Elgin City manager Gavin Price feels building a strong core of north-based players has given the Black and Whites a better chance of success.
Price has gradually attempted to grow a nucleus of players from Moray, the Highlands and Aberdeenshire during his tenure in charge, with Thomas McHale and Matthew Cooper recently signing long-term deals.
The Elgin boss is pleased his recruitment in recent years has allowed for larger training numbers in the north.
City’s squad still contains a number of central belt players such as Stephen Bronsky, Andy McDonald, Conor O’Keefe and Smart Osadolor, while skipper Euan Spark, Angus Mailer and Kane Hester are from the Tayside and Angus areas.
Although Price says the south-based players have a crucial role to play, he feels enhancing the north base has been beneficial for the club.
Price said: “It has been a slow process, but it’s one we have been working on every year to try and improve.
“We are getting there. It’s a reflection of where we are as a club now, and the results we have been getting.
“The more players we can have from the north training together once or twice a week, of course it’s going to give us a better chance on a Saturday.
“It’s not easy getting the players we have managed to recruit who have become available in the north.
“It’s a combination of managing to keep these north players who are long established with us happy at the club, and also adding one or two when they become available who have improved us.
“Josh Peters is one who is north based that has come in and has been a great addition, and Joel MacBeath has come in as well.
“It’s picking these players up when they become available.
“I think we still need the help from the south based players, they are essential to the team.
“We are now talking about three quarters of the squad now being north based and that’s gone a long way from previous years when it was maybe a 50-50 split.”
Price feels the club’s youth development programme has had a major role to play, bearing fruit in his first team with the breakthrough of the likes of Aiden Sopel, Rory MacEwan and David Wilson.
He added: “It’s also a lot to do with the youth system at the club. There is some good talent coming through just now, some 16 and 17-year-olds.
“It’s well done to the club and the academy for bringing these players on.
“A lot of them are now training with the first team and coming on leaps and bounds because of it.”
Price was thrilled to keep defender Cooper at Borough Briggs on a new deal until 2024, with the Elgin boss confident the 26-year-old is approaching his peak form having already racked up more than 200 appearances.
Price added: “Matthew has been a great guy to have at the club. He has been here since I joined six years ago, he has always been really loyal.
“He is really good on and off the pitch with what he contributes. He has probably played most of the games since I have been at the club.
“I think he’s getting better – he’s having his best season this year.
“He’s getting to a good age where his maturity is coming in with his game, he’s coming to an age bracket where he’s becoming an experienced player now with a lot of games under his belt.
“He’s going to be a big player for us in the next few years so I’m really pleased he has committed to the club. He’s a joy to work with.”