Returning to management during a pandemic has presented Huntly boss Allan Hale with different challenges – but he’s embraced the unique circumstances.
Hale was chosen as Martin Skinner’s successor by the Christie Park club last June.
In normal times, when a new manager arrives they wouldn’t have to wait long before getting to grips with the job.
However, these aren’t normal times and Hale had to wait months before even being able to meet his squad in person and it was nearly six months before he took charge of his first competitive Black and Golds game when the 2020-21 season got under way on November 28.
Once the campaign did get started, Hale led Huntly to two points from their first three Highland League fixtures and through to the second round of the Scottish Cup prior to football below the Championship being shutdown on January 11.
Reflecting on returning to the dugout, the former Maud and Keith gaffer said: “We’ve had to be adaptable and every manager will probably say that.
“We’ve found ourselves in lockdown and shutdown again, so it’s been back to giving the players programmes again.
“We’ve tried to check in on them via Zoom and things to try to keep the spirits and morale high by getting them together.
“You want to keep the motivation up because right now it feels like we’re back to square one again.
“It’s been very difficult, it’s been challenging in many aspects of the role. We had a few months before we got back into training after taking the job.
“We hadn’t even met the players for a few months after taking the job, whereas usually you take a job and you’re straight into it.
“Yes there have been challenges, but it has been enjoyable and we’re thoroughly optimistic about the future as well.”
The right fit at the right time
Hale was pleased to get the opportunity to return to the Highland League at Huntly.
The former Fraserburgh player added: “It felt like the right opportunity for me. I’d spoken to Huntly a couple of years previously and was very impressed with the club back then.
“I thought it was the right club and the right fit for me working under a really ambitious board with a good young squad of players to work with and develop over the next couple of years.
“It was the right fit for me and the right opportunity to get back into the Highland League.”
The pandemic has also been a financially challenging time for clubs.
When this season started, the 10 clubs in Moray and the Highlands were able to allow up to 300 supporters to attend games, allowing them to generate some income.
But the six Aberdeenshire clubs didn’t have the opportunity to let some fans back in.
Hale says Huntly’s players and board have dealt with the situation well.
“The club have had to manage their costs appropriately and the players have given up wages and everyone deserves credit, because they’ve been extremely professional,” he said.
“The club and the players have had to adapt and, I can only speak for our club, but they have done extremely well and helped the club get through this period without fans.
“Hopefully in the not too distant future we can get the fans back in the door and we can see what this Huntly team is trying to do.”