We want to get higher up the league next term, says Wick player of the year Campbell
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One of the most positive aspects of the 2019/20 campaign for Wick Academy was the emergence of Ryan Campbell as a key man in the middle of the park.
The 21-year-old hardly missed a game in his first season with the Scorries after helping Wick Groats to a clean sweep of Caithness summer football honours as well as lifting the Highland Amateur Cup.
And his contribution to Academy was recognised at the weekend when he became a treble winner in the club's end-of-season awards – conducted via a Zoom meeting.
Campbell was chosen as the players’ player of the year and he also collected the awards for young player of the year and most improved player over the season.
“I was very surprised – I didn’t expect to get player of the year in my first year," said Campbell, who signed a new two-year deal just before the season was brought to a halt in March because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I didn’t expect to get the opportunity to play as much as I did – I think there was only one game I didn’t actually start."
Campbell adapted quickly to the change from summer amateur football to playing in the Highland League. He already knew many of the squad from his time in the Academy under-17s.
“It is a big step up, and it does take a couple of games to get into it from playing in the summer league," he said. "But we train hard – that does help. And the squad is full of good players who have helped me to settle in.
“With the Groats I scored quite a few goals last year but then I developed into more of a sitting midfielder."
Although the truncated 2019/20 season was Campbell's first as a signed player, he made his Academy debut as far back as October 2015 as a 16-year-old trialist. He came on as a substitute for Gary Manson – now co-manager – in a 7-0 home win against Rothes.
Campbell went on to score his first goal for the Scorries later that season, a month after his 17th birthday, in April 2016 – also against Rothes. Academy won 5-1 at Mackessack Park that day.
Manson and co-manager Stewart Ross had just one game in charge before the 2019/20 season came to a halt. That was the 4-1 derby defeat at Brora on March 7 when Academy competed well before the league leaders took command following Jack Halliday's red card.
Campbell is impressed with the way Manson and Ross have gone about their business so far.
"I would say that in training the quality has gone up again and they’re going into depth on tactics," he said. "Even against Brora I think we did well before the sending off. We were the better team up until that point."
No-one knows when competitive football will resume, but Campbell's aim next term will be to help improve the team's league position. They were 10th in the table, with seven games to go, when the 2019/20 season was cut short.
"We want to be higher up the league," he said. "We weren’t consistent last season – that was the problem. We went to Formartine and Inverurie and won, but there were other silly games that we lost or drew when we should have been winning."
Co-manager Manson said Campbell was a worthy winner. Now he wants the midfielder to push on and keep improving.
“At the start of the season he was only 20 years old so he’s still relatively young for Highland League level," Manson said.
“The players’ player of the year is always a good one to get because your team-mates see you week in, week out, not just in matches but in training as well.
“It’s always good to get recognised by your fellow players and Ryan fully deserves it. He was quite a clear winner in the voting.
“I remember Ryan when he started training with us as a 16-year-old. Even then he didn’t look out of place.
"A lot of 16-year-olds come up and get overawed a little bit at training. You can see they’re nervous. But as a 16-year-old Ryan was assured, he was always looking for the ball, and I remember thinking that he was a talent then.
“Where he plays in the middle of the park it can get quite rough and tough sometimes in the Highland League, so a couple of years away and then coming back as a 20-year-old maybe stood him in good stead.
“We’re quite blessed in the midfield area. We’ve got five or six players that can fit in there.
“I spoke to Ryan the next day, congratulated him, and said ‘you just need to make sure you kick on again next season – don’t rest on your laurels after winning players’ player of the year.’
“It’s a competitive area of the pitch for our squad so he just needs to make sure he kicks on, and I’m sure he will. He’s a guy who very rarely misses training and always puts a shift in.”
Manson added: “We’ve been getting the players together every so often for a couple of quizzes and online classes, Pilates and stuff like that, so on Friday night we all got together and did a quiz and then did the awards after that.
“It’s good to stay in touch with your team-mates and it’s good in this day and age that we can do that overZoom.”
Academy's end-of-season awards:
- Players’ player of the year – Ryan Campbell.
- John Henderson Shield for young player of the year (21 and under) – Ryan Campbell.
- Bill Mackay Memorial Golden Boot Award for top scorer – Craig Gunn with 12 goals.
- Michael McNeill Trophy for goal of the season – Craig Gunn's second goal against Inverurie Locos away in the Scottish Cup, September 2019.
- Dot McLachlan Trophy for the most improved player over the season – Ryan Campbell.
- Dan Thomson Trophy for youth player of the year – Scott MacDonald.
- Under-17 golden boot – Sam Barclay with 32 goals.
There is no award for supporters’ player of the year as votes are normally taken at the last home game of the season.