JOHNSTONE Burgh boss Jamie McKim has paid tribute to Sam Esplin who is set to leave Keanie Park after four years, the club have announced.

The attacker is moving abroad to live with his partner in Dubai and was presented with an Outstanding Service Award at the club’s Player of the Year night on Friday.

Esplin was the longest serving player at Burgh and named vice-captain last season, wearing the armband on a number of occasions as he helped his side to promotion.

The club held the bash at Prolife Fitness in Paisley and, having missed occasions like this for a couple of seasons due to Covid, McKim was delighted with the turnout and believes it shows how far the club have come.

Speaking to Gazette Sport, he said: “There was a wee bit of satisfaction on Friday night because when we first came in and we had an awards night it was almost as if it was only myself, a couple of coaches, committee members and the players in the committee room at the club and it was over in 10 minutes.

“On Friday night we had the first-team and development team, coaches from both teams, the committee and we were all there for three or four hours and it was a celebration of how we have done.

“We’ve known about Sam’s situation for a long time and when he said that his partner was moving, we probably knew he was going to go.

“He didn’t know what he was going to do and he only told me for definite on Friday afternoon.

“What Sam has done for the club and for me personally and the loyalty he has shown, I can’t speak highly enough of him. A lot of clubs have come sniffing for him but he’s been loyal over the years and I’ll probably never be able to repay that.

“It’s hard to see him go not just as a player, but he’s such a good boy and one I regard as a lifelong friend.

“Sam is a much better person than he is a footballer – and he’s a great footballer.”

Other award winners on the night included Brian Connor, who won the Management Player of the Year, Jojo Gillespie and Danny McBeth shared the Players’ Player of the Year and there was also a Long Service Achievement Award presented to Ricky Cantwell, as the club president is stepping down after 20 years at Keanie Park.