Wick manager Gary Manson accuses SFA of showing no consideration to part-time teams
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Manager Gary Manson accused Scottish football's governing body of showing scant consideration for part-time clubs after Wick Academy had to make two journeys to the central belt in the space of a few days.
The Scorries' Scottish Cup first-round replay against Bo'ness United at Newtown Park on Saturday was abandoned in the aftermath of a serious injury to home striker Zander Miller, with Bo'ness leading 4-2. The SFA ordered the clubs to play again on Tuesday night and this time the Lowland League outfit ran out 4-1 winners.
It meant that between Saturday morning and the early hours of Wednesday the depleted Academy squad spent the best part of 24 hours on the road, travelling either to or from West Lothian, while combining their football commitments with their working lives.
Manson, who played in both games, got home at 3.15am on Wednesday having left about noon on Tuesday.
The so-called "romance of the cup" has had a hollow ring to it for Academy over the past two seasons.
In the Covid-disrupted 2020/21 campaign, Academy's first-round tie at Cowdenbeath went ahead on Boxing Day just as level four restrictions came into force in mainland Scotland. The Fife side won 2-0 in atrocious weather.
Club chairman Pat Miller said at the time that it had been “inhuman” to ask people to play in such cold and wet conditions and not be able to have a shower afterwards.
Manson questioned why the second trip to Bo'ness had to go ahead in midweek.
“During the long bus journey home the thought came into my head – it's like the SFA don't consider part-time football teams," he said. "It's not just because we're so far away.
“Last year, for example, getting part-time footballers to travel down to Cowdenbeath on Boxing Day... I mean, why? There is just no reason or logic why part-time footballers have to do that.
“Again this week there was absolutely no need to go down there [to Bo'ness] on Tuesday night. I don't know why we couldn't postpone our league game this weekend and just go down on Saturday.
“There is no logic behind it. I'm not trying to roll out excuses. Pure and simple we got beaten because we gave stupid, cheap goals away and didn't take our chances.
“But it did cross my mind – who makes up these rules in the SFA? They obviously take no consideration of part-time footballers.
“I could understand them forcing us to play it on a Tuesday if the next round of the cup was this Saturday coming. But the next round of the cup is not for two or three weeks, so there is just no reason why we couldn't have played it on the Saturday.
"It's not just the travel – it's the boys having to take time off their work, it's the boys having to go into work on Wednesday morning after only getting three hours' sleep. It's not right.
“Obviously it's exaggerated slightly by Wick because of the amount of travel time that we have. But none of the SFA rules are written with consideration to part-time teams.
"It's the same with all the Covid protocols – none of it was written with part-time teams in mind. It was all written with a view to the full-time clubs in the top league. It's just the way the SFA is.”
Academy return to Highland League action this Saturday as bottom club Fort William visit Harmsworth Park. The fixture was switched to Wick after it was announced in the summer that the Lochaber men would play all of their matches away from their Claggan Park home.
Fort picked up their first point this season in a 3-3 draw at Nairn on Wednesday night.
Manson and his coaching staff will be assessing the squad after their Scottish Cup exertions at Bo'ness.
“We'll need to see how the boys came through Tuesday night," the manager said. "We had no subs and we had 10 men for about 40 minutes.
“They put in a ridiculous amount of effort and a couple of them had niggling injuries but had to play through it. We'll need to see who's available and who has picked up injuries, and then just try and get a squad together for Saturday and go again and try to win the game.
“Fort William haven't won yet but they are getting more respectable scorelines.
"With the form we're in at the moment, we can't take anything for granted so it'll be a tough game, there's no doubt about that.
“We'll just need to see who we've got available and take it from there.”