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Allan Hale urges Elgin City to push for promotion to escape pyramid fears

The Borough Briggs boss says long-standing clubs must progress or run the risk of being dragged downwards.

Allan Hale hopes his Elgin City side can upset League Two winners Stenhousemuir.
Elgin City manager Allan Hale. Image: Bob Crombie

Allan Hale says Elgin City must show ambition to progress from League Two – or face the prospect of further relegation scraps.

However, the Black and Whites manager is confident crowds can surge through the gates to around the 1,200-mark, which can boost their chances of success on the park.

Hale, who became the boss in December, helped the struggling side regain form and, boosted by an active January window, they avoided the pyramid play-off against Lowland League winners East Kilbride.

A huge second half improvement to their season took them to 40 points and they finished seventh, four points ahead of rock-bottom Stranraer.

Elgin joined the senior Scottish leagues in 2000, moving up from the Highland League, but have never been promoted.

They have flirted within the promotion play-offs at times, but they have been all too close to the trap-door in the past two seasons.

In recent years, well established clubs have dropped out of League Two such as Brechin City, Cowdenbeath, East Stirling, Berwick Rangers and Albion Rovers and not found their way back.

Stranraer and East Kilbride will contest the second leg of the League Two final this Saturday, with the scoreline pegged at 2-2, and the Blues determined to stay up.

Histories are ‘not enough any more’

Former Huntly gaffer Hale, who arrived with assistant Stefan Laird, pointed out histories count for nothing when it comes to the harsh realities of getting results and moving on up.

He said: “Elgin is a well-supported club, and it would be catastrophic to fall down the way.

“We must make sure that collectively we all work together to move forward and look upwards rather than be worried about going the other way.

“Clubs have strong, proud histories, with good players, good staff and good boards. With the pyramid, you can’t ever rest on your laurels. Histories of clubs is not enough anymore.

“Plenty of clubs are striving to get their (SFA) licences as they aim to progress. As long as we can look after what we do as a football club, hopefully that will be enough to not only keep us in this league, but progress further, which is ultimately what we want to do.”

Getting 1,200 home fans is City’s aim

Their last game of the season was a 3-0 home defeat to Clyde, who secured their place in League Two thanks to that. The attendance was 1002, albeit backed by a strong away support.

Hale says the backing from the Elgin public gives him reason to be hopeful about what can be achieved.

He said: “There is optimism at Elgin – and that’s a good sign. It shows the belief is coming back.

“People look at our geographical location as a negative. I don’t see it that way.

“There were more than 1,000 through the gate against Clyde and we’ve been averaging 800 every home game.

“That tells me if we can build a competitive squad with depth and quality, we will win more games than we lose.

“If we can be at a point where we’re not looking over our shoulders, or fighting relegation, it tells me there is the potential to have around 1,200 people through the door. That’s not an unrealistic target.

“When you compare attendance numbers between Leagues One and Two, ours are right up there. It shows we have the fan-base to cope with stepping up a level as well.

“The club has never been promoted to League One, but the aim of the club has got to be to have the ambition to work towards that over time.

“If you don’t show ambition, as we see now with the pyramid system, those clubs without the ambition and who don’t strive to move forward on a yearly basis, ultimately get left behind.”

‘No question’ Elgin City can progress

And the manager wants the club to deliver ambitions to match his own as he prepares to shape his squad for 2024-2025 and beyond.

He added: “The challenge for the board is to enhance the commercial aspects of the club, which increases the budget, which then allows us to add to the squad and then have a squad and team on the pitch which is able to compete with the best teams in the league.

“We have already shown since December that we can compete, but to do that consistently over 36 games, you need to have squad depth and quality.

“The budget will be tight again, but with the new chairman Alan Murray at the helm, I have every confidence that as the seasons go by, this club can progress. There is no question.”