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Wick manager Manson says scrapping Highland League season would be a last resort

By Alan Hendry

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Davie Allan in the thick of the action during Wick Academy's only home league game so far this season, against Buckie Thistle on November 28. Picture: Mel Roger
Davie Allan in the thick of the action during Wick Academy's only home league game so far this season, against Buckie Thistle on November 28. Picture: Mel Roger

Scrapping the Highland League season would be a "last resort", Wick Academy manager Gary Manson has said.

He hopes clubs will be able to return to competitive action by the end of February, if a fall in Covid-19 cases allows Scotland's lockdown restrictions to be eased.

The Scottish Football Association announced at the start of last week that all football below the Premiership and Championship is suspended until January 31.

Manson pointed out that Highland League secretary Rod Houston had assured clubs they would be given time to resume group training before league fixtures start up again.

"Lockdown wouldn't end and we'd be straight into matches," Manson said. "Rod would ensure that clubs were able to train for at least a couple of weeks before games again.

“If I was to guess I would probably say back to football by the end of February, if everything goes according to plan. I would like to think the cases will start to fall from now, but only time will tell."

Manson believes that if circumstances allow there will be a determination to conclude the fixture list in time for the end-of-season Scottish Professional Football League play-offs, whatever the timescale for those may be.

"I think scrapping the season would be the last resort," he said. "I'm sure they haven't ruled it out – it's still a possibility. It's probably still on the table for discussion.

"But they don't want to give up their place in the play-offs for the pyramid system so I would imagine they'll try and play the season to a finish if they possibly can.

“I would imagine League One and League Two might extend their season as well now, so our normal finish date of the middle of April will probably be pushed out. I think we'll be playing into May this year.

“Leagues One and Two are in the same boat as us, so I would imagine that'll extend their season and our season into May. We should have enough time to get it finished.”

Manson added: “If games do start at the end of February then the weather is starting to turn a little bit then so there will be less chance of games getting called off, which is another bonus.

“Hopefully when we do get back the fans will be allowed in, but I wouldn't hold my breath on that one. We'll wait and see.”

In the meantime, Manson – who is still registered as a player – has been asking the Wick squad to stay fit during the latest break from football.

“Obviously we're not allowed to train at the moment, but I've gone out a few runs myself and I've given the boys some stuff to do – nothing too strenuous, just a couple of sessions per week to keep them ticking over," he said.

Academy have played only two league matches and two Scottish Cup ties since the shortened season kicked off on November 28.

The suspension of football affects League One and League Two, Scottish Women’s Football Premier League One and League Two, the Highland League, Lowland League, East, West and South of Scotland leagues and Scottish junior FA leagues, as well as the North Caledonian League.

Following a meeting of Highland League clubs last Monday, secretary Rod Houston admitted there was an inevitability about the season being halted.

“It is disappointing when you think of all the work clubs have done to get playing,” he said. “However, I can’t say it is a surprise decision considering the circumstances we are in.

“We will now have to look at the ramifications of when we can get the season going, and work out how we get the league restructured and how we can make things work again.”

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