I lived and worked over there for 3 years so I’m really looking forward to meeting up with some old friends and acquaintances.
We follow our opener with games at Dudgeon Park against Inverness Caledonian Thistle, Aberdeen XI and Ross County, along with a short trip to Lairg for a Gala Week match, and pre-season activities finish with a trip to Edinburgh to play Spartans. Plenty of fayre there for both Ross and supporters to see what the season will hold. We have, fairly soon, the draw for the Irn-Bru Cup and I guess we all are hoping for a nice home tie, and to be able to progress to the next round. Last years 2nd Round defeat at Peterhead was sore, and a little run in this competition would be just great.
The Club have made available a cut price Season Ticket Taster with the 3 games against SPFL teams for only £20 and I do hope as many of you as possible will take advantage of this offer. It’s also great to be going over to Lairg to help support their gala celebrations. I know we get a fair few folk over from Lairg during the season, so at least for them it will be a home tie - Rumour has it that Ross will put his boots back on for this one!
I’m delighted with how Ross and The Doc have settled into their managerial positions, and I know both are relishing their roles and responsibilities. Both Ross and I share the same ambitions for the Club, and it has been enjoyable working with him. One of his key skill sets is an ability to communicate both to his players and the Club Board, and he has quickly grasped the concept of collegiate responsibility.
Unlike the last two seasons, we enter the League fray with a manager firmly established in post and knowing his players. Ross has not been over busy in the transfer market during the break, but perhaps what we lacked in quantity we have really made up for in quality, with Mark Nicolson and Craig Gunn joining us from Elgin City. Both these players will be key influencers going forward and I’m looking forward to seeing them in action.
The Board have liaised closely with Ross, and have supported him with his signings. Several other targets had the rule run over them but Ross felt that he had a tight motivated squad and was happy to keep his signings to just the two Elgin boys, and has the utmost faith in his current squad.
I’m delighted to see that our representations and lobbying has resulted in the North of Scotland FA Cup being moved back into the season proper. Whilst it was a wonderful day at Rothes lifting the fine old trophy, the financial ramifications strained the purse strings, so moving the competition back within the main body of fixtures is a sensible decision.
So ……. what are our ambitions for the year ahead? It would be easy just to say win the treble, the playoffs and the pyramid tie. However speaking practically my wish list would be;
Win the Highland League. Yes the club is absolutely ambitious to progress into the SPFL, but first base is the Highland League. Winning this is wonderful in its own right, but it provides guaranteed entry into the Scottish League Cup and you can see this from the money spinning fixtures Buckie Thistle have this season as a result of their title last year (Dundee Utd, Dundee, Raith Rovers and Cowdenbeath). Our Club Treasurer, Deirdre Mackay, would relish such a cash flow bonanza at the beginning of a season!
A cup win would be wonderful. A cup run always captures the imagination of the fans and players alike.
To win the fair play award. No coincidence that the last 3 winners of the Highland League also won the fair play award en-route to the title. There is also a nice little cheque (not so little!) from the SFA rewarding the winners of this.
Our average home league attendance last season was 175. This was down from the previous season and we have seen two years of declines. I would like to see this reversed. On field performances and results will be the key driver here, but I enter this season with much confidence and I hope this will reflect in people through the turnstiles.
Much work has been going on during the break, and one of the most exciting developments is the formation of the U20 team which will compete in the league this coming season. There is a separate news article on this development, but I see this move as a great bridge for talented youngsters to attract the eye of Ross Tokely who is steeped in youth player development. Likewise I’m sure it will provide squad A team players with valuable game time. At the time of writing it seems that we will use Dingwall for our home games, but I hope that some of you will be able to get down from time to time to support the boys.
I hope that you have all been logging in regularly to our enhanced website which is looking just great with a lot more in-depth information available. Websites are always work in progress and we are lucky to have Ranald Mackay as our leader in the tech field. I’m biased but I think our media platform is the best in the Highland League, and we will continue to improve it. Coming soon is our online shop which will compliment our new Club shop at the ground.
I was absolutely delighted when the fixture fairy paired us away to Lossiemouth for our first league game. One could reasonably argue that the 4-1 defeat we suffered that night in December cost us the league title, and I know to a man that all our players are still sore with the result and their performance that night. The opposition antics on that night left much to be desired and disrespectful in the extreme. Why am I delighted to be going back there first game? Simple … because I know that every one of our players to a man will need absolutely no motivation whatsoever to right the wrong from last season and get our season off to the best possible start.
No more needs to be said!