Five For Friday: Six Nations


FFF Six FBSCOTLAND has never won the Six Nations.

In fact, you have to go back to the last ever Five Nations to find Scotland topping the annual tournament, which was back in 1999. Since then, they have collected the wooden spoon four times.

Stranraer are out to avoid the wooden spoon in Ladbrokes League 1 and, with the annual rugby union tournament getting under way last weekend, we take a look at just a couple of Stranraer's connections with England, Ireland, Wales, France and Italy.

We'll 'try' to keep any puns to a minimum.

England

A number of players who have pulled on the Stranraer shirt have links with England.
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Among them is former club captain Danny Mitchell, who began his senior career with Northampton Town. The midfielder was just a youngster when he swapped New Luce for Sixfields Stadium.

Still only 29, Mitchell returned north of the border and quickly became an important part of the Stranraer squad. He would start 147 games, with a further 21 substitute appearances.

On top of that, he scored 16 goals, the last of which came in a dramatic 3-2 win away to Elgin City. The Blues had trailed 2-0 before Kevin Cawley scored either side of Mitchell's goal to record a memorable win.

Another with a connection to England is Mark Staunton.
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The defender joined the Blues when they were promoted to the Second Division, despite losing out to Albion Rovers in the play-off final.

Staunton, now 28, started his career with Celtic but moved to Charlton Athletic for a six-figure fee before he even played a first team game for the Hoops.

He returned north of the border a year later to join Falkirk and would have spells with Berwick Rangers, East Fife and Beith before joining the Blues. Staunton was a regular starter for Keith Knox and Stevie Aitken, chalking up 35 appearances as they successfully avoided relegation.

However, he was released at the end of the season and went on to have spells with Irvine Meadow and Stirling Albion (where he scored against Stranraer in a pre-season friendly in 2015) before joining Kilbirnie Ladeside, where he features alongside ex-Blues Kyle Rafferty, Adam Forde and Martin Grehan.

Finally, we head south of the border to Winsford - the birthplace of Danny Fox. Fox featured for Stranraer in 2005 while on loan from Everton and would go on to play for Scotland, despite previously representing England's under-21s.

Now, the defender is a key part of the Nottingham Forest team, starring in their 2-1 victory over Aston Villa last weekend, having previously featured for clubs including Celtic and Walsall.

Ireland

There are just 22 miles from Portpatrick to Donaghadee and so it is no surprise that there are more than a handful of players who have swapped Stair Park for the Emerald Isle, or vice versa.
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One of them currently doing it on a weekly basis is Allan Jenkins. The midfielder is now in his 19th year as a professional footballer, having started his career at Stair Park in 1998.

Jenkins, who was born in Stranraer, would make more than 200 appearances for the Blues and score some vital goals, including the opener in a 3-1 Scottish League Cup victory over Dundee in 2005. He would move along the A75 that season to Gretna and then on to Morton before heading to Ballymena United.

The former Stranraer captain is still playing and balances that with being Stranraer's Head of Youth Development.
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Another to have made the move across the Irish Sea is James Creaney.

The defender began his career at Kilmarnock and then Ayr United but he failed to make a significant breakthrough in Ayrshire.

However, a move to Stair Park would see him make his first telling contribution to senior football.

The 28-year-old made more than 30 appearances for the Blues but left in 2009 to join Dundalk, where he featured against Athletic Bilbao, and then Galway United, before returning to Scottish shores with Dumbarton.

He has since featured for Alloa Athletic, Stirling and Cowdenbeath, whom he left at the turn of the year.

Wales

Perhaps surprisingly given Stranraer's connections to the other countries within the Six Nations, the club's Welsh links are few and far between.

Among them though is Ray McStay, who had a very brief spell at Stranraer in the 1990s. The defender joined from East Stirlingshire, with Hamilton Academicals and Celtic among his former clubs. However, he quickly moved on and made the switch to Cardiff City.
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One of the few other connections comes through current goalkeeper Cameron Belford.

The Blues shotstopper initially made the move north of the border last season after joining on loan from Wrexham.

He made the switch a permanent one in the summer and has been nearly-ever present ever since, with a couple of games missed at the start of the campaign through suspension, which allowed Max Currie a chance between the sticks.

Jamie McCluskey is another to have played in Wales and Scotland, having also had a spell with Wrexham. We've got more on McCluskey a little later on.

France

The Blues of Stranraer would seem a natural fit for Les Bleus of France and so it has proved over the years.
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One of those who has lined up at Stair Park is Romuald Bouadji, who has actually featured in three of the countries and now lives in a fourth.

Lyon-born Bouadji started his career with AS Saint-Etienne before moving to England and featuring with Carshalton Athletic, where he had two spells.

On top of that, he featured for Clyde north of the border, as well as at Stair Park. Eventually, work commitments took Bouadji across to Dublin, where he is still living.

The most recent Frenchman to line up at Stair Park was Christian Nadé. The striker was brought in by Brian Reid at the start of the season having starred with former Stranraer favourite Stevie Aitken's Dumbarton side last campaign.

Unfortunately, things did not quite work out for Nade, who struggled for fitness in his short spell at the club.

He made just 12 appearances and scored twice, with one of those coming on his debut away to Annan Athletic.

Nadé has linked back up with Aitken and is repaying his manager's faith with three goals in five appearances, with all three coming in his last three games.

Italy
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The Five Nations became the Six Nations when Italy joined the competition in 2000. The newcomers are yet to win the competition but have picked up a few notable scalps and given the other countries a scare over the years.

Stranraer's Italian connection is not the lengthiest either but does stretch beyond the obvious connection with Giuliano Morena. The tenacious midfielder joined the Blues in the close season and has become a fans' favourite over his 22 appearances.

Morena is yet to find the net for the Blues despite coming close on several occasions, and will be hoping to do so, if selected, this weekend.
dagostini0910smallOne of the others with an Italian connection is Damiano Agostini.

The defender joined the Blues under Keith Knox in June 2009 and made 25 appearances during his single season with the Blues.

Agostini was born in Scotland but his dad's family came from Italy, before settling in North Ayrshire.

Damiano's family comes from Barga, the same area as Paolo Nutini's family.

Finally, back to Jamie McCluskey, who had a brief spell at Stranraer last year under Brian Reid and completes our Italian journey.

The former Hibs youngster had spells at St Johnstone and Dundee during his career but also had a trial with Catania.

The 29-year-old's spell at Stair Park amounted to just 270 minutes over the course of four games.

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