson told Courier Sport.

“We can be proud of a good start and it is a testament to the work being done by the players.

“But that’s it: a start.”

In their first campaign in SPFL football — and in Thomson’s maiden managerial role — the Maroon Machine has been relentless.

But the notion of completing an entire season without tasting defeat is laughed off.

Walter Smith lessons

That should come as no surprise.

Former Rangers midfielder Thomson claimed five major honours and represented Scotland three times.

The next match; the next challenge; the next victory — that’s how those with a winning mentality think, rather than musing on what could be in six months’ time.

Walter Smith passed away on October 26

Indeed, Thomson’s thoughts turn to his late, great Gers gaffer Walter Smith, who he simply calls The Manager.

“I’ve worked under some fantastic individuals, but none more so than the manager [Smith], who was the greatest of them all and is sorely missed,” continued Thomson.

“Not only do I model myself as a manager on him, but I live my life by what he taught me; be humble, treat everyone properly and try to make sure people trust and want to play for you.

“So, we won’t be getting carried away. We’ll approach every game calmly and treat opponents with the respect they deserve.

“Facts, figures and stats are like water off a duck’s back to me. All that really matters is where we are at the end of the season.”

Leadership

While Thomson’s burgeoning reputation continues to grow in west Fife, he is quick to praise his playing squad.

Kelty’s quality is inarguable.

The likes of Joe Cardle, Kallum Higginbotham, Nathan Austin and skipper Michael Tidser are outrageous talents for League 2 level.

But they have also proved willing to scrap, battle and grind out results when fluent football has not been possible.

Winners: Thomson and Cardle

Joe [Cardle] is a top boy and a fantastic professional,” lauded Thomson.

“He was as fit as anyone in pre-season and the boys have made him the father figure of the dressing room!

“But we’ve got some incredible characters in there — Jordon [Forster], Tam O’Ware, Kal [Kallum Higginbotham]. I could go through the lot and you’d find big, winning personalities.

“We did a lot of due diligence to make sure that would be the case.

“Tids [Michael Tidser] is right at the top of that, marshalling the group and commanding respect.

“That makes my job so much easier because I know I’ve got senior players in there who will manage the group.

“It’s very rare that I need to step in and give anyone a wee jag — they set high standards themselves.“

Title tussle

With a top of the table clash against Forfar to come this weekend, Thomson added: “Football is a fickle game and can change on a whim.

“However, I think the boys are enjoying being here and enjoy the way we treat people and lead the team.

“It’s just about keeping that momentum and positivity up week-to-week.”

Joe Cardle: Kevin Thomson tipped for the top as winger insists Kelty Hearts move was never about money

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