DIFFICULT TIMES FOR ALL
THE club and the community of Nairn were united in grief last month at the passing away of our player, Calum Riddell.
Calum had been diagnosed with Stage 4 Glioblastoma – a malignant brain tumour – back in the summer and died at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary on October 3rd.
We extend our condolences and the sympathies of everyone associated with the club to his wife Rebekah, his father Ian, family and friends.
Calum was a fighter, a hard-worker and a terrific footballer. He was a great character about the club and was always chirping away. Besides spending time with his friends and family, he seemed at his happiest when he was out there training with his team mates and was never far away from any mischief that was going on.
It has been a terrible time for everyone who knew Calum, none more so than those who were closest to him. But Rebekah and Calum’s close friends and family showed tremendous courage to go ahead with the Calum Riddell Match at Station Park just five days after he passed away.
Originally scheduled as a benefit match to raise funds to support Calum, it turned into a tremendous and fitting memorial to a well-loved footballer and one of life’s real characters. A crowd stretching towards a thousand people turned out to spectate and that just shows you the affection that everyone had for Calum.
The match saw our Nairn County squad face off against the Calum Riddell All Stars – a squad made up of Calum’s former team mates, friends and family members. Jordan MacRae’s first half goal was cancelled out by a late equaliser from Gordon Haines in a 1-1 draw, which I am sure everyone agreed was a result fitting of the occasion.
We will now look to establish a permanent memorial to Calum and we will have more news on that once arrangements have been finalised in agreement with his family.
Since my last update, we have enjoyed the prestige of hosting the Scottish Cup first round featured match. There was a lot of razzmatazz on the day and in the build-up to the tie and luckily, we were able to squeeze past Whitehill Welfare by a single goal to nil. We were delighted to strike up a bond with Whitehill in what was believed to have been the first ever meeting of the two clubs and we wish them well for the rest of the season in the Lowland League and for the future.
The next round saw us paired with an all-Highland League home clash against leaders Cove Rangers and we were disappointed not to force a replay having rallied late in the second half after bringing the score back to 2-1, which was how it ended.
We have now turned our attentions back to Highland League business for the winter months and it is a very tight table indeed at the time of writing. You could place a blanket over the clubs from Forres Mechanics in eighth spot to ourselves in 12th with only two points separating all five sides. Indeed, we have played the lowest number of league fixtures out of all teams in the table and if one of those postponed matches was on and we had won it, then we would be four places higher up the standings and breathing down the necks of the teams in the top six. But, such are the vagaries of Highland League football, only a couple of results one way or the other can either have you storming up the standings or tumbling down the table, depending on whether they go for or against you.
We have brought midfielder Liam MacDonald into the squad from Inverness CT. Liam is one of their outstanding prospects for the future and at 18-years-old, looks to have a bright future in the game. He will be with us on loan until January and it is down to the relationship that has been built up with ICT by our manager, Ronnie Sharp and our Director of Football, Graeme Macleod that has allowed us to bring in a player of such calibre.
Leaving the club is Jason Morganti, who was released from his contract to allow him to join Nairn St Ninian to help them out with a player shortage. Jason currently works overseas, so is unable to commit to Highland League football, so when St Ninian asked us to help them out in their hour of need, we were more than happy to – we always want to see St Ninian do well and we are always happy to help them in any way we can. We would also not want to see a player denied the chance to go somewhere where he can play football.
Jason is now back at work and we have said to him that if his situation changes, he would be more than welcome to come along to training again and give it another shot in the Highland League. I would like to thank Jason for coming in and helping us last season when we were building up the playing squad – he did extremely well for us and proved to everyone that he is more than capable of performing at this level having spent the rest of his career playing in the Juniors. He is a witty and intelligent guy and it is hard not to like him. I would like to thank him for his efforts last season and I hope that he enjoyed his time with the club.
Our under-20s entered the Football Times Cup for the very first time this season and will participate in two further cups as the campaign goes on. These competitions are for North Caledonian League clubs, so they give our young players exposure to adult football. Unfortunately, all ties take place on a Saturday, which means that those members of our under-20s squad who are with the first team will be unable to play because of fixtures clashes. So, despite being shorn of some of his regular top performers, our Under-20s Head Coach, Stuart Finnie saw his team push Tain St Duthus all the way when the two sides met the Football Times Cup in September, bowing out with a 2-0 defeat with the second goal coming with the last kick of the game.
The team now travel to Halkirk in the quarter finals of the North Caledonian Cup and are four fixtures into their regular league season as well. Home matches take place at Station Park on Monday evenings – check the Youth section of the club website or keep an eye on our social media channels for details.
Speaking of the under-20s, three of the more senior members of the squad have gone out on loan to gain more valuable experience playing adult football. Ryan Macleod and Craig Munro have joined North Caledonian League side Inverness Athletic and, after playing one game on an emergency loan for the same side, Fraser Wilkie has gone to North Region Juniors Super League club Inverness City. All three loans are month-to-month with the proviso that the players are permitted to play for our under-20s in their league and cup fixtures. We are delighted to strengthen our relationships with these clubs and with the under-20s fixtures due for a two-and-a-half month winter break, I know it is something that the coaching staff and Director of Football are contemplating expanding.
Away from the football side of the club, it is with regret that we confirm the retirement of our groundsman, Robbie Stuart.
If you were to tally up all of the hours of his time that Robbie has given to the club free-of-charge down through the years, I could not even begin to imagine what the figure would be, such was his dedication to ensuring that we had a playing surface and surroundings fit-for-purpose. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Robbie sincerely for all of his work and expertise in helping us out in my time as Chairman. It has been invaluable and I for one will be sorry to see him go but we understand his reasons and respect his decision.
It means that we have a vacancy and we are always on the lookout for fresh helpers. Before every home match, the grass needs cut, the pitch needs lined and the surroundings (stand, enclosure etc) need checked and swept, washed, cleaned etc to ensure they are ready to open the doors and play football. Then, the day after every home match, the pitch needs to be repaired and the dressing rooms need to be washed down in preparation to do it all again for the next fixture. If you feel that you can help out with any of these jobs or the additional ad hoc tasks that crop up at Station Park, please contact me or any member of the Management Committee.
I would like to thank all of our supporters, sponsors, partner companies and helpers for all you do for the club – it does not go unnoticed.
DONALD L. MATHESON
Nairn County Football Club