It saddens me to see my hometown club Fort William forced to play all their games away from home this season.
Although Fort got their Highland League season under way with a 3-0 loss away to Rothes on Saturday, the decision was made just 24 hours later following a meeting with the Highland League management committee, after concerns about the state of the Claggan Park surface were raised by a member of the public.
A problem they have had for a number of years is Highland Council pulled the plug on maintaining the pitch for them. They don’t cut the grass for them any more and they are relying on volunteers.
It’s quite amazing to me, because I remember many years ago the council took a lot of the credit for myself and John McGinlay playing for Scotland.
They did a ceremony for us and they blew their own trumpet about it. We have had about half a dozen professional footballers, my brother Dave included, from Fort William. For the Highland Council not to help them in any way is nothing short of shocking.
They have a team who people go down and watch on a Saturday. It’s a pathway for any kids to come through, and for the council just to pull the plug on it completely is very disappointing.
How expensive is it to send someone down for a couple of hours a week, just to cut the grass and line the park for them?
It could be that the volunteers who have been doing it aren’t able to do it any more, and they can’t get anybody to maintain it.
I got a picture sent to me about a month ago of the tractor they use which was all vandalised by local kids, and unfortunately there has been a lot of that happening.
It’s a real kick in the wotsits for Fort William football in general, and for the kids coming through. They don’t even have any leagues down there now.
I know they are trying hard to stay in the Highland League, but I have felt for quite some time that they should just pull out and go into the North Caledonian League.
It could be a struggle for them to afford playing all their games away from home, with the cost of buses.
It’s going to be really tough for the club. They have a new manager in place who has signed a lot of new players, but I don’t know how it’s going to suit some of these boys having to travel away every week.
They campaigned for years to get into the Highland League, with guys such as Colin Neilson and Henrik Madej, who are both no longer with us, putting a lot of work into it.
It was a fantastic pathway for local kids from Fort William to show their talents. The whole thing is just a nightmare for them.
A highly encouraging start for Stephen Glass’ new-look Dons
Aberdeen’s new-look side could not have wished for a better start to the new season following their resounding Europa Conference League first leg victory over BK Hacken at Pittodrie on Thursday.
Any manager that takes over at a club will say they want to get the ball down and pass it, but Stephen Glass will be delighted to see that intent backed up by such a dominant 5-1 triumph.
That’s a great result for them, against a side who were 11 games into their season, which gives them a bit of leeway. It will be difficult over in Sweden, but they have got a bit of a cushion to hold on to.
They certainly would have taken five at the start of the night. If they can get through the first half level, or even just one goal down, I think they will see it through from there.
It’s a lot of goals to come back from, particularly with the way Aberdeen played. They created a lot of chances and I’m sure they can get another few out there.
If ever there was any doubt about Scott Brown and the influence he’s going to have on that team, he certainly answered that.
From what the likes of Andy Considine and Lewis Ferguson were saying after the game, you can see how well respected he is.
He has given everybody else around him another wee step in the way they are approaching games.
I think he’s going to be a massive influence throughout the season.
Scott is not daft, there will be some times when it won’t go their way and the knives will come out.
Overall he is going to be very beneficial for Aberdeen and the kids that are around him. If you’ve got a captain on the park, it’s a sign he is going to play a lot of the games.
I think that’s a big thing for Scott, as he maybe felt last year that he was sitting on the bench too much at Celtic at that stage of his career. Particularly when he cut back on his international career to prolong his domestic career.
He wants to keep playing and having an influence, and he’s made a great start.
It was also nice to see Christian Ramirez get off the mark, I know myself how important it is for a striker to get on the scoresheet early.
They will then turn their attention to the league season, which starts with a derby fixture against Dundee United on Sunday. Hopefully there will be a lot of people there again, as they certainly would have enjoyed having the fans back for the European game.
Inverness must be more ruthless against part-time opponents
Caley Thistle begin their Championship campaign with a tricky trip to Arbroath on Saturday.
Looking back on the last few seasons, I would like to see Inverness take care of the part-time clubs a bit better than they have done.
They have lost a lot of points against the likes of Arbroath and Alloa Athletic over the past few years. I would like to see that addressed as it has cost them.
I remember when Inverness first came into the league they were the part-time team that was doing all the damage to full-time teams.
Now it seems to have reversed itself a wee bit. They did well against Hearts, but slipped up against Cove Rangers and Stirling Albion.
They can’t just turn up at the big clubs, they’ve got to take care of these smaller games as they are where you will pick up your points if you are to go on and do well in the league.
With not going further in that competition, it has also cost them a bit of money that I’m sure they will need by the end of the season.
It’s important they pick up something this weekend, preferably a win, but if not then the last thing you want to be doing is starting with a defeat.