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Huntly Boys League stalwart is named for the town's top citizen accolade

By Pat Scott

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A MAN whose involvement with Huntly Boys League began almost 55 years ago and continues today is the 2020 recipient of the Citizen of the Year award.

Allan Mitchell (60) played in the league from 1966 until 1975 and then in 1986 found himself back as a referee.

His involvement stepped up when his own sons Paul and Owen played in the league but when they moved on Mr Mitchell continued at the forefront of the organisation which at its height had 33, 11 a side teams playing weekly either in matches or training.

At weekends, youngsters played in Moray Firth leagues and some exceptional teams played junior teams from clubs like Ross County.

He retired from active duties in 2012 but remains a supporter of the league and was bitterly disappointed when a 60th anniversary dinner in March, which he had helped to plan, was one of the first victims of Covid -19.

Mr Mitchell's commitment to the league was driven by his own experiences of the group and he said his time in the Boys League had been some of the best days of his life.

He jokes that the pinnacle of his personal playing career was as most promising player at under eight level but is passionate about the character building influence the league has on the lives of the youngsters who are part of it.

He recalled as a ten year old getting the opportunity to travel to Linwood to be hosted by families there while they played a series of games and visited Ibrox.

He said: "It was really special to be picked. The ethos was and continues to be that every child will get a game. I cannot stress enough how much I enjoyed the Boys League as a player and on the committee, surrounded by good folk who had come through the structure.

"It wasn't all about winning. Youngsters got to play irrespective of their skills. There was always the opportunity to progress through select teams."

Mr Mitchell said that support from families and the wider community was huge and meant that fund-raising dances were always a sell out.

He said: "I was completely taken by surprise when I was told I was Citizen of the Year in recognition of my work with the Boys League but it's good to be appreciated."

Huntly Rotary Club president Ian Esslemont said that Mr Mitchell was a very worthy recipient of the accolade.

He said: "Allan has been hugely influential on the lives of local youngsters over a lot of years, giving them opportunities and providing them with the structure and discipline of being part of a team.

"As a club we are disappointed that we have not been able to celebrate his achievement fully and give him the recognition he so richly deserves."

Mr Mitchell received a £300 cash award which he has donated to Friends of Jubilee Hospital and a glass plaque as a keepsake.

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