There are bigger issues than football, says Alan Farquhar ahead of testimonial year
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Alan Farquhar is pleased to have been awarded a testimonial season to mark his many years of service to Wick Academy – while at the same time appreciating that there are bigger issues than football to be concerned about right now.
Farquhar (32) has been a stalwart for the Scorries for more than a decade, and plans are under way for a series of events in his honour over the coming year – culminating, hopefully, in a showpiece match against a select team of Old Firm legends.
However, the coronavirus crisis has disrupted football at all levels and many of the testimonial arrangements being put in place will have to be rearranged in line with government guidance.
“We had it all set to go ahead and this has happened, but it is what it is," said Farquhar, who made his Wick debut in August 2009 and was appointed club captain at the start of season 2014/15.
“With the way things are going just now, it [the testimonial year] is a minor thing. It’s something we can come back to once it’s all sorted.
"The biggest issue just now is making sure everyone is all right and families are all right.”
The visit by the Old Firm legends has been pencilled in provisionally for May 2021, with discussions still to be concluded.
“It’ll be six Rangers legends and five from Celtic, so the idea is that we'll have them come up to play us and we’ll have a dinner after it," Farquhar said. "It’s not cheap to get them up – but, with everything that has happened, asking people for funding feels a bit cheeky just now.
"Even if it ends up being put out by a year, we’ll see what happens."
Farquhar, who is from Castletown, has been an influential and popular figure over the course of 340 appearances in the Academy defence. He is known for his unflappable style, his unerring ability to read a game, his positional sense and his timely interceptions.
He was a key part of the team that won the North of Scotland Cup in 2015/16 and feels a pang of regret that the Scorries didn't claim any other silverware around this period. Some of that squad have moved on and others are nearing the end of their careers.
"I’ve been lucky enough to play with a lot of good players," Farquhar said. “I know we won a cup but it’s a shame we haven’t had a run of getting something else.
"We’ve been unlucky with injuries and everything. When you look at the nucleus of the squad, with a lot of players now in their thirties, it is going to change over the next two or three years. A lot of people are going to leave."
As for his own future at the club, Farquhar said: “It’s the last year of my contract so whether I call it a day, I don’t know yet.
“I don’t want to get to the point where I’m too slow – you don’t want to be known as the guy who played too long.”
He admits that the 2019/20 campaign – which was cut short in March, with leaders Brora Rangers declared champions – was a frustrating one.
While the Scorries had some impressive wins on the road, overall their form was inconsistent and manager Tom McKenna resigned in February. Gary Manson and Stewart Ross were appointed as the new management team.
“I didn’t really enjoy the football at all last season, to be honest – it wasn’t a good season for us," Farquhar said. "There wasn’t much enjoyment in it.
“There were a lot of changes in the camp. We would go to the tough teams and we’d do all right, then we would come up against teams we should be beating and we were just nowhere near it.
"I think that was down to structures and shaping and things like that. Since Stewart and Gary took over there has been a massive change in attitude and in training levels. I think they’ve both been brilliant.
“But just now it’s quite hard to get yourself motivated."
The players have been instructed to keep themselves in shape during the close season so that fitness levels are where they should be ahead of the next campaign. No-one can tell when 2020/21 will kick off, although Farquhar reckons September could be a possibility, with regular midweek fixtures to help make up for lost time.
Farquhar has a lot of respect for co-manager and long-term team-mate Manson, seeing him as the ideal role model for up-and-coming players.
“I kind of feel for Gary because it’s his last season of playing in 20 years as a player. It’s phenomenal," Farquhar said. “He’s the fittest player in the team, 100 per cent.
"I’ve always said that if boys are coming into the team they should be looking at Gary’s fitness levels and attitude.
“Even when things weren’t going well he was always turning up and training and doing things the right way. That’s half the battle."
He is impressed by some of the newcomers to the squad but would welcome more competition for places at the back. “Ryan Campbell has come in, he’s a cracking player, you’ve got Ben Sinclair, you’ve got Mark Macadie – I’d like to think we will see more of him next year. I just hope it keeps going," Farquhar said. “But defensively we’ve been struggling to get people in.”
Farquhar, an electrical engineer at Dounreay (although currently working from home), doubles up as manager of Wick Thistle in the Caithness AFA league – assisted by Martin Gunn, Andrew Henderson and Craig Gunn. Thistle should by now be well into their first division season after storming to promotion last summer, but county football is on hold along with all other competitive sport.
“I honestly don’t see there being a summer league this year," Farquhar said. "I know there’s talk that if it has cleared by June or July they might do something, but I think it would be better to write this year off. We’ll see what happens.”
- Alan Farquhar's testimonial committee includes Michael Gray, Colin Stewart and namesake Alan Farquhar (former club secretary) with Alan Turner as chairman. Dates have still to be confirmed for a golf challenge (originally scheduled for May 9), a day of football for all ages (originally scheduled for July 11) and a horse racing/quiz night (October or November), as well as the proposed Old Firm match and testimonial dinner (provisional date May 8, 2021).
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