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Wick manager Manson sees no reason to change from winter football


By Alan Hendry

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Wick Academy's Davie Allan goes past Buckie's Andrew Skinner and Callum Murray during a 2-0 win for the Scorries at Harmsworth Park in March 2019. The clubs' managers have contrasting views on the idea of switching to a summer season. Picture: Mel Roger
Wick Academy's Davie Allan goes past Buckie's Andrew Skinner and Callum Murray during a 2-0 win for the Scorries at Harmsworth Park in March 2019. The clubs' managers have contrasting views on the idea of switching to a summer season. Picture: Mel Roger

Gary Manson will not be adding his voice to calls for the Highland League to switch to a summer season.

The Wick Academy manager remains very much in favour of winter football, and believes the drawbacks of such a major change would outweigh any potential advantages.

He says a move to summer would undermine Highland League clubs' ability to compete in the Scottish Cup and the Scottish Professional Football League pyramid system. Starting pre-season training in January, and the prospect of having players on holiday for two or three weeks at a time in summer, would also be factors.

Manson was speaking after his Buckie Thistle counterpart, Graeme Stewart, expressed the view that summer football could be the way ahead.

It had been hoped that the delayed 2020/21 Highland League season would start on October 17, but matches will not be played until crowds are allowed to return – and coronavirus concerns have led to the campaign being pushed back until November 28 at the earliest.

Stewart sees it as an opportunity for the league to plan a season between March and September next year as an experiment.

“It’s almost being forced upon us to play in the summer," he said. "What is the point in rushing about?

“I would just say we are starting the season in March. It means everyone is off now, coming back in the middle or end of January, you do your pre-season then you start in March and play summer football and see how you get on."

Manson does not go along with Stewart's suggestion, however.

“He has voiced that opinion before," the Wick boss said. "If he’s that keen on summer football then don’t be in the Highland League. It’s as simple as that. There’s plenty of amateur leagues or welfare leagues in Moray – he can easily go to another team if he’s that bothered about summer football.

“I can see where he’s coming from in terms of wanting to play and watch football in better weather.

“But when you look a bit deeper, if the league starts in March we’d have to begin pre-season training more or less in the second week in January and nobody wants to do that.

“Scotland doesn’t get a six-month summer or a four-month summer. We’re lucky if we get two or three months of good weather.

“There’s a number of reasons why I wouldn’t go for it.

“Like I say, nobody wants to start pre-season the second week in January. You’ve also got the prospect of people wanting to go on summer holidays.

“The chances are you’d have players missing for two or three weeks at a time when they’re off on holiday.

“Then you’ve got the whole Scottish Cup scenario as well. The Scottish Cup only kicks off in October or November. Would Highland League teams want to give up their Scottish Cup runs?

"I know as a player in the past it’s something that you look forward to. Would Highland League teams have to forfeit their entry into the Scottish Cup?

“And then obviously there’s the pyramid system as well – they would need to forfeit that and show absolutely no ambition to go any further, just be happy to plod along in the Highland League every year.

"Like I say, if he’s that fussed about playing summer then go to a different league, basically."

Manson added: “It is a debate, and I can see both sides of the argument – but, for me, just the way Scottish football as a whole is set up at the moment, it lends itself to being played in the winter.”

Stewart had said it would be a bonus if Highland League clubs could still participate in the Scottish Cup, "but the benefits of playing in the summer far outweigh playing one Scottish Cup game a year".

As for the pyramid system, the Buckie manager said: “I would say just forget about the pyramid system – bow out of it.

“We have probably lost all of the clubs who had the ambition to play at that level now. I don’t think anybody else is really geared up for playing in the SPFL.”

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