Inverurie Locos skipper Neil McLean is confident his side can regroup following the surprise resignation of manager Andy Low.
Locos are searching for a new boss after Low opted to step down on Monday following nearly two years in the Harlaw Park position.
Veteran midfielder McLean insists he did not see Low’s departure coming, but he is determined to play his part in helping his side refocus under interim boss Steven Park.
McLean said: “It’s one of shock. When the guys found out on Monday, it was one of those moments when I was lost for words.
“From a footballing side, I probably don’t agree with his decision, but I can understand from his own personal perspective, as only he knows what’s best for him and his family.
“I can only go on record in saying I saw at first-hand the effort, hard work and dedication he put into the role.
“It has probably been the most difficult period to be a manager in the history of the club, with Covid-19 and everything he has had to do away from the pure footballing side of the job.
“We feel for Andy and we wish him all the best. With every club you have to move on and the games come thick and fast.
“The good thing about football is you can focus on the next game and not let external factors get in your head.”
Locos take on Banks o’Dee at Spain Park in the quarter-finals of the Evening Express Aberdeenshire Cup on Wednesday, with McLean well aware of what to expect from the junior outfit.
The 40-year-old added: “They have been in the competition enough times over the years for us to know the players that have gone there.
“I think any team that plays against Banks o’ Dee is under no illusions, there won’t be any surprises about how good they are.
“It’s almost as if we are playing a top-six Highland League side.
“Results show that through their time in the junior league, as well as the cup competitions. We need to show why we are playing in the Highland League week-in, week-out.”
Dee boss Jamie Watt is relishing his side testing themselves against Highland League opposition.
The junior side have recruited experience over the summer, with Marc Young and Craig MacAskill joining from Keith, and Jamie Redman, after pretty much a year out of the game, also signing on.
They have started the McBookie.com Superleague season in imperious form, winning all seven games and scoring 36 goals. They thumped Colony Park 11-0 last weekend.
Watt said: “You’re not sure coming back after Covid where everyone is at, but we’ve hit the ground running. Results have been brilliant and the way we’ve been playing, we’ve been getting better and better.
“We took a couple of the Keith boys and they’re really enjoying their football. Everyone seems to be playing with a smile on their face and with a bit of freedom.
“We’ve got a young team; if you look through the base of our team, it’s Albion boys that have come through together. They’re coming into their best years and turning into really cracking players. But to have these experienced guys to learn from is second-to-none.”
Banks o’ Dee had former Cove Rangers defender Alan Redford involved as a trialist on Saturday, with Watt keen to see if he can work out something permanent with the veteran defender. They will be without Redman due to injury against Locos, but captain Kane Winton returns to the side.
Watt is an ex-Locos striker himself and was surprised to see manager Low depart Harlaw Park this week.
He added: “I get on really well with Andy and had no idea that was coming. It was a bit of a shock. If it’s for family reasons then that’s the most important thing.
“It’s a shame for Locos as Andy has invested a lot of time into the club and they seemed to be getting on a good track.
“It’s going to be a big challenge for us and we don’t know which way they will go. But we saw the reaction Keith had after losing their managers and I think we’ll get a bit of a reaction from them.
“I’m a winner – there’s not one thing I go into not to win. The league is the bread and butter, but whether it’s the Scottish Junior Cup, you name it, I’m there to win it. This is no different.
“It’s a big step up, but we know we’re a top junior team and we’re a match for these top Highland League sides.”