Retaining U17 north title will be a big ask, says Wick coach Robertson
"A big ask, but never say never." That is Wick Academy under-17 boss James Robertson's verdict on the season ahead.
The young Scorries are aiming for a third Highland League North U17 championship in a row and they kicked off the new campaign with a thumping 8-3 demolition of Fort William.
However, a third successive triumph would be the most remarkable of the lot, as given the age restriction on the competition Academy's young squad has a lot of new faces in it.
Robertson said: "For us to repeat what we've done the last two years will be a big ask.
"Normally, when you have your first pre-season get-together, the split between those still around from the previous year and those coming into the squad is around fifty-fifty.
"This time around, it looks like 85 per cent of last season's squad are no longer with us due to them now being too old to play in the under-17 league.
"But you can never say never, as the newcomers are of a very good standard.
"There won't be too much of a concern about the new players taking time to gel with each other as most of them have come up through the age ranks below. Those players should be used to each other.
Winning the league again would be nice but our main focus is to teach our current squad the skills and tactics they need to improve.
"The boys are all good technical players and the only real concern will be physicality. That will come as they get older and play more games, but there will be a big difference between a player just out of the under-15s being up against an opposing player who will be in his final season with his team's under-17s.
"Winning the league again would be nice but our main focus is to teach our current squad the skills and tactics they need to improve.
"There will be no pressure from me to go and get a third league title. I've told them that what will be, will be.
"Some of last year's boys will be looking to get into Academy's main team while the rest I'm sure will be great additions to the North Caledonian League, whichever team they end up at.
"For us as coaches, it's like school teachers who wave goodbye to the final-year pupils when they leave school and then focus on the pupils in the years below."
WICK Academy have been handed a tough first-round draw in the Scottish Cup with a trip to face Inverurie Locos on Saturday, September 21.
Full draw: Broxburn Athletic v East Stirlingshire; Buckie Thistle v Civil Service Strollers; Caledonian Braves v Rothes; Cumbernauld Colts v Penicuik Athletic; Dalbeattie Star v Gala Fairydean Rovers; Edinburgh University v Lochee United; Forres Mechanics v Banks O’Dee; Fort William v Vale of Leithen; Fraserburgh v Bonnyrigg Rose Athletic; Gretna 2008 v Hill of Beath Hawthorn; Inverurie Locos v Wick Academy; Jeanfield Swifts or Linlithgow Rose v Huntly; Keith v University of Stirling; Kelty Hearts v Auchinleck Talbot; Nairn County v Clachnacuddin; Spartans v Deveronvale; Strathspey Thistle v Lossiemouth; Turriff United v Formartine United.
Tom McKenna's men will be hoping the weather gods are more generous this weekend for the home match against Turriff United after rain washed out their Highland League trip to Fort William on Saturday.
Fortunately, it was not a case of a wasted journey as Fort staged a 7am pitch inspection and informed Academy not to board their bus after the referee deemed the pitch to be unplayable.
Clach's home match against Deveronvale also fell victim to the rain.
Brora bounced back from their loss to Nairn as they thumped Huntly 6-0 with goals from Colin Williamson, Steven Mackay (2), Greg Morrison, Jordan Macrae and Paul Brindle all netted.
Also hitting six were leaders Fraserburgh. Paul Young, Scott Barbour, Michael Rae, Greg Buchan and Sean Butcher (2) were on target in a 6-1 win at Turriff, with Lewis Buxton providing a consolation for the home side.
Inverurie Locos brought Nairn back down to earth as Neil Gauld (3) and Chris Angus (2) scored in a 5-1 victory. Liam Shewan struck for Nairn.
Forres Mechanics easily saw off Keith 4-0 thanks to goals from Andrew Macrae, Alan MacPhee (2) and Callum Johnston.
Strathspey racked up a 3-0 victory against Lossiemouth, while Buckie beat Formartine 1-0.