I CAN only start my latest update in one place and that is the devastating news we received last month that our player, Calum Riddell had been diagnosed with stage 4 Glioblastoma – a malignant brain tumour.
We were all heartbroken for Calum and his wife, Rebekah. It goes without saying that we will fully honour the remainder of Calum’s contract with the club up to the end of the 2018/19 season and will do everything we can to support him and his family.
The fortitude and courage that Calum is showing in such adversity is admirable and he has the best wishes of everyone at the club for the battle ahead. He refuses to let his life be effected and he has been at as many of our games so far this season as he can, even making the trip to Turriff United for our win there on August 19th. On that day, Calum was invited by the Turriff manager, Ross Jack to lead the teams out on to the park. I thought that was an extremely classy gesture from Ross and I would like to personally thank him for that suggestion.
Calum’s family and friends have all rallied round and started a fundraising campaign to support Calum and assist him with any alternative treatments that can be found. Please visit http://www.gofundme.com/calumriddellfund for more information and give what you can.
One of the fundraising events that is being staged is a benefit match that we are delighted to host at Station Park. It will take place on Sunday October 8th and be between Nairn County and the Calum Riddell All Stars. We look forward to welcoming Calum’s family and closest friends who are making up his team for what should be a fun-filled occasion for everyone. Keep an eye on the club website and social media channels for details of the match over the coming weeks.
We are pleased with the way we have started our Scottish Highland Football League season. We have taken 19 points from our opening nine fixtures. Against the same opponents in the corresponding games last season, we only took four points (a draw at home to Keith and a home win over Lossiemouth), so we are currently 15 points better off from our results last season. It is only a start though and no one at the club is getting carried away. We are currently fourth in the table at the time of writing but we are yet to play any of the three clubs above us, so we know there are a lot of tough fixtures to come.
We may only be six weeks into the new season but we are over a quarter of the way through our programme of league fixtures. If we avoid any weather-enforced postponements, we will have played at least 26 matches by the turn of the year (even more than that depending on our Scottish Cup progress). That will leave us with only nine league fixtures to play between New Year’s Day and the final round of Highland League matches on April 14th, a whole 15 weeks later. Last season, we only suffered three weather postponements, two of which were the Highland League (Morganti) Cup tie at Deveronvale (the other being the home match against Fort William, the only weather postponement across all football played at Station Park last season).
Speaking of the Scottish Cup, we have been drawn against Lowland League side, Whitehill Welfare at Station Park and we are excited about welcoming a new club for what should be a keenly-contested first round tie. It will take place on Saturday September 23rd and kick-off will be at the usual time of 3.00 pm.
Prior to the start of the season, we were delighted to conclude a further bit of transfer business by bringing Inverness CT goalkeeper Stephen Foster in on loan. Stephen is a local lad from Auldearn and at only 19 years old, he has a big future ahead of him in the game. We have the services of Stephen available to us until January 15th initially and then our management team and Director of Football will take things from there.
I have been delighted with the turnouts from the Nairn County fans at home fixtures and away from Station Park and I would like to take the chance to thank you for your support. One suggestion that we have taken on board to improve the matchday experience is the announcement of goal scorers and substitutions to help keep everyone informed of what is going on and of course, to give you an extra chance to cheer our players when they find the net! I welcome any other suggestions from supporters and I am always happy to have a chat to listen to people’s ideas.
We have endured some pretty wet weather of late with there being heavy rain showers on what appears to be every passing day. That has made it difficult for our team of workers at Station Park to maintain grass cutting and other crucial jobs that need to be completed between fixtures. The short timeframe we have had between home matches (playing a midweek home match followed by another home fixture the following Saturday or vice-versa) has proved to be challenging but I would like to thank Robbie Stuart for all of his efforts at the ground each week. We are always looking for more volunteers to step forward and help out for any length of time you can give either through the week or at the weekend. Please speak to me or any other member of the committee if you would like to volunteer – your assistance will be most welcome.
In other news, we were delighted to retain our SFA Club Licence at its existing levels. The club meets entry level for all requirements apart from the ground at Station Park, where we meet the bronze criteria. I would like to thank our Club Licencing Rep, Ian Finlayson for all of his hard work in ensuring that we have retained our Licence because without it, we are unable to operate as a football club. I know Ian has started working on next year’s Licence application and looking at what we need to do to attain silver for the ground and bronze for the other aspects of the club.
The club entered a team in the Scottish Youth Cup for the first time in over a decade this season. Our under-20s squad went down to Inverurie Locos and were unfortunately beaten in a penalty shootout after leading twice in a 2-2 draw. The players were a credit to themselves on the day and I know that our coach, Stuart Finnie and first team manager Ronnie Sharp – who helped out on the day – were proud of the efforts from the players.
That is the first of four cup competitions the under-20s will play in this season. They have a first round tie at Tain against St Duthus in the Football Times Cup this weekend with matches in the North Caledonian and Jock Mackay Cups to follow. Because of the composition of our first team squad with 10 of our 22 players still young enough to feature in the under-20s, we have a young pool of players at that age level, with only two of the 18-man squad which travelled to Inverurie having turned 18. But these cup competitions will give them ideal exposure as they continue their journey with the under-20s squad over the next few years with the aim of achieving first team football in the Highland League.
Thank you to all of our sponsors and partner companies for their continued support and to the fans for your loyal backing of the team.
DONALD L. MATHESON
Nairn County Football Club