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Brora boss calls league title award 'quite embarrassing' but the right thing to do

By Alasdair Fraser

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Steven Mackay at the end of Brora Rangers' sensational Scottish Cup victory over Hearts last week. Picture: Ken Macpherson
Steven Mackay at the end of Brora Rangers' sensational Scottish Cup victory over Hearts last week. Picture: Ken Macpherson

Brora manager Steven Mackay admitted it felt “borderline ridiculous and quite embarrassing” for his team to be crowned Highland League champions on goal difference after only three games.

Given the unprecedented circumstances, though, the Cattachs’ boss believes the move is the fairest step towards achieving justice for his club after the 2020/21 campaign was called to a halt.

Brora were denied a crack at the Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) pyramid play-offs after last season was halted in March, with national clubs also voting against reconstruction to promote the Highland and Lowland league champions.

On Monday night the Highland League management committee garnered unanimous support from member clubs to award this season’s title to Brora – just as they had last year after 26 games. What made the move contentious was that so few matches had been played this time.

Brora and Fraserburgh led the way on nine points, with the Sutherland side four goals better off, but Buckie Thistle, Formartine United and Inverurie Locos also had a 100 per cent record after two games, albeit with significantly lower goal difference.

It seems that the decision, and the show of unity on Brora’s behalf, was solely motivated by a desire to smooth a path to the pyramid play-offs.

“This decision will fuel the conversation and put the SFA under a bit more pressure to act,” Mackay explained.

“Brora don’t want to be winning leagues after three games. To be awarded something after three games is borderline ridiculous and quite embarrassing from our perspective because we want to earn the right.

“But it is a mechanism, now, to push us towards the play-offs with Kelty [the Lowland League champions]. Awarding us the league was the first step towards that and I think it was the right thing to do – and, again, we thank our fellow clubs for their support.”

Mackay, currently putting the finishing touches on Brora’s preparation for their Scottish Cup third-round tie against Stranraer on Saturday, feels SPFL reconstruction in his team’s favour is the only fair solution if play-offs are scrapped once again this season.

“It has to be one thing or the other – play-offs or reconstruction," he said. “I don’t think it should be just left, unfinished if you like, like it was last season.”

Highland councillors joined together to congratulate Brora on their historic Scottish Cup win against Championship leaders Hearts last week.

Spontaneous applause broke out after East Sutherland and Edderton ward councillor Deirdre Mackay, a Brora resident, made a statement at the start of Thursday’s full Highland Council meeting.

She said: “On Tuesday evening Brora Rangers pulled off one of the biggest shocks in the history of the Scottish Cup by beating Hearts 2-1 at Dudgeon Park. I have it on very good authority that the last time Hearts lost to a non-league club, Queen Victoria was still on the throne.

“We can’t underestimate the magnitude of the result against a professional team from the city, eight times cup winners with the fourth largest budget in Scotland, against the backdrop of part-time Brora with only one game and five training sessions under the belt this year."

She added: “Given the dark days of Covid it is fantastic and so uplifting to have something good to celebrate, for Brora, for Sutherland and also for the Highlands. I would like to ask the council to join with me in congratulating Brora on their extraordinary performance and wishing them every success in the next round of the cup.”

Highland Council convener Bill Lobban said “well done, Brora” and members began clapping.

Hearts had reached the Scottish Cup final in each of the last two seasons, losing to Celtic both times, and won the trophy as recently as 2012.

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