Andy Low is pleased Inverurie Locos have come through what will have been the most difficult year Highland League clubs have faced.
The coronavirus pandemic shut down the 2019-20 season early and threatened to put paid to the following one altogether, before it belatedly got under way at the end of November.
Crowds returned briefly to a handful of Highland League grounds before mainland Scotland was put into level four restrictions on Boxing Day, shutting down a valuable source of revenue.
However, heading into the first games of 2021, the majority of Highland League clubs remain intact, with only Forres Mechanics opting to sit out this season.
Low said: “I think every club in the Highland League will tell you it’s the most difficult year they have experienced. Out of this, if you come through it then you’ve done something right.
Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas! What a year 😟 but having health and family is most important when others aren't as fortunate. All the best to HL teams in SC on Boxing Day to. #MerryChristmas
— Andy Low (@AndyLowser10) December 24, 2020
“Although there’s been a change in personnel within the club, I feel we’ve got a strong young group that can kick on over the next few years.”
Locos themselves have been out of action since exiting the Scottish Cup against East Stirlingshire on December 12. They play Clach at Grant Street Park on Saturday, in a game that was postponed on December 19 due to a waterlogged pitch.
Due to the extended period without a game, Low gave his players a break over the Christmas period to spend with their families before their return to action.
He added: “You do need to show a bit of flexibility, in this year more than any. A lot of trust went into the guys over lockdown and they merited that.
“You also need to weigh up the risk factor with Covid as well. It’s been really difficult with the weather and the availability of places, because of the effects of lockdown. There’s a lot of stuff to deal with, but it’s the same for every club just now.”
Low is expecting a different challenge for Locos on Saturday against Clach, who have yet to start their Highland League season due to a number of postponements.
The Lilywhites changed manager ahead of the new season, with Jordan MacDonald replacing Sandy McLeod, and have brought in a raft of new players.
He added: “It’s going to be a new group of guys. They’ve got two or three who are the same, but we’ll be going up against an unknown group.
“What they have got is an enthusiastic group of guys that are looking to make an impression and I think you will see improvements in their results this year.
“We’re eager to put our last result right and unfortunately we’ve not been able to do that as quickly as we would like.”
Low has injury doubts over Andy Watt and Jamie Michie for the trip to Inverness.