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Doubts over Highland League season following Nicola Sturgeon's Scottish Government announcement but Huntly boss Allan Hale hopes football can resume and his team can continue their Scottish Cup adventure

By Craig Christie

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LIKE all Highland League managers, Allan Hale can’t figure out a way ahead for this season following Tuesday’s Scottish Government announcement.

Huntly manager Allan Hale.
Huntly manager Allan Hale.

Only non-contact sports for kids aged 12 to 17 can resume in March, with senior football in the lower leagues seemingly out of bounds until April at the earliest.

Talks will take place between the Scottish FA and league officials this week, and Huntly boss Hale admits his club is in the dark until some clarity emerges from the rules on sporting activities.

“I spoke to the chairman [on Monday] based on the update from Nicola and we are just waiting on what is coming out from the SFA and the league management committee, which they can then distribute to the Highland League clubs,” Hale said. “It wasn’t the news we had hoped for and I’m sure we all have the same questions.”

While clubs from SPFL Leagues 1 and 2, which like the Highland League are suspended at present, are in talks with the Scottish FA this week to consider restart options with Covid testing in place, the position isn’t as clear for Huntly.

Hale doubts that the Highland League campaign will resume, but may have to get his squad ready for a possible return to Scottish Cup action if the competition is given the go-ahead to play on in April.

Huntly have a second round tie away to Dumbarton still to be played, with the winners hosting Aberdeen at the next stage.

Huntly’s Highland League season got under way in November, but manager Allan Hale doubts it will now reach a conclusion. Photo: Daniel Forsyth.
Huntly’s Highland League season got under way in November, but manager Allan Hale doubts it will now reach a conclusion. Photo: Daniel Forsyth.

“For the Scottish Cup it had been mooted before that testing might be a requirement,” Hale said. “Clearly we want to play our tie at Dumbarton and if that means testing then I’m sure the club would be happy to do this on a one-off occasion.”

The Christie Park club would have to pay around £50 per player per test if this was granted, and with a return to training to prepare for the match, it could cost thousands of pounds.

He said testing for league matches would not be feasible because of these costs, and even if the league could resume in April without testing, there is a huge fixture backlog to clear.

“We want to play the Scottish Cup game like we do the remainder of the league games providing we can fit it in a realistic timeline that is not going to risk injury to players.

“Like many clubs we don’t have the luxury of having a large squad so I think it would be difficult for players to play four games a week just to cram games in.”

In the meantime, Hale said his players have been carrying out individual fitness programmes. “They are professional enough to look after themselves,” he said.

“We haven’t been overly strict with them, we trust the players to do their own thing and make sure they are keeping themselves in decent shape in the hope that we go get the green light to return.

“We have got involved in Zoom calls just to get everyone together, because I think that’s important from a mental perspective.”

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