Russell MacMorran reckons his Fort William side have benefitted from the introduction of nine Caley Thistle loanees.
The group of players, who were too old for under-18s football and had no reserve team to play in, joined the Highland League club in the summer, as part of a new partnership between the two sides.
Martin MacKinnon, a Fort native, returned for a second loan spell at Claggan Park, to be joined by Ryan Fyffe, Gabriel Hastings, Donald Morrison, Ross Gunn, Jack Brown, Kieran Chalmers and Roddy Kennedy. Gunn is the club’s top-scorer so far this season, with six goals in all competitions.
Fort find themselves bottom of the table after 11 games but MacMorran, who took over as manager last season, believes the loanees have made a positive impact on their fortunes.
“They have added an air of positivity around the place. There will always be discussions of right, wrong or if you are indifferent to it. But no rules or regulations have been broken and if any side had been offered the loan deals we did, needless to see they would have jumped at it.
“It’s a benefit for the guys in that they are all staying together. They have come through the ranks together and you can see why Inverness wanted to loan them out. We’ve got lads that are talented and bringing out the best in the players around them.
“It’s a long-term deal, in terms of our relationship with Inverness. At some point, John Robertson and his staff have to look at the players they want to take back and the harsh reality of football is who is going to be kept on.
“Hopefully the relationship continues. We probably wouldn’t look to take as many players next time but by the same token, if you’re offered a number of class players, obviously you’re going to take it. Some ruling may change in the course of the Highland and that’s fair enough. But at the moment, we’ve done nothing wrong.”
The link-up came after the Highland League rejected Caley Thistle’s proposal of entering a colts team into the league, following Cove Rangers’ promotion to League 2. The league’s management committee instead opted to run with 17 teams this season.
MacMorran, however, believes he has seen a change in attitude towards teams who are playing Fort this season. They picked up their first win in the North of Scotland against Nairn County and followed that up with their first league win in over two years against Clach.
He added: “It’s quite clear from the way sides set up against us – they’re not just throwing everything up front to cash in on goals. They have to think about how they’re going to play us.
“We set the side up differently every game and give every team the respect they deserve. The lads believe they are getting everything out of the games. We’ve been unlucky in some games and held our own against a lot of sides.”