Kevin Cawley made his 200th appearance in a Wasps shirt on Saturday against Dunfermline Athletic. To mark this landmark appearance it is only fitting for an appreciation of Kevin's tremendous service to the club to be profiled in 'The Wasp'.
Cawley was Paul Hartley's second signing in June 2011 and the then 22 year old made an immediate impact for Alloa. On his league debut he scored the winner in a 3-2 success at Stranraer, dancing past a couple of challenges before cutting in from the left and unleashing a powerful finish. Cawley was a regular on the scoresheet in the first half of the season (a sensational double at Hampden being a highlight), resulting in the club offering him a new 18 month deal by the end of the November, no doubt to fend off interest from other clubs! As well as 'the wee man's' goalscoring exploits, his direct running and close control marked him out from other Third Division frontmen. The second half of the season saw him establish a fine partnership with loanee Stevie May, who took over the goalscoring duties as the Wasps marched to the title. Kevin finished a highly successful first season at the club with ten goals, a place in the Third Division team of the year and a nomination for the divisional player of the year gong (which was won by May).
Cawley took the step up to the Second Division in his stride, just like the club did as a whole. He started the season strongly once again, with four goals in the opening two months of the season. By the business end of the season Cawley hit top form, with a goal in the play-off semi second leg versus Brechin and a man of the match performance in the memorable final first leg success versus Dunfermline. Cawley was everywhere that night, linking play intelligently and pressurising the Pars at every opportunity. Kevin finished the season as top goalscorer with a career high 14 goals as the Wasps secured successive promotions. A feature of those goals were that, importantly, six broke the deadlock in matches, with the Wasps going onto secure victories on five of those occasions.
The second tier was uncharted territory for Cawley, but he revelled in playing at a higher stage at first. The opening half of the season saw Alloa climb to the dizzy heights of 4th in the First Division table, with Cawley arguably the stand out performer in an increasing midfield role. Kevin's tireless running, often winning back possession before launching lung-busting counter-attacks, was an essential ingredient of the Wasps early season successes. As Alloa's form dipped in the second half of the season, so did the effectiveness of Cawley (mainly as a result of him being tightly marked). However, he still finished top scorer for the second successive season (with nine goals), as the Wasps dramatically avoided the relegation play-offs on the final day of the season. Perhaps the most telling facts of the season were that Cawley was never substituted throughout the season and only missed a single game. The never being subbed off fact is an amazing one, given it is typical for attacking players to be rotated late in games and Cawley was often on the receiving end of robust challenges.
During the 2014/5 season Cawley was once again an almost ever-present in the Wasps line up. In-fact, in his 4 ½ years at the club Kev has only missed ten games in total. When you take into account that three of those were Stirlingshire Cup ties (when fringe/youth players typically made up the team), another two were where Cawley was an unused sub and he was once suspended, that means in total he has only missed four games through injury/illness. Sadly one of those rare occurrences was the 3-2 cup semi-final win over Rangers, with Cawley one of eight players missing that memorable evening. The 2014/5 season saw Cawley score some memorable goals, with his long range screamers into the top corner versus Falkirk (live on BBC Alba) and Dumbarton surely being two of Cawley's sweetest strikes in his entire career. Come the end of the season, Cawley had helped the Wasps avoid the drop from the Championship once more. However, after four years Kev decided, like many of the squad who had stayed together that entire time, to head for a new challenge elsewhere. Cawley's destination was Dumbarton, the highest placed part-time team in the country and closer to his home. For these reasons few Alloa fans could begrudge Cawley his move, having been an integral part of the 2011-2015 heroics.
After a lukewarm season at Dumbarton, Cawley's return to Clackmannanshire last May was Jack Ross' first 'new' summer signing, and a clear statement of intent for the season ahead. It is probably fair to say that the return of the 'magic little man' also acted as a catalyst for persuading other players to join Alloa. This season Kevin has reminded the Wasps faithful of his undoubted quality, with a number of man of the match performances (Brechin away in October, Stenhousemuir at home in November, and most recently last week against Peterhead). His trademark faints, dummies, twists and turns from his low centre of gravity have been there for all to see, with his link up play at times being a joy to see. It is perhaps no coincidence that Cawley's four goals this season have all contributed to Alloa victories.
I think that the Wasps are lucky to have a player of Cawley's calibre at the club, with him undoubtedly being one of the finest part-time players in the country. He has now been a regular for five separate managers at Alloa, with his first manager Paul Hartley aptly summing up Cawley's contribution in November 2013 “The wee fella's attitude to the game is first class. He might not get the fifteen or twenty goals that other strikers will but he has got everything else in his game. I think he is just getting better and better. Each time we have moved up he has handled the next level well and I definitely think he can handle the step up again.” At 27, there are still plenty of years ahead in the game for Cawley, so I'm sure all Alloa fans will join me in congratulating Kevin on reaching the 200 mark, and hope that in the years to come he'll reach the 250 and 300 appearance mark, as well as shortly surpassing the 50 goal mark too!
Kevin's Alloa Athletic Appearances
Season League Cup Total
2011/12 32 (3) 9 4 (-) 1 36 (3) 10
2012/13 29 (10) 14 2 (1) 0 31 (11) 14
2013/14 35 ( - ) 8 6 (-) 1 41 (-) 9
2014/15 36 (2) 5 9 (-) 0 45 (2) 5
2016/17 20 (-) 3 8 (3) 1 28 (3) 4
Total 152 (15) 39 29 (4) 3 181 (19) 42
Article in "The Wasp" by Jonathan Markwell