Groats manager accepts bid to retain Highland Amateur Cup will have to wait
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Wick Groats will almost certainly have to wait another year before getting the chance to retain the Highland Amateur Cup – but manager Kevin Anderson accepts that there are more important matters than football to worry about as the coronavirus crisis continues.
"It's disappointing, obviously, but it is what it is. There's not a lot any of us can do about it," Anderson said this week after it emerged that the tournament is almost certain to be cancelled this summer for the first time in its 42-year history
He added: “There are bigger things for everyone to be thinking about just now."
All football in Scotland was suspended on March 13, just as amateur teams were gearing up for the start of the 2020 summer season.
Groats had been looking to build on their all-conquering exploits of last year when they completed a clean sweep of honours – the county league first division title, Eain Mackintosh Cup, David Allan Shield and Colin Macleod Memorial Cup as well as lifting the Highland Amateur Cup for the fourth time in seven years.
Anderson (39) said Groats were shaping up well for another crack at the summer silverware, despite losing a few key players to Highland League side Wick Academy over the past couple of years.
“We started training at the end of January. We were starting two sessions a week and ramping it up – then this came about,” he said.
“We had a new sponsor for training gear – Graeme Sinclair, painter – and we got new strips from the Nethercliffe Hotel, so we were looking forward to this season.
“I think we would have kicked on a bit this year but at the end of the day, in the grand scheme of things, that's nothing. There's nothing anyone can do, and the main thing is everybody is okay and healthy.”
He added: “The last time we did the clean sweep  we all said it would never happen again but we did it again and we were undefeated.
“We lost Ryan Campbell to Wick Academy, and the year before that we lost Jack Henry and Alan Hughes.
“So we've lost a couple of guys, but again we had good youth coming through and we were certainly looking strong for the season – but I'm sure other teams were the same.”
Earlier this week, Highland Amateur Cup organisers said it was unlikely the tournament would go ahead in 2020 due to the lack of dates to play the ties. Thurso-based competition secretary Bob Gunn said time was running out, although the decision had yet to be confirmed.
Anderson is nevertheless hopeful that Caithness amateur clubs may yet get a taste of competitive football this summer if one or two knockout tournaments can be fitted in.
If we were in a position where it was safe to get back going then a couple of cups would be something.
“Hopefully we'll get something played – even if we can get going in July they may look to play a cup or two,” he said.
“With no Highland Amateur Cup we'll have Saturdays as well so realistically, if we could get going in July, we could probably get something played.
“Obviously Caithness football is governed by SAFA [Scottish Amateur Football Association] and whatever guidance comes out, but I believe they are looking at hopefully getting us to play something if the rules permit it.
“If we were in a position where it was safe to get back going then a couple of cups would be something. But it's all guesswork – nobody knows.
“We just need to sit back and see what happens.
“If football doesn't happen this year, so be it.
“It would certainly be good to get some form of competition played, but if not we would hope to retain who we had coming this year for next year.”
Meanwhile, Groats players – like their counterparts at other clubs – are doing what they can to stay fit.
Anderson said: “A lot of the boys are keeping their fitness levels up. We have a group chat where all the boys speak and they're doing different bits and pieces.
“But obviously with everything that's in place just now you can't meet up or even go in small groups, so everybody is doing their own thing, and to be fair I have seen a lot of the boys out and about for a run around the town.”
In 2019, Groats won their eighth county league title in a row and regained the Highland Amateur Cup when Graham MacNab's first-minute strike was enough to seal a 1-0 victory over Avoch in the final at Brora.
The Highland Amateur Cup, which was first held in 1978, features amateur teams from across the Highlands, Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles.
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