Wick Academy boss Gary Manson reckons Scottish Cup runs are like European adventures for Highland League clubs.
Wick are one of six Highland League teams who face central-belt opposition this weekend, with East of Scotland side Musselburgh Athletic heading to Harmsworth Park.
In the last three seasons Wick have been knocked out in the first round of the competition, falling to Inverurie Locos in 2019 then Auchinleck Talbot and Stirling University in the years before that.
They did, however, reach the third round in 2016, after wins away at Dalbeattie Star and at home to Whitehill Welfare, before succumbing to League Two side Stirling Albion.
The first preliminary round of the Scottish Cup took place today. Musselburgh Athletic beat Penicuik Athletic 3-2 after extra time so we welcome @MusselburghAth to Harmsworth Park for the next round on the 12th December.
— Wick Academy FC (@WickAcademyFC) November 28, 2020
Musselburgh sit fourth in the East of Scotland League, which is a tier below the Highland League in the Scottish football pyramid.
Manson is glad of a tie against non-Highland opposition and rates as the most glamourous ties clubs in the north can get.
He said: “I’ve said it before but the Scottish Cup is the Highland League equivalent of going into Europe and having a good run. You’re going places you haven’t been and you want to stay in the competition as long as possible.
“It’s far better than getting drawn against Forres or Inverurie, for example, teams that you play every year. As a player the Scottish Cup draw is always the first thing I’d look for; when it’s made you’re straight on Google to find out as much as you can about the opposition.
“We’ll have supporters as well – it was disappointing in the first game against Buckie, that it was their first game to watch in about 300 days and we couldn’t get the win for them. It would be good to send them home happy on Saturday.”
The game represents a 530-mile round trip for the Burgh, whose 10 league games so far have seen 51 goals.
Manson added: “I don’t know if they’re going to come up the night before or do it all on Saturday morning, which would be a bit of a slog.
“If we’re drawn away to the central belt or borders, we’d normally travel down on the Friday and stay somewhere, then finish off the journey in the morning.
“Whether they are able to do that, with the times we’re in at the moment, I don’t know.”
Wick have been beaten 3-2 by Buckie Thistle and 5-1 by Brora Rangers in their first two league games, however Manson has seen plenty of positive signs.
He is also hoping to play some part in Saturday’s game, with the 36-year-old naming himself as a substitute in the first two league encounters.
He said: “There’s no doubt I’ll play some part this season but the requirement has not been there yet for me to go on. I’m pretty sure I’ll play some part on Saturday and I’m still keen to play.
“If I think I’ll add value to what’s on the pitch, I’ll definitely play a part. As long as the motivation is there – if you’re not motivated to go out and win there’s no point.
“Luckily I’m still fit enough and still have the desire to go out on the pitch.”