There is little to choose between four teams – Cove, Brora, Buckie and Formartine, in the chase for the Highland League title.
Such strength in depth is reflected in the team of the year for 2016.
The current crop of goal-keepers is as good as it has ever been.
I have been impressed by youngsters such Formartine United’s Ewen MacDonald and Nairn County’s Dylan Maclean, but goalkeepers improve with age and Brora’s Joe Malin, Stuart McKenzie, now playing for Cove, Lossiemouth’s Darren McConnachie and Stuart Knight of Forres Mechanics have all impressed.
The jersey for this year goes to Turriff United’s Kevin Main.
The assured performances of Cove’s Alan Redford helped his side lift the title last season, but this time around Turriff United’s Lewis Davidson and Shaun Wood, of Buckie Thistle, have been equally impressive.
I have chosen Orkney-based John Pickles, of Brora for the right back spot.
At left back I’ve opted for Fraserburgh’s dead-ball expert Ryan Cowie, just ahead of Cove’s Harry Milne, Formartine’s Stuart Smith and Turriff’s Chris Herd.
Formartine’s recent signing, Shane Jamieson from Shetland, is a no frills defender who has made the number five shirt his own at North Lodge Park, and Turriff United’s Cammy Bowden also impressed me.
However, I am going for an experienced combination of Cove captain Eric Watson partnered by Lewis MacKinnon of Buckie, a formidable partnership who would be more than a match for most attacks.
There are plenty of quality players to chose from, but I have gone for a reliable a trio who can all score goals, but also do the hard yards.
I’m surprised Blair Yule, of Cove is still playing in the Highland League.
He deserves to play on a higher stage and is an automatic pick while Sam Mackay, of Wick Academy also retains his place.
Buckie’s Kevin Fraser has been an inspirational figure in his side’s rise to the top of the Highland League while my final place goes to Formartine’s Graeme Rodger, who is already in double figures for the season.
My midfield quartet have already scored 38 goals between them this season.
Missing out this time are quality players such as Stuart Anderson, of Formartine, Buckie’s Ceiran McLean and the Brora pair Dale Gillespie and Gavin Morrison.
Choosing two players in attack has been troublesome with the likes of Cove pair Mitch Megginson and Jonny Smith, Chris Angus of Buckie, Formartine’s Scott Barbour and Forres’ Lee Fraser all worth a mention.
I am going to go for the league’s leading-scorer by a distance, Buckie’s John McLeod, and his team-mate Sam Urquhart, who normally plays wide but with 57 goals already between them this season, an ideal foil for the man from Thurso.
Another player worth mention is Scott Davidson, of Fort William, who has scored 13 goals for team at the foot of the table.
This year the management duties are shared jointly by John Sheran, of Cove and Buckie’s Graeme Stewart.