McKenna sees bright future for Wick as talented youngsters come through
Manager Tom McKenna is predicting a bright future for Wick Academy after giving three 16-year-olds a taste of Highland League action in Saturday's game against Buckie Thistle.
A severely under-strength Wick side fell to a 4-0 defeat, but McKenna was greatly encouraged by what he saw of Sam Barclay and two other youth products, Scott Mowat and Scott MacDonald, when they came off the bench.
Barclay replaced Gary Manson just before the hour mark, while Mowat and MacDonald came on in the closing stages.
"Young Sam Barclay played half an hour and I was really, really impressed with him," McKenna said. "There was no fear – he was looking to get on the ball and he was taking players on.
"He really impressed me for a 16-year-old lad in that mature environment.
"Scott Mowat and Scott MacDonald came on for the last five minutes. Then you've got Mark Macadie, you've got Ben Sinclair and Grant Aitkenhead... Going forward, the future looks very promising for the football club.
“I'm going to invite these young lads to training and give them a better taste of the first-team environment.
"You've got to look at some positives, and from what I saw on Saturday with these three lads the future looks bright as long as they keep focused."
Injury and illness again took its toll on the Academy squad with Sam Mackay, Jack Halliday, Jack Henry, Gordon MacNab, Ross Allan, Craig Gunn, Mark Macadie and Kuba Koziol all unavailable along with long-term casualties Grant Steven and Marc Macgregor.
Manson made the trip despite feeling unwell. “All credit to Gary for turning up," McKenna said. "He said he was struggling but would give it a go.
"Respect to Gary for making the journey there. He did everything he could do.”
Saturday's game really summed up the first half of our season.
Academy have struggled for consistency since the start of the campaign and most weeks McKenna and his coaching staff have had to make do without a clutch of experienced players. The defeat at Buckie leaves them 11th in the table.
"Saturday's game really summed up the first half of our season," McKenna said. "You go there with hope and belief, but when you've got players with a certain pedigree missing it makes the whole outcome a lot more difficult.
"There were sections of the game where we were really good, and we were a bit unlucky at times, but it was a day of frustration.
"If you take out Sam Mackay, Jack Halliday and Jack Henry it's going to make a significant difference. I think those three would walk into any team in this league, so it was a massive blow.
“For me it has probably been the most difficult part of my involvement with the club. It has been a really difficult time, mentally and physically. It has been very hard.
"You do get people putting their points of view across, and rightly so, because they pay their money. All you can do is accept that, but it has been a difficult time. I don't think we've had the same team out twice."
Bottom club Fort William are due to visit on Saturday in Academy's first match of 2020, and McKenna is urging his players to pick up as many points as possible in the remaining months of the season – although he admits that the heavy Harmsworth Park playing surface is a concern.
“First and foremost we've got to get results and get ourselves in a better place. That will be our ultimate focus," he said. "Our goal is to get a bit of consistent positivity into the club and get results. That's what we're all here for.
"I'll be looking for a lot more points from here to the end of the season. We can only do that if we get the personnel and a good healthy balance within the team.
"I'm hoping the second half of the season will be a lot more profitable regarding points, and if we can get these young lads integrated that'll be fantastic for the club going forward.
"We have to give Fort William full respect – we can't go into the game feeling complacent.
"The way the pitch is, it's a leveller for us. Wick Academy are a footballing team and we struggle to adapt to playing long balls and being direct.
"We've got players who are technically gifted to receive the ball in tight areas. Speaking to the lads, they do prefer playing away from home on the good pitches.
"It'll be a difficult one on Saturday. We've got to be at our best if we want to come away with anything.”