'Now's your chance' Smith tells Buckie Ladies' young stars
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THERE'S never been a better time for young talent to break through – that was the challenge thrown down to Buckie Ladies development player as the team returned to training.
The Highlands and Islands league side have not kicked a ball since March when the SFA shut down Scottish football to help stem the spread of Covid-19. Indeed, the door slammed shut just 48 hours before the Ladies were due to take to the field for their first league game of the season.
However, after a lay-off of seven months, the first team and the under-13 girls from the development section are now back at the all-weather pitch in Buckie for regular Tuesday evening training sessions. It is hoped by having the under-13s train with the first team it will help build a pathway to the under-15s and onward to the full squad.
Being ring-rusty was not the only challenge facing coaches and players alike – adapting to the 'new normal' Covid environment meant changes to the normal training night routines.
However, Buckie Ladies manager Mel Smith was left delighted with the result.
She said: "It's brilliant to be back at training, it's been buzzing and they were all champing at the bit to get back.
"We were also delighted to welcome a new player to the Ladies squad.
"They were all in much better shape than I thought they'd be after a seven-month lay-off. It was great having the young girls training with us, they were really fit and fast and it spurred on the others. The kids and the adults brought the best out of each other.
"We're hoping to bring back training for the other development sections soon, after the Tattie Holidays if everything goes to plan.
"Bringing Covid-safe training back has been a challenge but we worked very hard beforehand to get something in place which was efficient, safe and well-organised."
The Highlands and Islands League committee, of which Smith is a member, had already taken the decision that the season would be scrapped, a move she described as the "only sensible decision on the table".
However, she said it presented an opportunity for Buckie's younger players to shine and threw down the gauntlet to them to grab their chance of a place in the squad.
"I'm not that bothered about the league being scrapped so long as we're training regularly," she continued.
"It's no surprise the league's not starting so we'll be looking to organise a series of friendlies once we're properly up and running again.
"We've lost a few of our regular players for a variety of reasons over the last seven months but this in turn throws the door open for our older development players to stake their claim to a place in the first team squad. There're a lot of good players coming up through the ranks.
"Before the lockdown Regan Duncan really impressed in the pre-season friendlies we played and I'll be looking for her to continue that progress.
"She's still very young; she has been playing wide but she's still to find her true position yet.
"We regard the development teams as the squad of the future and for some of them now could be their chance – it's up to them to grasp it."
One person who will not be at the forefront of coaching sessions, for quite some while, at any rate, is Smith herself. After a kidney transplant earlier in the year she was forced to spend months shielding indoors to guard against the risk of Covid and other infections.
She added: "I'm going to miss the coaching as I really love it.
"It's going to be a struggle but I'll get back to it one day."
Visit Buckie Ladies Facebook page for training session details and other updates.
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