GOALKEEPING coach Michael Rae has agreed a new contract with Nairn County up to the summer of 2020.
The former Rangers, Buckie Thistle, Huntly and Lossiemouth stopper returned to Station Park during the close season and has now agreed terms of the same length as manager Ronnie Sharp.
The 39-year-old said: "I have really enjoyed being back. One of first things I noticed when I joined as a player was the close relationship between the fans, players and people behind the scenes all pulling together in the same direction and that was the first thing I noticed from my very first training session as a coach."
"It is great to see the club back with the fans and everyone coming together with the common goal of making it a community club once again and it is also great to see so many more fans coming back with a feel-good factor around the place."
Rae's appointment was one of the first moves made by Sharp on his return to the club in July and he has worked closely with the manager to put a squad together in a short time frame and to shape a team which is capable of remaining competitive in the Highland League.
He said: "The season is going slightly better than expectations in my opinion considering the circumstances. We came in with about two weeks of working with the boys, so with this in mind, realistic expectations would have been to try and make the squad competitive in the league but I would go as far as to say that, based on the teams we have played and how the team has played, we should be considered on a level with the mid-table teams at the moment, which is why I think we are slightly ahead of the pre-season expectations."
Rae's principle role has been to work with the club's goalkeepers, including first choice Dylan Maclean, who was thrust into the team in the summer at the tender age of 20.
Rae said: "The goalkeepers have been great to work with. They are all young, keen, enthusiastic and willing to learn and appear to be taking points on board. I have already seen progress in them all from the start of the season."
"People are starting to not look at Dylan's age and that is great because that means his ability is what people are looking at. He has the potential to become a top Highland League goalkeeper. His shot stopping is excellent and the other aspects to his game are getting better all the time."
"One thing I am working on with them all is their confidence and self-belief to get them to come out of their shells - they are still too sensible and too nice for goalkeepers for my liking!"
"The under-20s 'keepers Ryan (Macleod), Fraser (Wilkie) and Corey (Marshall) are also developing well, so there are four really potentially good young 'keepers at the club with the younger ones learning their way too."
"It is great being able to have 4-6 impressionable 'keepers to develop in the correct way but Dylan is definitely on the right track to becoming another in a long line of good 'keepers to come from Station Park."
Rae has provided a valued input for Ronnie Sharp on match days as well as assisting with training sessions.
He added: "The potential of the squad is very promising. Circumstances have meant the likes of Jack (Maclean), Jordan (Macrae) and Dylan (Mackenzie) have been pushed on a wee bit quicker than expected but getting to play at Highland League level will definitely make them better players over the next few years."
"From us, there is no pressure on them - we just want them to go and play, learn the game, enjoy it and become better players. There are also a few other young players involved with the squad both on game day and training all of which bodes well for the future, so every cloud has a silver lining."
"The club lost some good, experienced players in the summer but on the positive side, it has meant the young players are getting a better chance to develop. Good examples are Toshy (Wayne Mackintosh), Easter (Gregg Main) and Glenn (Main) as they had similar progression being involved in and out as youngsters to eventually become experienced, responsible players playing at a good standard of performance on a consistent basis."
"As long as the fans realise that as young players, they will have dips and be inconsistent then in the future, the club will definitely benefit from the way we are educating and bringing through the youngsters."
"Mixed with the experienced players, there is a good balance of youthful exuberance and experienced maturity but that does not mean we are happy to remain at this stage - we are already looking ahead to next season and looking at ways to improve the squad."
"The players have done well for us and most of what we have asked but they must be mindful that they need to show us that they deserve to be the ones to take the club forward, so they cannot relax and get into a comfort zone."
"We want them to want more, to want to progress and to be with us as we take the club forward, so they need to keep performing and no complacency will be accepted. Guys like Gary Kerr came in with points to prove and have done very well so far. That is what we want - players who have that hunger and right attitude but overall the fans and the people running the club have all done a brilliant job and Ronnie is the right man with the right footballing principles to help the club to achieve success."
"The changes made to the youth setup with Stewart McInnes coming in and bringing in the new coaching staff who have agreed to work to the same footballing principles as the first team is fantastic as young players will be brought up to play the right way and make the transition to first team easier and more linear."
"The work by all of the volunteers and the committee must also be recognised, so as long as we continue to engage with the community then the future on and off the park is in safe hands. I am thoroughly looking forward to working at the club over the next few years."