President George Manson hopes the Breedon Highland League will continue to entertain on the pitch in 2022.
With coronavirus still very much part of the fabric of life, it’s hard to predict the impact it may have on sport and specifically the Highland League in the months ahead.
Monday’s card has been affected by several virus-linked call-offs, and there are still concerns about the omicron variant going forward and the potential for a lockdown which could lead to a shutdown of football.
Manson said: “I’m hoping – if there’s to be a break – it’s a short, sharp break.
“If we just get a couple of weeks then we’ll cope with that and hopefully we’ll manage to get to the end of the season with a completed league.
“We don’t know what the long-term future is, because you don’t think things can continue as they are forever.
“We’ve played enough games to allow us to nominate a champion if we have to, if we come to another break in play.
“If the break in play was only a fortnight or so then we could cope with that without too much bother.
“We’d have a few more Wednesday nights, but that’s a fact of life if you live in this part of the country.
“We’ve no control over what will happen in terms of the pandemic.
“We just have to wait and see what happens and then listen to what the government and the SFA say and do what we’re told.”
Plenty to play for as campaign approaches climax
It’s set up for an exciting conclusion to the campaign at both ends of the table.
At the summit the top seven sides are separated by only eight points, while at the bottom there could be a relegation play-off.
The winners of the North Region Superleague, the North Caledonian League and the Midlands League would play-off against the Highland League’s bottom side.
However, currently only Banks o’ Dee and Golspie Sutherland meet the licensing criteria required for promotion.
Manson added: “It’s new, but it’s exciting as well I think. It will depend on who wins the three leagues below and whether any of them meet the criteria to come up.
“There are six or seven teams at the top of the league who probably all believe they’re capable of winning the league.
“I think it will be a close run thing, some people may falter, but it’s as competitive as it’s been for quite some time.
“That’s a good thing for the league, but there is a bit of a gulf between the top seven and the rest, which is a bit of a problem.
“But those of us at the bottom end need to improve and certainly from a Turriff perspective we’re trying to do that and I’m sure everyone else is the same.”
Division dealt with challenges in 2021
The Highland League has had to deal with plenty of challenges over the past year.
The 2020-21 season ended up being called off with no team having played more than three league fixtures.
However, the first half of this term has been navigated successfully and Manson believes that is a credit to the division.
He said: “There have been a few challenges, but we’re still going.
“This season was started and we’re still going. I think we’ve risen to the challenges.”