The Highland League promises to be something different next season as they welcome a new club into the division in Brechin City.
Despite not wanting to be there Brechin will find the member clubs to be a welcoming bunch and whatever happens, provided fans are allowed back, the City faithful will have a grand old time following their team around the north of Scotland.
The Angus club’s fall from grace has been as surprising as it has been quick. It was little more than four years ago when they reached the second tier of Scottish football after winning promotion to the Championship.
But just 15 wins out of 121 league games has meant three relegations in four years and a whole new set of challenges now lie ahead.
Forget Angus derbies for now. The shortest round trip for an away game for Brechin will be the 106 mile journey to Inverurie Locos. The longest, just the 480 miles to and from Harmsworth Park, home of Wick Academy.
With demotion to a new league comes a raft of changes and fresh challenges for the club.
Chairman Ken Ferguson and vice-chairman Martin Smith are two of the six members of the club’s management committee who have stepped down.
Brechin City will become a limited company with a new interim committee, led by interim chairman Kevin Mackie formed. Office bearers will be named at the club’s annual meeting next month.
Mackie is an ambitious individual and has already stated his aim is to lead the club back to where he believes it should be – in League One of the SPFL.
He has already acted quickly by persuading former Scotland, Hearts and Dundee United manager Craig Levein to take up an advisory role at Glebe Park.
However, before the club can climb two rungs of the ladder two pressing tasks must be addressed – appointing a new manager after parting company with player-boss Michael Paton and putting a team together which is capable of winning the Highland League and then navigating the playoffs.
Do not think the latter will be achieved easily.
Brechin has historically sourced players from the central belt to compete in the SPFL. That is why their preference was to go to the Lowland League rather than head north. Logistically and geographically it suited them.
But that door has now closed and it is the Highlands which lies ahead in their immediate future. Convincing players to travel north knowing home games will be their shortest journey could prove difficult; enticing players for Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire even more so.
In terms of competitiveness the Lowland League and Highland League appears to be on a fairly even footing but within the Highland League lies several tough teams who will test the club famous for having a hedge at its home at Glebe Park.
Brora Rangers are a better team than the Brechin one which was relegated. They underperformed badly against Kelty Heats in both legs of the playoff semi-final to the extent manager Steven Mackay feels significant improvements need to be made this summer.
City will find a trip to Bellslea to face Fraserburgh taxing too while the likes of Inverurie Locos, Rothes, Buckie Thistle and Formartine United are no pushovers. Brora have edged them all in recent seasons but the margins have been tight.
For City to not only be competitive but to be genuine title contenders is going to take significant investment. If not, supporters had better get used to the idea their interim chairman’s plan on getting back to League One may be a long term one.