Keith chairman Andy Troup had seen first-hand the benefit of having supporters back into football stadiums.
Highland League outfit Keith were one of the clubs permitted to have fans back into their ground. Clubs at this level have gone to great expense to put measures in place to make members of the public feel safe on their return to stadiums.
Kynoch Park, the home of Keith, will however be closed again for spectators on Boxing Day for the Scottish Cup tie with Hill of Beath Hawthorn. The national lockdown – starting today – had put paid to any hopes of keeping fans coming through the gates.
“It’s good for their mental health; I’ve been speaking to a number of fans coming through the gates and this is all they’ve been looking forward to on a Saturday,” said chairman Andy Troup.
“With there being no hospitality it freed me up to be at the forefront with the temperature checks and the feedback I had been getting is they can’t believe what we’ve had to put in place.
“I haven’t had anyone say they feel unsafe. The stuff we’ve had to put in place is unbelievable and that’s the same for all Highland League grounds.”
— William Hill Scottish Cup (@ScottishCup) December 13, 2020
Their 5-1 win over Fort William earlier this month presented them with a first home Scottish Cup win in more than two decades.
They knew, should they have got through, that the first round was set for Boxing Day and conversations needed to be had.
“There’s not really any additional challenges. The first one is player availability and there’s only one that might not be available,” added Troup.
“A big thing is the amount of volunteers we have that do day-to-day things. I spoke to them a couple of weeks ago that if we got through, the date was set for Boxing Day and would they be available. They all said yes.”
One of Keith’s most memorable days in recent history came in the Scottish Cup, where albeit they were defeated 10-1 by Rangers at Pittodrie in the 1995-96 season, the whole town rallied behind the Maroons.
“I remember the late Sandy Stables saying ‘could the last person in Keith switch out the lights’ because there was no-one left in the town,” added Troup. “That always stuck with me.
“This is probably the biggest competition in the calendar for most clubs. It brings so much hype to the club and the players.
“The money makes a huge difference. If we could get to round three or even four, that’s a life-changing some of money for any Highland League club.
“You can see what it did for Fraserburgh when they got Rangers – the whole town came together. Every Highland League club puts so much work in, something like this brings everyone together.”