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Deveronvale manager Steve Dolan hopes Highland League can get going – even if it means a period of no fans and a changed format


By Jonathan Clark

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DEVERONVALE manager Steve Dolan hopes the Highland League can get going soon – even if it requires a spell playing without fans and a change in format.

The league campaign was due to get going on this Saturday, but has been delayed until at least November 28 due to the continuing ban on fans attending football matches amid the coronavirus pandemic.

This has forced Deveronvale to scale back and either train or play just once a week.

Boss Steve Dolan hopes the league can get going, though understands there are many difficulties.

“It’s big call to make,” he said. “There are a lot of factors to consider like finances and health – which should be the biggest one for me – but I would like to get going and if we have to stop then stop.

"Without fans it isn’t ideal – we have boys who haven’t missed a game in 40 years – but we could start the season and then phase fans back in to grounds. I’m sure they would understand.

“We could maybe have 50 more each week. Social distancing wouldn’t be a problem. Could we get 100 folk at the Vale socially distanced? I’d say yes, pretty easily.

“That’s above us but I think it’s possible to have fans in with contactless payments and the taping off of seats.

"We could regionalise the league for a season too, to limit travelling and stop the need for buses.”

Last week, Vale decided to limit their preparation for the new season to one training session or match a week.

Picture: Eric Cormack. .Deveronvale V forres Mechanics highland league.
Picture: Eric Cormack. .Deveronvale V forres Mechanics highland league.

Dolan, though, is worried about keeping players motivated and said there is a real risk of some falling out of football if the sport continues to be put on the back burner.

He added: “It’s all a bit disjointed but we have got to watch the finances just now, with no income coming in.

“The problem is there isn’t really an end goal. Is it feasible to keep playing with so much uncertainty? Is it worth putting the players at risk with nothing to aim for?

“They looked a bit deflated last week and, from a football point of view, my biggest concern is players dropping out of the game.

“We have got to look after ourselves but if I was a young player just now, and the Highland League was cancelled, I’d go and play elsewhere.

“This is the toughest thing I have ever seen in football.

“Everyone has their own opinion and there is no right or wrong answer.

“We have struggled, had wage cuts and lost players but that is simple compared to this. This is the total unknown.”

Kieran Adams slides in on Robert Allan...Buckie Thistle v Deveronvale at Victoria Park, Buckie. ..Picture: Becky Saunderson..
Kieran Adams slides in on Robert Allan...Buckie Thistle v Deveronvale at Victoria Park, Buckie. ..Picture: Becky Saunderson..

Vale’s most recent friendly saw them draw 2-2 with a young Elgin City side last Wednesday.

Dolan was happy enough with the performance.

“It was a good run out to keep the boys interested,” he said. “We played all right and Elgin were all right.

“But I wish we could keep going and keep getting up to speed. It’s hard for the players to get motivated and I’m wondering if they are benefiting from these games.”

Vale’s scorers in the draw were Bob Scott and Matthew Wallace.

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