Being underdogs will suit us, says Halkirk United manager McElroy
Get a digital copy of the Courier and Groat delivered straight to your inbox every week
Halkirk United manager Ewan McElroy won't be losing any sleep over the "underdogs" tag as the Anglers prepare for the start of the North Caledonian League campaign next month.
The league will be split into two divisions for one season because of the disruption caused by Covid-19, with Halkirk in the top flight along with Thurso after both finished in the top six last term.
The Anglers were sixth in the table when the 2019/20 campaign was suspended in March, and McElroy is aware that his team will be considered outsiders in the title race.
"We know how difficult the two-tier system will be, especially for ourselves," he said. "Everyone keeps reminding us that we finished bottom of the top six last year and could potentially have been 16 points or more behind fifth place.
"However, being the underdogs has suited us in the past. Our main aim last year was to get the boys off the foot of the table and I was delighted we managed to do that and more.
"It’s still early on in terms of the squad and our goals. We know it won’t be a quick fix – it’s more about getting the right boys involved and slowly building the squad to where we want it to be."
McElroy was encouraged by his team's display in last Thursday's 4-2 defeat to Highland League side Wick Academy in a closed-doors friendly at Morrison Park.
"We have upped training to twice a week this year," the manager said. "We set the squad a running schedule prior to training resuming and it has undoubtedly helped in pre-season."
In the meantime he is continuing to freshen up his squad.
"We brought in around eight new players last year and we have six or seven new bodies training with us at the minute," McElroy said. "Obviously that has meant a few boys have left the club in the process.
"I will always be looking to add to the squad if the right player becomes available, but the average age is 21 years old and my main priority is to try and get the current boys up to speed as quickly as possible.
"With last Thursday’s performance and the current atmosphere and attitude in training I am confident we will get there sooner rather than later."
The new North Caledonian League will start on Saturday, October 17, subject to Scottish Government approval, although Halkirk United will have no fixture on the opening weekend as a result of Orkney taking on Shetland in the Milne Cup.
The Anglers will begin their league campaign on October 24 away to Thurso.
Division One also includes Golspie, Invergordon, Orkney and St Duthus. Invergordon were in top spot when the league was halted and later declared null and void, while Thurso were second.
Halkirk United will begin their North Caledonian Cup campaign away to Bonar Bridge on October 31.
Division Two features Alness United, Bonar Bridge, Bunillidh Thistle, Inverness Athletic, Loch Ness, Nairn County U20s and Scourie.