Fixture generator gives Deveronvale a difficult Highland League start
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DEVERONVALE manager Craig Stewart knows his side will be thrown in at the deep end when the Highland League season kicks off on July 24.
Vale will host Brora Rangers on the league’s opening day, newly-relegated Brechin City on match day three and visit rivals Buckie Thistle on match day four.
However, as Stewart was quick to point out, everyone has to play everyone at some point – and perhaps it isn’t the worst thing to start with the best.
He said: “It’s a tough start. Brora is not the game you want first.
“But you have got to look at the positives – they are at the standard we are striving for so we will get a feel for where we are at, and we are capable of beating them if we are at our best.
“Touch wood we won’t have any injuries at the start of the season, either.
“Every game is going to be tough for us and we have got to play everybody at some point, whether it’s the first game or later in the season. We are just looking forward to getting back.
“It’s a great start for the fans, these are the games you look forward to. The derby with Buckie, who I fancy to do well this season, and Brechin, who come as a bit of an unknown.”
Stewart believes the addition of Brechin City to the league is a positive, with the Glebe Park side becoming the first ever side relegated into the division after their play-off loss to Kelty Hearts.
He added: “I welcome Brechin to the league and I’m looking forward to them being in the division.
“I think promotion and relegation is a change in the right direction for the Highland League.
“I was disappointed with the difficulties Brechin had in coming into the league, with trying to get into the Lowland League, but overall it’s a positive change.”
Vale began training on Saturday ahead of the season. It is hoped a few signings will arrive before July 24, after the departure, or anticipated departure, of a number of players this summer.
Stewart added: “The lads have had their programmes to follow and the majority have done really well.
“I’m pleasantly surprised with the level of fitness. They have come back in good shape.
“However, we are definitely looking to add to the squad. We have lost a number of players, which is disappointing.
“There are two or three who are finished playing who I’d like to have back and one or two who have work commitments or who have lost a bit of motivation.
“I’m not too surprised, I thought lockdown might have had an effect on a few more to be honest.
“The squad isn’t the biggest so there is a chance for some of the young lads to step up in training, do well and get an opportunity.”
Ryan Farquhar is unlikely to return to Vale, while Robbie Allan has decided to retire from football.
Despite the currently depleted squad, the aim for Vale remains to improve.
“Top half will definitely be the target, though I think we need two or three additions for that to happen," he added.
“Not in terms of quality, but for competition and to avoid burnout.
“We have got some irons in the fire at the minute but money seems to be playing a big part, and we are not in a position to compete with some of the teams above and round about us in that regard.”