A sport scholarship student at Heriot-Watt University has signed his first professional football contract.
Centre midfielder, Ali Shrive has agreed a two-year deal with Scottish League One side Montrose FC, formally joining ‘the Gable Endies’ in June ahead of the new season.
It is a dream come true for the Banchory-born man who is in the final year of his studies at the Edinburgh Business School at Heriot-Watt University.
The move to Montrose is a dream come true.
The 22-year-old said: “Since arriving at Heriot-Watt in 2018, it’s been an incredible journey. It was during Freshers' Week that someone mentioned that I should come along to the next game of the University football team. I did and sat on the bench but came on with around 30 minutes to go. It was 1-1 at the time and we ended up winning 3-1 so I obviously did something right! They’re a great bunch of lads and I’m sad to leave but the move to Montrose is a dream come true.”
Ali’s first professional contract brings the curtain down on a memorable playing career with Heriot-Watt University FC where, over his five seasons, he anchored the midfield. The team is currently flying high having secured the Scottish BUCS (British Universities & Colleges Sport) 1A title for the first time in 16 years. This was swiftly followed with a memorable victory against the Midlands champions, the University of Birmingham, in the Men’s Premier North playoff.
While leaving the Heriot-Watt side is a bittersweet moment for Ali, the opportunity to play in the professional leagues was something he could not turn down.
“It’s a bit gutting that I won’t be with the Heriot-Watt team, particularly as it’s a point we have all been working towards for many years,” he said.
“But I have made some of my best pals here and they are all delighted that I have taken the step up. They have been outstanding and I’m leaving the team in a better place than when I arrived.”
Ali joined Heriot-Watt in 2018 to study Business Management at the Edinburgh Business School and is now in his final year of a Master’s degree in Investment Management and Finance. It was during his studies that he became aware of the Football Scholarship programme provided in partnership between the University and Oriam, Scotland’s Sports Performance Centre.
Launched last year, the scholarships offer supported pathways for students to study at Heriot-Watt University while receiving specialist support to advance in either football or squash. In addition to accessing world-class training facilities, scholars on this programme receive a 40% reduction on their university fees. While the scholarships are initially for a 12-month period this can be extended to cover a student’s entire time at university based on performance.
Ali, who is the first athlete to turn professional from the programme, said: “Choosing Heriot-Watt University for my studies has opened so many doors to me. The football scholarship has been amazing and given me the flexibility so I can juggle my study time with training, even moving exams so I can do what is required. It’s allowing me options to continue to pursue a career in finance but also fulfil my dreams of becoming a pro-footballer.
“I’ve started to train with Montrose and the intensity of the sessions has been a huge step up from what I’m used to. But I love the challenge and can’t wait to go into pre-season.”
Ross Campbell, Oriam Executive Director and Assistant Manager at Montrose FC said: “Ali chose Heriot-Watt University for his studies and to develop his footballing skills under the expert guidance of the team at Oriam, headed by Olabanji Koya. He has now gone on to sign his first professional contract and while he might be the first to go down this path, he won’t be the last.
“If you’re a promising athlete, it’s no longer a case of choosing between higher education or sport. At Heriot-Watt you can have the best of both worlds through our tailored sports scholarships and receive all the support needed to fulfil your potential. Ali’s story should serve as an inspiration to others that if you have the talent and ability to learn, you can take the leap into the professional ranks and still graduate with a degree.”
Commenting on Ali’s signing for Montrose FC, Ross continues: “The squad is working hard and we want to keep the standards high as we near the end of the season.
“Bringing in exciting, fresh young talent is vital for the Club and Ali certainly falls into this category. I have known about his ability through his record with Heriot-Watt and the manager and backroom staff at Montrose believe he can take that form into League One. He has earned his place and we look forward to welcoming him for pre-season.”