Fort William's new boss Shadab Iftikhar says he can't wait to get started
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The Highland League's bottom club Fort William have been generating headlines nationally after appointing Shadab Iftikhar as their new manager – just months after he was part of Belgium's backroom team in the European Championship finals.
The relegation-threatened Lochaber side, currently eight points adrift at the foot of the table, announced this week that Iftikhar will take charge until the end of the season with an option to extend his stay by a further year.
The 32-year-old from Lancashire has coached in Mongolia and Samoa. He will be in the Fort dugout for the first time in their away fixture against Forres Mechanics on December 27.
In a statement, Fort said Iftikhar boasts an impressive CV, having gained his UEFA A licence at the age of 22. He worked for Roberto Martinez at Wigan Athletic, Everton and then at Euro 2020 with Belgium.
The new manager said: "I am extremely delighted and honoured to be appointed manager of Fort William. Firstly, I would like to thank the board for giving me this opportunity and trusting me with this project.
“I can’t wait to get started. I am looking forward to meeting the fans and living in Fort William. Despite not being able to play home games at Claggan Park, I promise one thing – I will work as hard as possible to give the club, the fans and the town something to be proud of.”
Wick Academy manager Gary Manson is one of many onlookers from across the Highland League who will be interested to see what progress Iftikhar can make with the perennial strugglers who are having to play all their league games away from home this season.
Fort lost 3-1 to Wick Academy at Harmsworth Park in October and the teams are due to meet again on February 12.
“I'm not really sure what to make of it," Manson said. “He seems to have high coaching qualifications and from what I've read he has been employed in some capacity with a couple of top clubs – so, on the face of it, on paper, it looks like a very good appointment.
“But how it's going to work logistically, I don't know. He doesn't know the league, he doesn't know his own players. How all that will work, time will tell.
“Fort William have always prided themselves on being a community club and giving the youngsters in that area a chance to play at a decent standard. But now they've got a squad that is completely full of English players and now a manager coming up from England as well.
“I've never known anything like this in my time in the Highland League.”