ANOTHER SEASON COMPLETED
ANOTHER season is over in what feels like a blink of an eye. Now, the work starts on preparing for the beginning of the 2018/19 campaign.
We were delighted to finish the season with a top-half finish, although we did it the hard way! We were disappointed to lose at Rothes and then draw at Keith, which meant we had it all to do but the players did extremely well to beat Fraserburgh and Turriff United in the final two home games of the season at Station Park. We slipped again away at Deveronvale but we finished the campaign on a fantastic high with a 3-0 win at champions Cove Rangers. That meant we will finish equal for 7th (9th on goal difference) in the final league table, 17 points and four places better off than last year.
Our last Saturday home game saw us host the first ever Nairn County Legends Day when we welcomed the stars of the 1975/76 championship-winning team to Station Park. And what a day it was as the class of 2018 put in an inspired showing, defeating opponents Fraserburgh 3-1, the same club who lost to Nairn in the title-clinching playoff 42 years previously.
While reflecting on the season, I have to give a mention to Glenn Main. He stood in as captain in the absence of his brother, Gregg, who was ruled out for the entire campaign through injury and has done a magnificent job. He has been an inspirational presence for us at the heart of the defence and played every minute of every match throughout the season – a remarkable achievement.
We saw a marked increase in young supporters at our last few home games, which is fantastic. The ‘Cowshed Boys’ as they are calling themselves have brought a lot of fun, colour and noise to Station Park and I am very much looking forward to seeing them back to support the team in the new season. They are more than welcome and it is great to see teenagers out watching live football and making such a positive contribution when there are so many other distractions out there for youngsters these days. I know from speaking to the players that they love the support and long may it continue.
In the closing months of the season, we brought in Tom Maclennan from Ross County. Tom is an attacking midfielder who played in the Development League squad up at Dingwall and in fact contacted us to ask to come and train with a view to joining as opposed to the other way around. For me, that is testament to the work being done by Ronnie Sharp and his staff in giving young players an opportunity to shine. Tom scored a cracking goal in that final day win at Cove and I am sure we will all see the best of him next season once he has a full pre-season under his belt.
We have allowed goalkeeper Ryan Macleod to leave to play in the amateur leagues in Inverness. He helps to run a team and expressed an interest in playing for them. We were able to bring in Daniel Hoban from Inverness CT on loan, which meant Ryan’s playing opportunities were going to be limited, so we felt it was only fair to agree to grant him his request. I would like to thank Ryan for his efforts with the club and wish him well for the future.
As I mentioned, Daniel Hoban joined us from Inverness CT and proved to be a solid last line of defence in his short loan spell with us. He has returned to his parent club and again, we wish him all the best.
Speaking of loans, we put Craig Munro and Matty Macleod out to Inverness City for the last few months of the season to give them some valuable first team game time. They still have six league matches plus a semi-final to play this season and from the feedback we have received, they have been getting on really well. I am sure the experience will stand them in good stead for the future.
We have been working hard behind the scenes to secure the futures of the players in the existing squad who the manager wishes to retain. To that end, we have extended the contracts of Gregg Main, Max Ewan and Ryan MacDonald. That means the vast majority of the squad are already signed up for next season and we will be speaking to players about extending further beyond the end of their existing deals.
We were saddened by news of the loss of two members of the Nairn County family. Former player from the 1970s and recent youth team coach Neil Gibson and legendary former manager, Mansel Craib. The big turnout from the local football fraternity at both funerals showed the high regard in which both these men were held. We extend the condolences of everyone at the club to both families on their losses.
The final of the inaugural Calum Riddell Memorial Cup took place at Station Park on Sunday with Carlton beating Elgin Thistle by five goals to two. It was great to host the Forres and Nairn District Welfare FA again and the match was also preceded by the unveiling of the Calum Riddell Memorial Benches. The benches look absolutely fantastic and we are really grateful to Calum’s widow Rebekah for selecting Station Park as their site.
Our youth teams’ seasons have all reached an end, finishing with the under-20s 2-2 draw at Clachnacuddin on Monday night. Two players from that squad have debuted in the first team since my last update, with Seamus McConaghy playing against Formartine United at home and Deveronvale away while Ryan MacBean appeared in the draw at Keith.
We are adding to our youth setup next season too with the creation of an under-13s squad. We are delighted to welcome Mr Derek Steel on to our Management Committee with the remit of looking after the new team and its establishment over the next 12 months. We have also recruited a coaching team in Craig Park and Scott Andrew and they will host trials this Saturday (May 5th) at midday at Nairn Academy. All players born in 2006 and 2007 are welcome to come along.
Our under-17s coach Mark Greig will be stepping down now that the season is over. Mark has increased family commitments with his own son progressing through the youth setup at Ross County, which is taking up more of Mark’s time and of course, family always comes first. I would like to thank Mark for all his efforts with the squad this season – the players have come on leaps and bounds particularly over the last few months with several of them turning out for the under-20s ahead of schedule.
I would like to conclude by placing on record the congratulations of everyone at the club to Nairn St Ninian on their remarkable double success this season (with another cup still to play for). It is a tremendous way for them to celebrate their 50th anniversary and is great for the profile of football in Nairn.
Many thanks to everyone for their support throughout the 2017/18 season be you sponsors, commercial partners or fans from near and far. The club would not be able to function without you and I eternally grateful to you all. Enjoy your summer break and we will see you all again once the action resumes with the 2018/19 season – it will soon roll around!
DONALD L. MATHESON
Nairn County Football Club