Breedon Highland League secretary Rod Houston will step down at the end of the season after a “rewarding and enjoyable” tenure.
The 70-year-old took over the role from John Grant in 2016 and is only the sixth secretary in the division’s 128-year history.
Reflecting on his time in office and his decision to retire, Houston said: “It’s very simple – it’s a job I really enjoy – but I’ve reached an age and stage where I want to slow things down a bit.
“It’s a role that hasn’t been without its challenges, but it’s been rewarding and very enjoyable.
“I think we’ve managed to get the pyramid moved into position from where the aspiration was.
“We’ve got the clubs through Covid and that I think is what I would look on as the most challenging part.
“But we’ve got them through it one way or another and that was a job quite well done in a number of ways.
“I remember sitting down with the office bearers just before play was suspended and we could see the clouds gathering.
“We had 17 members then, we have 18 now, and we said at the time if we could get through it with 17 members that would be a success.
“We’ve got those 17 as well as Brechin City, who I think have found there’s a very powerful community in the Highland League with good fellowship.”
The challenge of Covid
Houston regards the Covid-19 pandemic as the biggest challenge he has faced as secretary.
The former Scottish Schools FA president, North of Scotland FA secretary and ex-Brora Rangers and Clachnacuddin manager added: “I think it’s been the biggest challenge during my time as Highland League secretary.
“There were other challenges we were dealing with and this thing came in like a steamroller.
“It stopped everything in its tracks and you had to reconsider everything.
“But clubs haven’t missed the chance to make the time useful with works that have gone on at grounds, there was a window of opportunity with play suspended.
“That allowed clubs to do some things around the grounds.
“The one thing I’ll take away from this tenure above all else is the enormous amount of volunteers that make the Highland League what it is.
“There are extraordinary people who put in extraordinary amounts of time and they care passionately about their club and about the Highland League.
“It has actually been quite humbling when you come across that.”
Pyramid in place
Houston’s last season will see the introduction of a relegation play-off at the bottom of the Highland League.
“The logical development was to move to that next phase because that was what was happening across Scotland,” Houston said.
“The Highland League is part of a Scotland-wide game governed by the Scottish FA, so it was the next step.
“It involved taking a bit of time and not rushing so people could understand where it lay and how it could come about.
“It’s early days, but we’ll see how it beds in over the next year or two.”
‘Treasure the Highland League’
When asked about his future plans and what his message would be to his successor, Houston said: “I’ve no specific plan other than to play bad golf more frequently.
“But I still hope to go around and see people and the first job will be to help my successor, or successors, play themselves in.
“My predecessor John Grant was very diligent in that respect and I would like to continue that.
“My message will always be to anyone that asks me: treasure the Highland League for the diamond it is within Scottish football.
“Respect its traditions, admire its community spirit and enjoy the people that you’ll work with.”
Anyone with an interest in the role of Highland League secretary is asked to get in touch with the division’s office-bearers.