Thurso boss says North Caledonian League season should have been delayed
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THURSO manager Stevie Reid believes the North Caledonian League should not be starting on Saturday due to the rise of coronavirus cases in Scotland.
He confirmed some of the club's players are considering whether to play while Covid-19 restrictions are in place on football.
Government restrictions mean players are not able to access changing facilities to use showers.
Reid revealed that one member of his squad will not play football while restrictions are in place, with four others also considering whether to make themselves available for matches.
Thurso have confirmed they will play the North Caledonian League season opener against Golspie Sutherland at the Dammies on Saturday.
But Reid says he accepts why players have reservations and feels the season should have been delayed until it was safer to start.
"There are players who are not keen to play at all due to the current situation," Reid said. "I don't blame them, and I'm preparing for more of my players to say the same thing.
"My own personal view is that football should not be going ahead.
"The season should be delayed in the same way the Highland League has been and take things as they are allowed.
"There is too much uncertainty just now and there are worries in our team, but I don't think we are the only ones.
"It is premature. I know people are keen to get football back in place, but there is a bigger picture than football at this moment in time.
"There are people's livelihoods and health to think about."
Bunillidh Thistle withdrew from all competitions this season due to the impact of Covid-19 and Reid understood why the Helmsdale club made that decision.
Thurso made their concerns known to the North Caledonian Football Association but will still play against Golspie Sutherland this weekend.
"We made our grievances known about the lack of showers and changing rooms," Reid said.
"In terms of travelling, we will have to go to Orkney and stand around two hours before playing a game.
"The restrictions are not ideal to allow for us to play football. There is just no need for it – we could have delayed the season.
"But apart from Bunillidh, we are the only club who seem to be voicing our concerns about this season."
North Caledonian Football Association president Iain Whitehead say they have accepted Bunillidh's withdrawal and taken on the concerns of Thurso. But he said the season will start on Saturday.
“It is disappointing that Bunillidh have decided to not play this season but we understand their reasons why," Whitehead said.
“Thurso have also raised concerns about playing this season. The other teams have confirmed they will play this season and will start on Saturday.
“Points have been raised about the changing rooms situation.
“But 12 clubs are all happy to give it a go and see how we get on.”
Thurso have strengthened for the new season taking three players on loan from Wick Academy.
Sam Barclay, who scored 32 goals for Wick Academy under-17s last term, and Scott MacDonald, who was the U17 player of the year, have joined the Vikings this season. They have joined fellow Wick Academy player Grant Aitkenhead in signing up to play at Thurso this season.
Meanwhile, Golspie have bolstered their squad ahead of the new North Caledonian League season.
Former Wick Academy midfielder Sam Mackay has signed for his home-town club and Golspie have also signed former Halkirk United player Stuart Sinclair.
Manager Andrew Banks says he is delighted to capture the signatures of both players as they look to challenge for the league title this season.
“Sam’s experience speaks for itself and Stuart is the same as he has played at North Caledonian League level for the last 10 to 15 years,” Banks said. “Having experience in the squad is something which I think we have been lacking for the last couple of years.
“So it is an area that we have certainly strengthened in now.”
Golspie were challenging for the North Caledonian League title before last season was declared null and void due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Banks is confident that Golspie can be among the frontrunners again, but with only six teams in Division One he knows that every game will count.
“This season you will see a lot of teams taking points off each other,” he said.
“Nobody is going to run away with the title. But Golspie are always there or thereabouts so we will be disappointed if we’re not challenging.”