Inverness Athletic manager Jason Golabek is calling for maximum effort from his squad as they kick off their North Caledonian League season at champions Golspie Sutherland.
King George V Park is the venue for this fascinating opening match of the season as a 11-club division is re-established after it was split in two last term in reaction to the pandemic.
Golspie were the worthy winners of League One, while Athletic finished third in League Two, so this opener is a major step-up in class for Inverness.
Golabek, though, insists he’ll be spelling out to his squad anything short of 100% effort all round will be required to stand a chance come Saturday tea-time.
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— Inverness Athletic FC (@InvernessAthFC) June 29, 2021
He said: “They don’t come much harder than being away to the champions.
“Golspie will obviously be again one of the strong favourites for the league again and it’s always a tough place to go.
“They have a strong team and good players, so we will need to be at our best this weekend.
“We will be making that clear to the players. If we are to get anything from it, everyone needs to be at their best. There is no room for error.
“However, we’re excited and we’ll give it our best shot and see where we’re at come full-time. The morale is good and we can’t wait to get going.”
Starlets step into the limelight
Golabek explained that youngsters within the club’s age groups have earned their right to show their worth at senior level.
He added: “We’re looking forward to getting started.
“It’s been a busy period. It’s not been easy, because we’ve had players playing amateur football over the summer, so we only really got going last Sunday.
“But we’ve got the players in, and we’ll have had two good sessions before the weekend. The boys are buzzing – it’s just great to be back.
“We have brought in three or four boys from our under-20s squad we feel are good enough to join the first-team. They will get a real experience from going in and learning how to play against the champions.
“They will be in contention for the squad on Saturday. We’ve lost a couple of players, but we’ve recruited well and I’m quite comfortable with how we are looking.”
And on Thursday, they added three more players, with Thomas Lewis coming in on loan from Clach for the season, ex-Clach, Fort William and Nairn County player Graham Stewart adding experience and striker Kieran Duffty joining from Nairn.
Inverness, who have in recent years been based at Muir of Ord, this summer secured a deal to play at Ardersier and Golabek admits resolving that matter was crucial.
He said: “The biggest worry for us was that we didn’t know where we would be playing this season.
“We didn’t know where our home was going to be. Our time at Muir of Ord ran out, but we have a good set-up with great facilities at Ardersier and the players are looking forward to playing their first home game there (a week on Saturday against Orkney).
“It was good news for the club and we’re in a good place.”
Alness United will celebrate being back in the main set-up after winning League Two, as they take on League One runners-up Invergordon in what should be a cracking early test for both teams.
Nairn County reserves are at home to St Duthus, who have beefed up their squad for a title charge after finishing third in League One last term.
Nairn were impressive in League Two, finishing second to Alness and indeed they were the only team to beat United, albeit in the final fixture with both sides giving youth their chance.
Scourie, who didn’t collect a point in their first season at this level last term, have withdrawn from the league and the association, with a last-minute lack of commitment the deciding factor. They were due to host Bonar Bridge, who are now idle.