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Craig Stewart opens up on difficulties of managing Deveronvale

Deveronvale manager Craig Stewart, left, is keen to give youth a chance.
Deveronvale manager Craig Stewart says it's been difficult to recruit new players

Deveronvale manager Craig Stewart admits the challenges that go with the job have been greater than he anticipated.

But he still believes the future is bright for the Banff club.

Stewart was appointed as boss a year ago having previously worked as a coach and assistant manager under Steve Dolan.

Trying to add to his squad has been difficult at times, although Vale did sign attacker Caiden Imbert-Thomas from Huntly last week.

Stewart said: “I was aware of the challenges working under Steve previously, but again there’s been a further change in terms of finances and travelling which has made it harder than I thought.

“But we’ve got the basis of the decent team and we’ll keep trying.

“I need to have a look at where we’re going as a club and our ambitions and see where we go to get the best out of what we’ve got.

“We’re not alone, other teams are in the same boat as us and if players do become available there’s quite a few of us all going for the same players.

“At the moment ourselves and a few others maybe fall short when it comes to finances.

Deveronvale are currently 11th in the Breedon Highland League

“But we keep going and it’s a different challenge. At the top of the league you’re looking to buy players to win the league.

“We’re not there yet – I’d love to be there at some point. Things can change very quickly in terms of money within clubs.

“We keep going and work on the good set of youth players we’ve got and we’ve also got good experienced players.

“I know where we need to strengthen and where we’re happy with what we’ve got.

“We’ve got a lot of young lads that have certainly got a bright future.”

‘We can’t compete with some of the other teams’

One of Stewart’s frustrations is seeing players who have rejected the opportunity to join Deveronvale struggling for game time at other clubs.

He added: “The search for players doesn’t stop and it’s frustrating when players are looking for more money than we can offer.

“We’ve got a wage structure which is there to protect the club and we can’t go spending outwith that.

“But some players seem to be more in it for money rather than wanting to play.

“There’s the thing about being part of a squad but not getting minutes and being happy picking up money and it’s a bit of an issue.

“Our wage structure is OK don’t get me wrong – but we can’t compete with some of the other teams in the league at the minute.

“Frustration comes from players choosing to go elsewhere and not playing but they’re happy enough because they’re getting decent money.

“That’s not a good thing for the players or the Highland League I don’t think. That might be quite controversial, but that’s my opinion and that’s where we’re at.”

Travelling problems

Stewart says the willingness of players to travel to play for Deveronvale has also become more of an issue in recent times.

The Princess Royal Park side have a core of local players but also have some travelling from Aberdeen and Elgin.

“The other thing is players not wanting to travel and I think for various reasons Covid has had a lot to do with that,” Stewart said.

“I think a lot of players have got comfortable being at home during lockdown and doing their own thing and when we’ve got back into the swing of it guys haven’t been keen to travel.

“Our location probably doesn’t help with that. But I respect the guys that travel from Aberdeen because we’ve got a few and Caiden is another one.

“We’ve got a few guys from Elgin as well who travel and they’re the exception to the rule at the minute.

“I’m hoping I’m going to be proved wrong in the coming months when we continue to try for players that travelling won’t be an issue.

“And that they have the hunger to play for Deveronvale in the Highland League and have the ambition to do well for themselves.”

Search for No2

Stewart is also still on the look-out for a new assistant manager after Michael Morrison stepped down last month.

He said: “I have spoken to a couple of guys and it’s not the right time for them at the minute.

“But we’ll keep going, although I’m not in any great rush because it needs to be right for everybody.

“There is ongoing discussion, but there’s nothing concrete as yet.”