McKenna says Academy are up for the challenge at Fort
WICK Academy boss Tom McKenna is confident of leaving Fort William on Saturday evening with three points despite the Claggan Park side's dramatic improvement.
Having served in the unwanted role as the Highland League's whipping boys for the past few years, Fort received a boost this summer with the loan of a number of players from Championship side Caley Thistle.
The young recruits have already made their mark. While Fort's league record is still not great, the cricket-score hammerings they once received are becoming a thing of the past.
And in the North of Scotland Cup they've been a revelation with wins against Nairn County (5-2) and Rothes (5-1).
So a tough time might be in store for Academy – themselves in need of points to start climbing the table. But McKenna says it's nothing his team can't handle.
"We always appear to struggle down there anyway so, regardless of whether or not the boys they've got from Inverness are there, we would be preparing for a tough away fixture anyway," he said.
"Much has been made about the improvement those players have helped bring about to Fort William – and good luck to them for that – but don't forget that we've faced those players before.
"The guys who are on loan at Fort featured for Inverness Caley Thistle's development squad when we beat them 3-2 in a pre-season friendly so we've already had a look at them and know how good they are."
Craig can go on and be a massive part of our season
While Academy have made a slow start to the season, one shining light has been the improved form of Craig Gunn.
The striker came back to Harmsworth Park for his second spell with the club late in 2017.
Settling in has taken time but McKenna is backing him to be a major player for the club.
He added: "I think Craig's been in the best place he's been at since he came back.
"Obviously it has taken a while for him to get back to where he was. I'm sure the expectation of people thinking the old Craig Gunn would suddenly appear had its own kind of pressure and no doubt him taking a hit at his short spell at Brora.
"But he's worked hard since coming back and I now feel Craig can go on and be a massive part of our season."
McKenna was also quick to dismiss rumours of a fallout between him and defender Michael Steven.
He said: "Obviously with Michael not being seen in action much since the season started people are coming out with all sorts.
"Michael has work commitments with his farm and he also maybe feels he needs a wee break from football. I'll need to speak to him.
"There's been no fallout between us. I get on well with all of the lads. Like every dressing room, there's going to be opinions expressed but we still work well together."
The North Caledonian League season begins on Saturday with a local derby as Thurso host Halkirk at the Dammies (3pm).