Formartine United manager Paul Lawson was pleased the Highland League found a way to start the season even if it meant some clubs played without fans.
It’s now almost a year since the coronavirus pandemic led to football first being suspended.
Over the last 12 months the Highland League – like most organisations – has had to deal with numerous challenges.
When it came to starting the 2020-21 campaign in November the issue of supporters being allowed to attend was a major one.
The 10 clubs in Moray and the Highlands were allowed to admit upto 300 fans, until lockdown returned from Boxing Day, while the six Aberdeenshire agreed to start without spectators.
The Highland League like all football below the Championship was then suspended by the SFA in January.
United boss Lawson said: “I think that was a difficult issue, at the start of the season a lot of the questions were around fans and that whole scenario of playing without fans.
“Luckily enough we found a solution to start the season, but it has been strange, don’t get me wrong.
“We don’t play in front of thousands of people, but the crowds we do get certainly make a difference.
“Anybody will tell you if you go away to Fraserburgh or up to Buckie the crowd and the atmosphere that’s created can certainly be an advantage for them.
“It is different but I think if you gave the players a choice between playing games behind closed doors or not playing they would rather play.
“It is a shame and it’s sad for the supporters not getting to attend because it’s a huge part of people’s lives getting to a game on a Saturday.”
It’s not yet known when fans may return, but plans are in place to complete this season’s Scottish Cup.
Formartine are one of seven Highland League sides left in the competition and are set to face League Two side Annan Athletic at North Lodge Park on Tuesday March 23.
With a home tie against Motherwell the prize for the winner Lawson admits playing those games behind closed doors is disappointing.
He added: “At Formartine we’ve got a small support, but a loyal support, they’re there all the time and it is sad that they’re likely to miss out on things like a Scottish Cup tie against an SPFL club (Annan Athletic).
“Then if we got through you are looking at a Premiership club in Motherwell coming to North Lodge Park which would be a first for Formartine.
“We’ve wanted to get that for a number of years and hopefully we do get it, but it would be sad if there were no fans there.”
Over the course of the last year Lawson believes the spirit of the Highland League has been there for all to see with clubs sticking together for the greater good of the league.
He said: “I think everyone would say that the league is a community.
“As much as you have rivalries between clubs I think we all want what’s good for the league and for the people in it.
“In times like we’ve had it shows everyone can come together and work hard. We saw it earlier this season when we had issues with our pitch and Keith opened their doors for us to play a Scottish Cup game against Turriff.
“I think it’s in these instances and in these times that all the clubs are willing to chip in and help each other out and that shows the spirit within the Highland League.”