Wick Academy manager Gary Manson sees no reason why his well balanced squad cannot aim high in the Highland League and cups next season.
The far north side only got two league fixtures in last term before the pandemic halted play as most clubs were left frustrated by the impact of the pandemic on their sport.
They kicked off with a 3-2 home defeat against Buckie Thistle in late November before losing 5-1 at Brora Rangers, who were awarded the championship after three straight wins from their three fixtures.
Wick also got a taste of Scottish Cup action in December, winning 3-1 against Musselburgh Athletic before bowing out 2-0 away to League Two hosts Cowdenbeath.
The Scorries get started next season on July 24 with a trip to Forres Mechanics, who took a year out last because of their concerns of Covid-19.
Seven days later they are away to Strathspey Thistle, who are seeking a new boss after Gordon Nicolson and assistant Tommy Wilson stepped down at Seafield Park recently.
Wick’s home campaign will start against Clach
Manson’s men will kick off their home campaign on August 7 when Jordan Macdonald’s Clach come calling.
The Wick manager expects their opening day hosts will be eager to get back to the action.
He said: Although we only had four games last season, Forres will be itching to go after having no games at all.
“You know what to expect from Forres. Charlie Rowley has been there many years and his teams are always tough to play against. You always know you’ve been in a game against his teams.
“It will be a tricky one to start with, but it’s one we will relish. I have good memories of going to Forres (as a player) and getting a few wins, so we have nothing to fear. We look forward to it.”
Manson, whose association with the far north side now spans beyond 20 years having been a player at Harmsworth Park, is keen to push the side up to the upper half of the division.
He said: “We showed signs of improvement in that extremely short season last year.
“The aim for Wick is to be more competitive and get up towards the top six in the table and try to reach cup finals again. That’s got to be the aim for a club like Wick. We’ll be doing our best to achieve those goals this season.”
North Caledonian League sides will contest friendlies against Wick
The Academy squad’s pre-season starts today (Saturday) and Manson hopes this early groundwork can get them finely tuned for the first kick of the ball at Mosset Park.
He explained: “Last year, we had two games in the league and two in the Scottish Cup. It didn’t feel like any kind of season at all. We just got going and then we had to stop again.
“It will be good to get a proper pre-season under our belts and hopefully play the entire season this time.
“We’re quite lucky in this area because the North Caledonian League is still being played at the moment.
“We’ve got Thurso, Hakirk and Golspie local to us, so we have a few games lined up. Hopefully by the time the competitive games start we will be raring to go.”
Forward Steven Anderson is the only new recruit to date, with the 28-year-old returning to the club having played for Rothes over the past three years.
The club are delighted to announce Steven Anderson has agreed a deal which will see him return to the club from 1st June when his current contract with Rothes FC expires.
See the club web site for further information.https://t.co/TiZnxJP8yt pic.twitter.com/czzG4oToPN
— Wick Academy FC (@WickAcademyFC) May 13, 2021
Mason added: “We were delighted to get Steven back. He’ll be a really good addition to the squad. We’re looking in good shape and nicely balanced. We signed three new players for last season, so they still feel like new signings.”
In 2019/20 before Manson took over, Wick finished 10th on 32 points in a season not fully completed due to the pandemic.
Craig Levein takes role within HFL newcomers Brechin City
Brechin City have dropped into the Highland League from League Two after losing their pyramid play-off final against Kelty Hearts.
The Angus club made the shock move yesterday to make former Scotland boss Craig Levein their football advisor, with a new boss being sought after Michael Paton left the Glebe Park after their demotion.
Manson is looking forward to a new opponent within the set-up.
He added: “The Highland League is welcoming to all clubs who come into it.
“When I first started, there was no Inverurie Locos, no Turriff and no Formartine.
Brechin boosts the league, says Manson
“It improves the league to have new team involved. I’m looking forward to playing Brechin. I also have memories of playing them in the Scottish Cup.
“It’s always been a really good set-up down there. It will be interesting to see what shape their squad is in.
“The management team left and I imagine a lot of their players would move on and it may mean a more local team. Time will tell but I look forard to visiting Brechin and inviting them to Wick as well.”