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Highland League: Forres Mechanics boss unsure season will be completed

Forres Mechanics manager Charlie Rowley
Forres Mechanics manager Charlie Rowley

Forres Mechanics boss Charlie Rowley is sceptical about whether the Highland League season will be finished.

The league was put on hold by the Scottish FA earlier this month, as part of a temporary shutdown of all football below the Championship in the wake of further Covid-19 restrictions.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced on Wednesday the restrictions would continue into the middle of February, which would leave the Highland League in a difficult situation if they had to resume then.

Forres opted to sit out this season on health grounds, a decision in hindsight Rowley feels is looking to be the right one.

But, for those still taking part in the league, they still have to fit in up to 15 games of a shortened campaign. Strathspey Thistle are still yet to play a league game, despite the season beginning on November 28.

Rowley said: “It’s been stop-start – Strathspey haven’t played a league game and might not until February, so it’s hardly ideal.

“To be honest, I don’t see the benefits of starting up again given the timescale and the restrictions going about. The negatives far outweigh the positives just now.

“I would say it’s likely to be March (before they can resume); is there any point starting in March and cramming games in? Then you’re looking at the season starting for next year and having next to no break.”

Forres were the only club to opt against entering this season, although a number of other clubs reportedly considered the idea.

Rowley added: “Hindsight is a great thing. At the time, I think I was probably 51-49 in favour of it being the wrong decision. But making the decision on health grounds, it’s looking more likely to be the right decision.

“If the season does get called off, then it definitely will be.”

Rowley has started work on a potential squad for next season, having received a budget from the Mechanics board.

At the start of this season, with Forres not participating, the club agreed to release players from their contracts if they wished to play, with a verbal agreement they would come back to the Can Cans for the 21-22 campaign.

Allan MacPhee in action for Forres Mechanics.

Ryan Farquhar and Aaron Hamilton joined Deveronvale, Allan MacPhee signed for Clach, Joe Gauld went to Huntly and James Ross to Golspie Sutherland.

The Forres boss added: “I did expect a few more (to leave), but I think the vast majority decided it wasn’t in their best interests health-wise to take part. Given the circumstances, it’s maybe looking like a positive decision.

“We have got six or seven under contract for next season. It’s about the ones that are running out at the end of this season now.

“I’m fairly positive we can get that done shortly and have an idea who we can add to the squad. We’re looking for positive answers by the end of January or start of February, which gives us a decent time to look at players for next season.

“There’s still so much uncertainty with start dates and fingers crossed we can get back to some normality. But I have my doubts.”

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