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Winning Highland League not the only motivation for Inverurie’s Neil McLean

Neil McLean, centre, will continue to play for Inverurie Locos next season
Neil McLean, centre, will continue to play for Inverurie Locos next season

Inverurie Locos stalwart Neil McLean still aspires to win the Highland League – but says it’s not the main motivation to continue playing.

The Railwaymen captain – who turns 40 next month – has committed himself to Inverurie for next season.

During his 17-year stint at Harlaw Park McLean has won two Highland League Cups, two Aberdeenshire Shields, two Qualifying Cups and the North Region Challenge Cup.

But the Highland League title continues to elude him with Locos having finished second on four occasions during his time with the club.

When asked if trying to win the league was one of his main reasons for continuing to play, McLean said: “It’s winning in general that keeps you going, my sole reason for playing isn’t just to win the league.

“I’d love to win the league and don’t get me wrong when next season starts that will be the focus for a lot of teams and a lot of players.

Neil McLean with the Aberdeenshire Shield trophy

“It’s not something that irks me. I’m disappointed we haven’t won the league with the chances we’ve had to do it previously.

“But there are better players than me who haven’t won the league over the years.

“I’ve not divine right to win it, you have to earn it and the motivation is just to win things.

“I’d love to finish by winning it and that would be the highest of high notes, but it’s not going to sour my experience of playing in the Highland League if I don’t ever win it.

“Better players than me have played in the league for a long time and never won it so it’s not the driving factor in me continuing to play.”

McLean still feels he can make a positive contribution on the pitch and is looking forward to next season.

Inverurie’s 2020-21 campaign amounted to five games – two in the Highland League, two in Aberdeenshire Cup and one in the Scottish Cup – and McLean didn’t want to hang up his boots after that.

He added: “But I didn’t want to walk away from the game off the pitch, I’d rather try to have a tilt at a full season and then make a decision after that.

“Once I stop playing for Locos I think that will be me finished. It will be 18 years at Locos next year so it will maybe be time to call it a day.

“I’ve had good discussions with the manager Andy Low.

“I’ve always said I don’t expect to get a contract on sentiment, I don’t expected to be picked on sentiment.

Inverurie Locos manager Andy Low

“I want to be picked on merit like any other player and I’ve always been open and said that.

“I still feel fit enough and can still get around the park. I’d put myself up there with a lot of the boys in terms of fitness.

“Ability-wise I still feel the same and as long as the manager is happy with that and agrees with me then I’d like to keep playing.

“But I think it will come to a point where if I do get a full season next season then that might be my last.”

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