In the final instalment of our six-part series on Peterhead’s 20 years in the Scottish football league, the Blue Toon’s key figures look ahead.
There have been ups and downs along the way, but Peterhead chairman Rodger Morrison’s ambition has never waned over the last 20 years.
The Blue Toon chief still wants to see his club improve and strive to reach new levels.
Over the past two decades since making the step up from the Highland League to the Scottish League there have been two title wins as well as another promotion and two relegations.
Peterhead find themselves in League One and have spent half of the last 20 years in Scotland’s third tier.
They haven’t yet managed to gain promotion to the second tier, the nearest miss being a penalty shoot-out play-off final defeat to Partick Thistle in 2006, but as he looks to the future that remains the ambition for Morrison.
The 71-year-old, whose been involved with the club for 35 years, said: “I’ve always been ambitious, the biggest regret was the penalty shoot-out defeat to Partick Thistle to get into what is now the Championship, that hunger has never disappeared.
“We have at times thought about moving more towards full-time than part-time.
“But there are so many clubs, bigger clubs than ourselves, who have been forced to go down the part-time route just because of the sheer costs involved.
“Whether that’s still an aim for us now (having full-time players at the club), I just don’t know – these are very challenging times after what we have seen during 2020.”
Looking back over the past two decades one of the most pleasing aspects for Morrison has been helping to draw attention to the town of Peterhead as a result of the football club’s achievements.
He added: “We have grown as a club and what pleases me is that Peterhead FC has put the town of Peterhead on the map probably more than any other business.
“It always amazes me on my travels abroad if you mention Peterhead FC and people say they see them on Sky every Saturday or they bet on us or they follow our scores through an app.
“I’ve met a lot of people in other countries with no connection to Peterhead who follow the club for various reasons.
“When Bells sponsored the leagues Lord and Lady Macfarlane from Bells used to try to visit every club once a season but with us it was usually twice because they enjoyed coming.
“He was a wise old owl and I remember him once saying to me ‘now Rodger if you ever feel disillusioned just think about it and then don’t be because football clubs do far more for their local communities than any MPs, councillors or anybody else.’
“That’s what gives me the most satisfaction, putting Peterhead on the map and trying to play a part in the community.
“If you happen to play Celtic or Rangers that always helps with exposure and since our Highland League days I think Peterhead are mentioned more for football.
“I can’t deny that it’s been incredibly hard work at times and sometimes you think you’re daft carrying on.
“But you know it’s worth it even just to see the amount of people from the town who drop into the club on a daily basis just for a chat, we’ll always be a community club and we will always be here to bring people together.”
Looking to the future, Morrison says there are still challenges for Peterhead to overcome.
The coronavirus pandemic has placed a great strain on every club’s finances and Morrison says the Blue Toon are grateful for the backing they receive from fans and from the business community.
He said: “In terms of running the club and ensuring it remains afloat financially is a never ending challenge.
“The fans that come through the turnstiles are still important and still generate significant income but the corporate side is also very important.
“I had an idea a few years ago for club patrons – companies who contribute to the club on a monthly basis both financially and in so many other ways who go above and beyond to help the club.
“Those people are key drivers of the club as we try to stay competitive.”
‘We’ll keep trying to encourage more people to come along’ – Manager
Jim McInally hopes to deliver more success for Peterhead as he looks to the future.
The Blue Toon boss is gearing up for another campaign in charge having been appointed in October 2011.
With the club celebrating 20 years in the Scottish League, McInally has reflected on the past two decades as well as looking ahead to the future.
He’s guided the Buchan outfit to two League Two titles, a Challenge Cup final and cup shocks against the likes of Hearts and Dundee.
For Scotland’s longest-serving manager, the challenge is to deliver more great days for Peterhead.
McInally said: “I don’t think there’s any doubt that Peterhead Football Club has brought something to the Scottish Leagues.
“I saw that even when I was manager of Morton with the facilities they had, the class that they showed and I think the people at the club have always retained that.
“In terms of competing, there have been a lot of big results for the club. Even before my time when Iain Stewart nearly took them into the Championship, that was an incredible achievement.
“In my time we’ve had some good seasons and good moments as well and hopefully we can continue to have more.
“You never lose the ambition and the drive to try to get to a higher level.”
At times over the last six months it’s been difficult to plan for the future because of the coronavirus pandemic.
However, McInally is optimistic once again about what lies in store.
The former Dundee United and Scotland midfielder added: “After the last six months or so, just having a future is so important because I don’t think football is totally out of the woods.
“The most important thing for me is that the club continues to compete at the level we’re at and try to improve.
“You always want to attract more fans to watch us and the way to do that is do well on the park and win games.
“During lockdown, the response we had from the local community in buying 50-50 tickets and now season tickets to help the club has been great.
“So we’ll keep trying to encourage more people to come along. I know there’s a thing about the lack of Peterhead players, which some people don’t like.
“The important thing for me is that the players we sign, wherever they are from, are committed to doing well for the club and they are.”
Skipper Scott Brown thinks Arbroath and Alloa prove Peterhead should continue to aim high
Peterhead captain Scott Brown believes the future is bright at Balmoor.
The Blue Toon have enjoyed and endured their share of ups and downs over the last 20 years, having made the step up from the Highland League to the Scottish League.
Midfielder Brown is preparing to skipper the Buchan outfit when the new season begins next month.
He’s hoping for a good campaign and for the club to improve in League One following last season’s eighth-placed finish.
The 25-year-old, who has been with Peterhead for the last four years, wants to help the club improve and progress.
The ultimate progression would be to secure promotion to Scotland’s second tier for the first time and Brown sees no reason why the Blue Toon can’t push for that in the coming seasons.
He said: “It’s 20 years since the club moved up and I think in stature it’s a League One club and that’s where we are.
“We need to ensure it doesn’t end up in League Two again, so we can build for the future.
“I’ve read and heard about the history and the days gone by in the Highland League and I think the club has done very well since stepping up.
“It’s becoming harder and harder to be compete, but at Peterhead I think we always want to challenge ourselves and try to keep progressing and be one of the best part-time clubs in Scotland.
“It’s 20 years of the club in the Scottish League and hopefully we can mark that this season by having a good season.
“The ultimate would be to try to take Peterhead somewhere it hasn’t been before, which is the Championship.
“Certainly it’s going to be tough, but we know we have quality in the dressing room and we can string good runs together.
“You only need to look at clubs like Alloa and Arbroath (both part-time clubs in the Championship) as an example of what can be achieved.
“A few years ago they were in League Two and I don’t see why as a club we couldn’t follow that example.
“It’s up to us to deliver on the pitch, but if we can be solid in League One, I don’t see why we can’t look to go further.
“Every season you aim to finish as high as possible and trying to move up the ladder if you can.
“Firstly we’ll need to ensure we remain a League One club to give us stability and a foundation to build.”