IT is the time of year for reflection and thanks and there is a very long list of individuals and companies who Nairn County Football Club are indebted to for their support over a challenging six months.
Since my last update, we are absolutely thrilled to have concluded a deal with Reach Digital Telecoms Highland for them to become the main sponsor of the club until the end of the 2017/18 season.
I know that Steven Bain put so much time and effort into negotiating and concluding the deal and all of his hard work has paid off. We look forward to welcoming Reach to Station Park in the New Year and building what I am sure will be a long and positive relationship with them over the duration of their association with Nairn County.
We have also extended the contract of our manager, Ronnie Sharp through to the summer of 2020. This is fantastic news for the club as it gives us stability moving forward and it hands Ronnie the mandate he requires to roll out his blueprint for what he sees is the future of the club from top to bottom. We want a club that everyone in the community can relate to and feel a part of and some of the ways we can work towards achieving that is by having a vibrant team playing an attractive brand of attacking football which the supporters enjoy watching on a Saturday afternoon, by nurturing young players through our youth system and by giving them the opportunities to play in the first team. Ronnie has already sought to do this with the average age of the starting team recently around about 24 while our oldest player has been Glenn Main (he won’t thank me for pointing that out), who is just reaching his prime as a centre half at only 31. We want to keep this group of players together and under the guidance of Ronnie and his staff, I see every reason to be optimistic about the direction the team is heading in.
Michael Rae has also extended his deal until 2020 in line with Ronnie’s length of contract. He has been doing fantastic work not just with the first team goalkeepers but our goalies at all levels and I know they really enjoy his drills. I think you just need to look at the progress made by our first team goalkeeper, Dylan Maclean to see that Michael’s efforts are already paying off. He also acts as a sounding board for Ronnie on any issues regarding the team and has recently completed his Level 2 goalkeeper coaching certificate.
We have recently extended the contracts of Jordan Macrae, Callum Maclean, Kenny McKenzie, Stephen Mackenzie, Ross Naismith and Gary Kerr to 2019 and Jack Maclean to 2020. That gives our manager a solid foundation to work from over forthcoming seasons and given the situation he inherited in the summer, I know he is extremely grateful and looking forward to continuing the development of our young and exciting team. Our Director of Football, Graeme Macleod negotiated the deals with the players and I know he is continuing discussions with players who the manager wants to retain and I am sure there will be more positive news on that front shortly.
At youth team level, our Head of Youth Development, Stewart McInnes has recruited Craig Walker and Barrie McDonald as new coaches of our under-15s team to work alongside Stephen Grant. Both coaches have fitted in really well at the club and when I have been along to training, all of their players seem to love the drills that they are receiving. We are not interested in how the results go at these levels – our focus is on developing the boys both as football players and as people to give them the best possible chance of making it to the first team. Some parents have been in touch already to tell us how much their son is enjoying his football with us and that is great credit to the coaches.
Our under-17s coach Malcolm Shaw has informed us that he will be standing down at the end of the season as he is due to undergo major back surgery. Stewart is working alongside Ronnie to identify a suitable replacement and we thank Malcolm for staying with us to the end of the season to allow a smooth transition.
Stewart has also secured sponsorship from Ashers Bakery for the under-15s, who now have a new kit with the Ashers logo on it and is close to concluding a deal for sponsorship of the under-17s. More on that when it is done and we thank Ashers sincerely for helping us to provide youth football in Nairn through their support.
At Station Park, we have held an incredible 24 games on the pitch already this season (with our under-20s using it as their home venue) plus one training session when our regular facilities were rendered unplayable. We may be at about the halfway stage of the season in terms of the time of year but we have played 80 percent of the fixtures that are due to be played on our park this season. We are just one short of the total number of games played on the park during the whole of last season and have played one more already than the season before and two more than the season before that. Once you realise that, it just shows you what a remarkable condition the surface is in. And it would not be so without all of the hard work and effort put in by Robbie Stuart and Alan Watson, who volunteer to be at the ground almost every day doing any maintenance work that needs done and ensuring that the pitch is in the best possible condition for the next match.
With the vast majority of our home matches for the season already played, it means that our matchday revenue total between now and the end of the season will be significantly lower than it will have been from the start of the season up to today. You can help us to plug that financial gap by joining the Nairn County Fans Fund. All monies raised go to running costs of the club and you can join by pledging a minimum donation of £10 per month.
So, to the question on everybody’s lips this festive season - what is on the Chairman’s Santa List? Well, other than winning the lottery, all I ask is that we are competitive and that everyone enjoys their Nairn County experience no matter who you are (player, committee member, sponsor, fan) – I certainly think that is achievable. In all of our fixtures so far this season, our heaviest defeat was the 8-3 loss to Buckie Thistle back in August and even in that match, we gave them a bloody nose with three quick-fire goals at 7-0 down. It may have finished an unusual scoreline but it was the equivalent to ‘only’ a 5-0 defeat, the same score line Buckie then racked up against the financial powerhouse that is Brora Rangers.
We have gone away to Cove Rangers, Buckie and Brora (the clubs I predict to make up the top 3 at the end of the season) and lost 2-1 twice and drawn 3-3. That is a fantastic achievement by the manager and the players given the situation the club found itself in during the summer. We have lost a grand total of seven matches by a single-goal, so I think all of that goes to show that we are remaining competitive in all fixtures even when the results have not gone our way and I fully believe that we have the management team and squad in place to turn more than our fair share of those scores in our favour over the next few seasons.
Finally, I would like to round off with a few thank you messages. To the following for their invaluable support and assistance this season:
Reach Digital Telecoms Highland (main sponsor)
ISS (ground maintenance)
Tradeway (sock tape supplies)
Nairn Laundry (kit laundry)
Green's Nursery (pitch maintenance supplies)
Havelock (boardroom raffle prizes)
Westerlea Hotel (boardroom refreshments plus away match travel food and water)
DM Catering (away match travel food)
Ashers Bakery (under-15s sponsor and boardroom food)
Ritson Young (club accountants)
Sidecrystal (first team travel gear)
Route 66 American Diner (warm-up jackets)
George Smith Painter and Decorators (paint supplies and paint works)
Largue Pharmacy (medical supplies)
Royal British Legion (post-match player hospitality and man of the match sponsor)
iolaire (designers and printers)
Cindy Y. Wilson - Inspire (players’ health products)
Macrae and Dick Toyota (under-15s training equipment)
Town Barbers (merchandise stockists)
Embroidery Design (kit embroidery)
Premier T-Shirt Printers (kit printing)
Double T (shirt number printing)
Station Park board advertisers
Pitch repair and park maintenance volunteers
And to all of our players, management, sponsors, suppliers, directors, committee members and supporters, a huge thank you for everything you have done for the club this year, a very Merry Christmas to you all and a Happy New Year.
I hope to see as many of you as possible at Station Park to bring the curtain down on the year against Clachnacuddin on Friday December 30th (8.00 pm kick-off) and then join us at post-match pitch repair on Hogmanay where we might even have a wee toast to the year gone by!
Thank you for your fabulous support and I look forward to continuing our work together in 2017.
DONALD L. MATHESON
Chairman, Nairn County FC