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Exclusive: Forres Mechanics manager Steven MacDonald issues update on summer business and changes ahead of next season

The Can-Cans boss has spoken at length about the challenges his side face ahead of the new campaign.

Forres Mechanics manager Steven MacDonald. Image: Sandy McCook/DC Thomson.
Forres Mechanics manager Steven MacDonald is pleased with his summer signings, but has also addressed the challenges the Can-Cans have faced.

Forres Mechanics manager Steven MacDonald has issued a close season update revealing the challenges they face ahead of next season.

The Can-Cans have signed defender Kaiden Connolly and midfielder Shaun Sutherland, having landed goalkeeper Corey Patterson and midfielder Aidan Cruickshank earlier this week.

Connolly, 18, arrives at Mosset Park following his departure from Ross County, while 23-year-old Sutherland joins after five years at Clachnacuddin.

MacDonald is pleased with his signings, but is keen to make supporters aware of the difficulties Forres have faced this summer.

Making signings in a tough market

Speaking exclusively to the Press and Journal he also addressed changes at the club ahead of the new season which gets under way next month.

MacDonald said: “While we are pleased to have signed the four players we have so far this summer, it feels like it’s been harder than ever to recruit players.

“There appears to be a shortage of players who will add real quality to the current squad, and so many clubs have huge budgets now making it very difficult to attract those that would improve the team.

“Despite this we have been working extremely hard, trying to be as smart as possible to attract the right quality players to Forres.

Forres boss Steven MacDonald.

“Corey Patterson is an excellent young goalkeeper who was disappointed to be released by Inverness Caledonian Thistle. Hopefully he can show how good he is.

“Shaun Sutherland is still a young lad but has already played a lot of Highland League football with Clach so I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do.

“Kaiden Connolly is a promising young defender who has come through the Ross County academy and we know Aidan Cruickshank is very talented.

“I hope Aidan can benefit from some stability now having been loaned to various Highland League teams over the last couple of seasons.”

Tough to retain top performers

MacDonald was appointed as Forres manager in January 2022 and during his tenure the Moray club have provided a platform for a number of young players to flourish.

However, the Can-Cans have struggled to retain some of their top performers and MacDonald is bracing himself for that happening again this summer.

He added: “At Forres we have shown with the likes of Ben Barron, Connall Ewan, Ryan MacLeman, Ethan Cairns, Craig Mackenzie and Mark McLauchlan in recent seasons, that as a club we are good at identifying and developing players.

“However, the challenge we have had throughout that time is having to rebuild the squad every year as some of our best players have chosen to move on to teams higher up the Highland League table or in the SPFL.

“This is something we are faced with again this summer given there has been interest in some of our players.

Ben Barron, left, moved from Forres to Elgin City last year.

“It is clear to us to take Forres to the next stage and to get back up the league table, we need to not only retain the better players already at the club, but look to invest in good players to complement them.

“However, this is easier said than done given the current financial climate and the resources of some of our competitors.

“If players at our club have interest from elsewhere, which could be more lucrative for them, then unfortunately it can sometimes be hard to convince them to stay at Forres.

“By the same token when it comes to trying to sign players from elsewhere there are occasions when we can’t compete with the offers other clubs can make.

“We are aware how competitive the Highland League is going to be next season.

The three teams who were below us last season (Deveronvale, Clachnacuddin and Strathspey Thistle) have all shown ambition and fresh investment in the close season.

“We need to make sure Forres are ready to meet the challenges ahead and that everyone pulls together to make us as strong as possible.”

Injury could see legend retire

MacDonald also revealed that ahead of new season Forres captain Lee Fraser is set to hang up his boots due to a knee injury.

The 31-year-old striker, who has also played at centre-back in recent times, has been with the Can-Cans since 2010 and netted 152 goals as well as receiving a testimonial alongside twin brother Graham in 2022.

Jamie Michie has left to sign for Huntly, while assistant manager Stephen MacLean is also taking a step back.

MacDonald said: “Unfortunately, due to a serious knee injury, we will lose club legend Lee Fraser who has been magnificent not just in my time but for many years before. It is nearly impossible to replace people as good as that at our level.

Forres legend Lee Fraser has suffered a knee injury.

“Jamie Michie was another great professional who we benefited from having on a short-term arrangement, but he has now found a club closer to his home again.

“On the coaching team Stephen MacLean will have to step back with his young family taking priority.

“Steve has been a huge help to me as a friend and a coach and has been a great servant to Forres both as a player and in management.

“I am also hugely indebted to Lee Walker who joined us last season and made a big impression on everyone with his coaching skills and knowledge. I hope we can continue to work well together.”

Training switch

Another change Forres have made for the new season is switching training from Kinloss to Inverness.

Explaining the move, MacDonald said: “After in-depth discussions with the board and the playing squad, one significant change this season is we have decided to move our training to Inverness.

“There are two reasons for doing this. Firstly, our current training base is not sufficient. Secondly, most of our squad are from the Inverness area so it makes logistical and financial sense to relocate training to there.

“It is very disappointing a town the size of Forres still does not have its own astroturf sports facility.

“We realise the move will not be to everyone’s satisfaction. However, overall we think it will be to Forres’ advantage just now.”