Golspie Sutherland are keen to join the Highland League – but their current goal is to wrap up the 2021 North Caledonian League title.
Golspie will win League One on Saturday if they cross the water and win at Orkney and Invergordon lose at Thurso.
Golspie’s game kicks off at 12.30pm, while the action at Sir George’s Park starts at 2pm.
Away to @OrkneyFC this coming Saturday in the penultimate league game of the season.
Another couple firsts for this fixture – Mid summer game and on Holm Park, located nearby the ferry ⛴️ @NorthCaleyFA
— Golspie Sutherland (@GolspieSuthFC) June 10, 2021
Highland League chiefs have given the green light for an entry from tier six to be opened up from the end of next season.
That would put eligible SFA-licensed members Golspie Sutherland from the NCL and Banks o’ Dee from the North Super League in contention to fight for the right to reach the Highland League.
Should other clubs, including from the East Super League, reach the entry criteria, then they would also be in the running to step up.
Ten-times champions Golspie are the NCL’s only SFA-licensed member and would be permitted to target a Highland League spot should they win the North Caledonian League title in 2021/22.
— Thurso Football Club (@ThursoFC) June 9, 2021
Club is ready to embrace play-offs with Brora proximity no concern
Manager Sam Mackay is keen to see Golspie realise their ambitions to join the Highland League ranks – if they earn the right to be there.
He explained: “The club is pushing to get into that situation. It has the floodlights in place and meets all the criteria for going up to the Highland League.
“The club has ambitions to get there, but it can’t happen this year. Who is to say we’ll win the league next year?”
And Mackay feels being located close to Brora would be a benefit rather than a hindrance to their hopes of competing in the same league in the near future.
He stressed: “Although we are close to Brora geographically, we are two very different teams.
“Certainly Brora has a lot of pool of players from further down south, so from that aspect it wouldn’t really affect things in that way.
“I think it would be good for the Highland League to have what we would certainly class as another north derby, aside from Wick and Brora. I think it would work.”
Strength in depth keeps Golspie on title track
Mackay, whose side held Invergordon 0-0 last week to give themselves a title chance tomorrow, has been thrilled by his players’ focus in the run-in.
He said: “Before the restart, it was out of our hands, but results have gone our way since then to get us into this position.
“It’s an exciting couple of weeks for us, that’s for sure.
“The squad is really strong. It’s difficult most weeks to pick an 11 right through from one to 16. The bench is strong as well.
“The club, team-wise, is in a really strong position and, as a manager, it’s a great problem to have. Everyone wants to play.”
Although any slip-up will let Invergordon in, Mackay insists it’s up to them to get over the line with back-to-back wins over dangerous opponents.
He added: “We’re just looking to do our job and get three points. We know if we win our two games then we’ll win the league, but we’ll get Saturday out of the way and then see what happens.
“Orkney’s league position doesn’t tell the whole story. They have many good young players. However, we know what we have to do, so we’re very focused on this game.
“I know our game starts first, but Invergordon also know they have to win too. We’ll look at that after.
“Our game against Invergordon last week was tough, but Thurso have improved a lot this season, so it will definitely be a trick game for both sides at The Dammies.”
— Chris Roberts (@Chris1408mac) June 7, 2021
Mackay stepped in when Banks moved on
Former Wick star Mackay took the helm last November, having moved to his hometown team at the start of last season.
Now he could be on the brink of guiding Golspie to glory.
He explained: “Our manager Andrew Banks left and the club asked me to take over, which I was delighted to do.
“It was something different for me, having played for a number of years, but it has been a good experience so far.”
Mackay said he was relieved that the North Caledonian League didn’t wind up early amid the pandemic, like the Highland League did, and praised his players for not taking their eyes off the ball.
— North Caledonian FA (@NorthCaleyFA) June 6, 2021
He said: “At every training session, the boys are all switched on and buying into what we’re trying to do and they have offered really good input.”
The League One NCL season will finish on June 26 when Golspie host Orkney and Invergordon, the 2017 league winners, take on Thurso at the Recreation Grounds.
In League Two tomorrow, champions Alness United are seeking to finish their season unbeaten when they travel to runners-up Nairn County.
Expanded league with 12 clubs next season – with Alness set to challenge
The divisions revert to a 12-club main North Caledonian League next season, which will be played over 22 games, with two cup competitions also set to be played.
Bunillidh Thistle, who will retain their membership of the association, have elected to sit out of competition for a further season.
The 2021/22 campaign will kick off on Saturday, August 21.
Mackay admits: “It will be good to get back to some form of normality next season.
“There are a lot of good sides in Division Two right now. Alness (the champions) can certainly compete at the top end of a new division one.
“They will be a strong force next year. We played them in pre-season and they beat us comfortably, so they will bring qualities to the league next year.
“Loch Ness have good ambitions as well, while Nairn a good young team too. There are many good sides there, so it will be a strong league next season.”