Keith chairman Andy Troup has welcomed Brechin City into the Highland League and assured the Glebe Park men they will now be considered part of the family.
The Angus side announced earlier this week they will be playing Highland League football after losing last month’s SPFL pyramid play-off final against Kelty Hearts.
Brechin’s subsequent attempt to join the Lowland League instead of the Highland League was unanimously rejected by the 17 member clubs.
Now Maroons chief Troup has moved to embrace north football’s new boys and wish them well for the 2021-22 season.
Troup said: “Brechin will realise when they come into the league that the Highland League is one big family really.
“Yes, we’re all out for our own clubs and we all want to win and see our own clubs having success and all the rest of it, but the HFL as a whole is one big family.
“We deal with things slightly differently to the SPFL and other leagues because we deal with it as a group rather than as individual clubs.
“If there’s an issue that’s going to affect all the clubs, the league deals with it.”
League ‘pulled together’
Nothing demonstrates the Highland League’s spirit of solidarity more, Troup says, than its reaction to the pandemic.
“With the pandemic it didn’t surprise me at all that the Highland League pulled together because that’s what we do when things get tough,” Troup added.
“If you’d said to any business that you’d take away 80 or 90% of their income they’d have turned round and said ‘well, we are not going to be here’ so I think football in general, but especially the Highland League, really handled the situation well.
“A lot of thanks for that has to go to (secretary) Rod Houston and (assistant secretary) Graham Wilson, who have done a power of work behind the scenes helping and advising clubs and just helping us get through this horrible time.
“We were at the forefront of a lot of the footballing decisions, in terms of calling the league early and stuff like that.
“There will still be a lasting impact (from the pandemic) in the sense that a lot of clubs have had no income the past year and a half – but we diversified our methods with things like a track-and-trace system and online ticket purchasing. The league came through it.
“I’m very, very proud to be a part of the Highland League and that just shows how good a league it is.”
The new season is scheduled to get under way in July, with a full 34-game quota after last season’s curtailed campaign meant no side managed to play more than three league matches.
Troup is thrilled by the prospect of fans returning to Highland League grounds in the near future – but reckons some of the pandemic-induced changes will remain in place for a while yet.
He said: “While we’re delighted football is coming back – and we’re over the moon to have fans back – there will be differences.
“The online ticketing system and track-and-trace will still be in place so there will be changes from the ‘old normal’ style of doing things.
“But the most important thing is that fans will be back in stadiums, which is what we all wanted.”