EXCLUSIVE WITH OPEN GOAL STAR SI FERRY
Featured match: Inverness CT v Alloa Athletic
PAUL WATSON - INVERURIE LOCOS - MITCH MEGGINSON - JIM MCINALLY - BRORA RANGERS + MORE
MISSION STATEMENT Northern Fitba' aims to give a voice to the small clubs in the North/North East of Scotland. From match reports, player profiles and exclusive interviews, this magazine tells the stories of the exciting football scene that sometimes goes unnoticed!!
Editor's Note Welcome to the very first issue of Northern Fitba'. As someone who grew up in Portlethen, just south of Aberdeen, I have always had a real passion for the football in the North/North East. That is why I was deligthed to have the opportunuty to write about and speak to some of the biggest names involved with teams in thet area outside of the Premiership. Being a university student, this is the second speciality magazine I have created, although whereas I worked in a team on the first one, all aspects of the production have been done by myself for Northern Fitba'. I have thorougly enjoyed making this magazine, and have been fortunate enough to speak to some fascinating characters who have had some great stories to tell throughout their involvement in football. With the likes of the Open Goal podcast and The View from The Terrace BBC TV show, Scotland's lower leagues are starting to get more coverage, and I hope that this magazine is able to add to that goal. I hope you enjoy what you are about to read, and any feeback or comments will be greatly appreciated. Regards Anthony Evans
OUR TEAM Editor: Anthony Evans Designer: Anthony Evans Reporter: Anthony Evans
CONTACT US firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: anthonyevans97
CONTENTS Pg 4-5 Paul Watson Pg 6 Kane Hester Pg 7 Balmoral Stadium Pg 8-9 Paul Lawson Pg 10-12 Inverness v Alloa Pg 13 Finlay Robertson
(Image courtesy of Phoenix Photography)
Pg 14-15 Jim McInally Pg 16-18 Mitch Megginson Pg 19-20 Inverurie Locos Pg 21-23 Si Ferry (COVER STAR) Pg 24-25 Brora Rangers Pg 26-27 Scott Robertson (Image courtesy of caleyjags.com)
(Image courtesy of Evening Express)
(Image courtesy of Brora Rangers)
Watson loving life at Montrose By ANTHONY EVANS
here are few players in Scottish football who have shown the levels of loyalty that Montrose skipper Paul Watson has to his team. The 34-year old had two loan spells at Links Park back in the early 2010s whilst playing for Arbroath and Forfar, “The Gable Endies” Angus rivals. But since joining the club on a permanent basis in the summer of 2012, the midfielder has been involved in both promotion and relegation scraps, narrowly avoiding relegation from the SPFL in 2015. During that time Watson has gone on to establish himself as a household name at Montrose, and says he very much feels at home. “When I started off playing for the club, we weren’t doing too great and were stuck in League Two. But there has always been good people at the club and there has been for a long period of time. “As we have had more success on the pitch in the last few years, we’ve also made positive steps in the boardroom too. We’ve got a great squad of guys who have been together for two or three years now, which has created a great bond and team spirit in the dressing room. Everyone is pulling in the right direction.” Although he has been in the game a long time, the challenge of balancing work and football as a semi-professional is something that Watson is well aware of. “Yeah it is difficult” he added, “I have been doing this at a parttime for roughly 15 years, so I am used to it.” “I have to divide my time between working in Dundee and Perth as well as playing and training for Montrose, so by the time I get home it’s very late. “Having two kids also makes the challenge that bit harder, but I know that players right up and down the country experience the same thing. It does take a big part out of your week but ultimately we all do it because we enjoy it.”
Having played for threeteams in Angus, Watson is full of praise for the intensity and excitement when they face off against each other and thinks that it goes under the radar.
Watson in action in the Angus derby with Arbroath (Image courtesy of Pheonix Photography)
"The derby with Arbroath is certainly a huge game. The fans treat it the exact same as a full-time club like Celtic would if they were
Watson has scored 34 goals in total for the Links Park side (Image courtesy of Pheonix Photography)
playing in the Old Firm. The clubs have a good relationship, but also a real healthy rivalry. “Unfortunately, we don’t have Arbroath in the league this year, but we do have Forfar and Brechin, and we all get great support in these games.” Although he tasted promotion with Forfar and Arbroath, getting his hands on the League Two title in the 2017/18 season with Montrose, stands out as his finest moment in his career. “I had obviously been promoted a couple of times before, but they were both through the play-offs, so it was extra special to win the league. Many players at this level go through their whole career without winning anything so it was a fantastic achievement for myself, the club and the whole town in general.”
Watson in action against Stranraer (Image courtesy of Pheonix Photography)
Montrose were able to build on that triumph with an excellent showing in League One last season, and lead Queen of the South 2-1 in the first leg of their relegation play off for a spot in the Championship, only to suffer a heavy 5-0 defeat in the return leg in Dumfries. “We surprised a lot of people after coming up last season by getting to the play offs. We got a great result in the first leg, but although we didn’t really turn up in the second leg, Stephen Dobbie stole the show. “It was a disappointing end to the season as we had put a lot into it, but it was great to be involved in a game as big as that, as most people wouldn’t have predicted us to be there in the first place.”
Watson has gaimed iconic status for the Angus side (Image courtesy of Phoenix Photography)
“Our main focus is to stay in the league” After a poor start to the current campaign, Stewart Petrie’s side have recovered, and whilst being realistic, the Montrose captain is hopeful that they could sneak into the play offs once again. “Our main focus is to stay in the league” Watson added, “but as long as we keep ourselves in the chasing pack you never know. We just need to try and keep our levels of consistency and pick up some good results.” Although the 34-year old is still enjoying his football at Links Park, the move into coaching is something that would appeal to him. “I still think that I have got a lot to offer, I’ve been fortunate that I have not picked up any injuries and have kept myself fit. I’ll keep contributing to the team as much as I can, and although I do have ambitions to coach, my wife and two young kids come first, so we’ll just see what happens in the future.”
Waton challenges for a ball against East Fife (Image Courtesy of Phoenix Photography)
Watson applauds the travelling supporters (Image courtesy of Phoenix Photography)
One to watch: Kane Hester
lgin City forward Kane Hester has played a starring role in the Black and Whiteâ€™s impressive campaign in League Two.
The 24-year-old has chipped in with ten goals and four assists so far this season, as Elgin look to secure a surprise place in the play offs that could see them gain promotion to League One. Hester, who joined the club from Arbroath in January 2019, also bagged 7 goals earlier this season in the Challenge Cup, including a hat trick in the 5-4 second round victory over Brechin, as the Borough Briggs side reached the quarter finals of the competition. The striker, who hails from Montrose, can score exceptional goals from inside the area, whilst his athleticism and height also make him a huge threat from set pieces. His pace and work rate mean that he is a handful for any defenders, who know that he is ready to pounce should they make. After initially struggling to make a name for himself at Arbroath, as well as in loan spells with East Kilbride and Albion Rovers, the forward is now fast becoming one of the main hitmen in the North East of Scotland. With prolific strike partner Shane Sutherland set to re-join Inverness Caldedonian Thistle in the summer, the onus will be on Hester to add even more goals to his game, and his impressive form this season suggests that he has what it takes to do so. Hesterâ€™s best years are still ahead of him, and he could well become a name in Scottish football that we hear a lot more of the coming years.
BY ANTHONY EVANS
Hester has been in exceptional form for Elgin this season (Image courtesy of Robert Crombie)
View from the Stands: Balmoral Stadium, Cove Rangers
The Balmoral Stadium is the newest football ground in the country (Image courtesy of Anthony Evans)
Cove Rangerâ€™s rise from the Highland League to the top of League One has coincided with the club feeling at home in their new stadium. The Wee Rangers left Allan Park, which has now been demolished, at the end of the 2014/15 season, and for the next three years, played their home games at Harlaw Park, the home of Inverurie Locos. Despite establishing themselves as the leading side in the Highland League, ground restrictions previously prevented Cove from admittance to the Scotlandâ€™s professional leagues. Work on the Balmoral Stadium was finally completed just in time for the start of the 2018/19 season, and the club officially opened the ground in a friendly with Premiership side Aberdeen. Cove quickly adapted to the new 4G surface and took the Highland League by storm. After dispatching Lowland League winners East Kilbride, and Berwick Rangers of League Two, the North East side secured their historic promotion to League Two.
The Balmoral under the lights (Image courtesy of Anthony Evans)
The success of the team on the pitch has seen the club attract good numbers to every home game, with two seated stands to accommodate the Cove faithful, as well as a private box above the Main Stand for V.I.P spectators. Visiting supporters also have a terraced stand with a roof, as well as space behind the goal to watch the match. There is also no shortage of matchday facilities for supporters, with toilets and a snack bar available for both home and away fans on entry.
BY ANTHONY EVANS Cove have made the Balmoral a fortress this season in League Two (Image courtesy of Anthony Evans)
Lawson hungry for more BY ANTHONY EVANS
aving played in all four divisions, Paul Lawson is now hoping to take North East club Formartine United into Scotland’s professional leagues. The 35-year old signed for United in the summer of 2015, and two years later was appointed player/coach of the club, where he has continued to establish the team as one of the best the Highland League has to offer. Lawson left his home city of Aberdeen to play for Celtic as a teenager, where we went on to captain the reserve side. Although the midfielder was unable to break into the first team during his three years at Parkhead, he has absolutely no regrets about his time there. “It was obviously a great experience”, says Lawson. “ I think to play for one of the biggest club’s in the world in terms of fanbase was just brilliant. I learned a lot from some top coaches which I was able to take with me once I left Celtic. “There were some big, big names in the club at the time, who you obviously wanted to aspire to be like and learn from. So, the whole experience was second to none.”
Lawson also won numerous caps for Scotland’s under 21 side, where he played alongside the likes of Scott Brown, Craig Beattie and Shaun Maloney. “Being able to represent your country right up from the schoolboy age to that level is something I am really proud of. We had some top players in those teams, and again it really helped me improve my own game.” After leaving Celtic in 2007, it was over the following six years that Lawson enjoyed the most successful spell of his playing career, back up north with Ross County. The Aberdonian was a key cog in the Staggies side under Derek Adams that rose up from the Scottish Third Division to win the First Division title and promotion to the top-flight in 2012, going on to finish fifth in their first season twelve months later. Lawson also tasted success in the form of the Challenge Cup in 2012 and helped County reach the Scottish Cup final in 2010, where they were beaten by Dundee United. “Well I obviously spent the biggest chunk of my playing career up there”, he added. “The aim initially was just to get some first team football, but as it turned out we went on to build a really special bond in that squad. "For about three or four years we had a core of seven or eight players who were and still are close, and that played a huge part in our success. Being a part of the first Ross County team to reach the Premiership is again something I am extremely proud of and I know what a special time that was for the town.”
Lawson was at Celtic from 2004 until 2007 (Image courtesy of theCelticWiki)
Lawson was an ever present for the Dingwall side (Image courtesy of The Staggie Archive)
"It was tough for me" After an injury ravaged two-year stint with Motherwell, Lawson decided to make the move to Highland League outfit Formartine United in 2015 and says that work opportunities allowed him to make the transition into a part time footballer quite easily. “It was a tough time for me. I had been out of action for 18 months, so I knew that my time with Motherwell was up when my contract expired. "I came home that summer and a job offer came up, which made me think about the next stage of my life. But loving football as much as I do, I still wanted to be involved, and after some talks with a couple of other Highland League times I decided to sign for Formartine.” In 2017 Lawson then took over the reins at the club as a player/ manager, and although he had planned to go into coaching further down the line, the opportunity came as a surprise to him at the time. “When the club approached me to become manager, it wasn’t something I wanted to do at the time. Initially I said no as I felt it would bring an end to my playing career, but they persisted and eventually I decided that it was too good to turn down.”
Over the last few seasons, Formartine are one of several Highland League sides who have been able to progress to the latter stages of the Scottish Cup, and the former Scotland u21 international says that this speaks volumes of the quality of the division. “I think it actually doesn’t get the credit it deserves at times” he added, “which is probably down to the lack of professional clubs in this area, compared to the number of full-time teams in the Central Belt. “There are a lot of really good players in our league, and this is a big source of income for the likes of ourselves, as we are able to sell them on and allow them to make the next step in their careers.” Having seen Cove go up through the pyramid system in the last campaign, Lawson is doing all he can to bring SPFL football to North Lodge Park. "It is certainly the aim. Having the ambition to get into the SPFL was something I asked the chairman about when I became manager, and we both agreed. It’s something that I really want to do personally, and I am determined to take the club into League Two."
The 35-year old then put his family connections to good use, by bringing in Aberdeen legend and brother in-law, Russell Anderson as his assistant manager. “When I took the job, I immediately approached Russell as I wanted someone who I could trust 100%. At the time his son had signed for us, which also allowed him the opportunity to coach him personally. We have a lot of Aberdeen fans in our squad, so he is very much someone they look up to. “His knowledge of the game is fantastic, and he always joins in with the training sessions. We tried to get him to lace up his boots on a Saturday once again, because he definitely still has the ability.”
Lawson has adapted to the role of management very well (Image courtesy of Ian Rennie)
Anderson also won 11 caps for Scotland (image courtesy of Ian Rennie)
Paul Lawson has already tasted silverware with the club (Image courtesy of Ian Rennie)
Featured Match 1-1 BY ANTHONY EVANS
Share of the spoils in the Highlands
nverness were left frustrated in their attempts to consolidate second spot in the Championship after being held to a 1-1 draw by a spirited Alloa Athletic. The home side were guilty of squandering some clear-cut chances, with striker Jordan White unable to control full back Shaun Rooney’s cross from close range. With experienced goalkeeper Jamie McDonald still on the sidelines, The Wasps handed a debut to Rangers loanee Kieran Wright, and the young stopper handled the occasion well. After absorbing some early pressure, the visitors were almost gifted a goal on 19 minutes when Kevin McHattie’s header failed to reach his goalkeeper Mark Ridgers, but fortunately for the hosts, Robert Thomson was unable to convert from a tight angle. Five minutes later, Caley passed up another goalscoring opportunity, when winger Aaron Doran’s effort from a Miles Storey cut back, was easily held by Wright.
As the first half drew to a close, White pulled away to the back post, but failed to properly connect with Walsh’s looping cross. Manager John Robertson did not make any changes at the interval, and his team failed to control the early stages of the game after the break.
Subtitute pays off But on 54 minutes, midfielder Sean Welsh replaced Canadian Charlie Trafford and, the former Partick Thistle man’s impact was immediate. A minute shy of the hour mark, Welsh’s chipped ball into the Alloa box was not dealt with, and White’s perseverance in front of goal was finally rewarded, as he held off Hibernian loanee Ben Stirling, before finishing well past Wright.
Peter Grant’s Alloa continued to look a threat on the counterattack, and on the half hour mark they were awarded a penalty after Rooney was adjudged to have fouled midfielder Iain Flannigan. Despite the appeals of the Inverness players, Kevin Clancy pointed to the spot and Flannigan stepped up to expertly slot past Ridgers to put the Wasps in front. Less than two mintues later, the hosts really should have been on level terms, but Storey blazed over from inside the area after good work by Tom Walsh and Doran. The visitors, who were unbeaten in two going into the game, almost doubled their lead on 37 minutes, when Kevin O'Hara broke down the left and brilliantly picked out Kevin Cawley whose volley was saved well by Ridgers.
Tom Walsh holds off Scott Taggart (Image courtesy of caleyjags. com)
Welsh's introduction was crucial for Caley (Image courtesty of caleyjags. com)
Jordan White volleys home to get the equaliser (Image courtesy of caleyjags.com)
The game then entered a scrappy phase, with the pitch making slick passing a real challenge. With 20 minutes to play, Doran again tested Wright, making space for himself in the box, but the young goalkeeper was able to turn the ball around the post for a corner. Desperately searching for a winner, Robertson made a double substitution, bringing on midfield pair David Carson and Roddy McGregor, but the Alloa defence continued to stand firm. The tempo of the game dropped once again, and it was only in the final minutes that both teams went agonisingly close to breaking the deadlock.
Midfielder Charlie Trafford in posesion for the home side (Image courtesy of caleyjags.com)
On 88 minutes, Alloa caught the hosts on the break and substitute Alan Trouten met a low cross from the lively O’Hara, only to be denied by a brilliant save from Ridgers. And at the other end of the pitch, Caley should have taken all three points with the last action of the game, when Wright saw his header crash off the crossbar after Doran found him in the six-yard box. The hosts were frustrated at the full-time whistle as their indifferent run of form continues, but it was a deserved point for Peter Grant’s men, who widened the gap between themselves and bottom club Partick to five points.
Man of the match A case could be made for several of the Alloa eleven, but it was Caley stopper Mark Ridgers who stole the show. The 29-year old was able to secure his 11th league clean sheet of the campaign, only bettered by Celtic’s Fraser Forster in the SPFL, with some top saves that suggest that he will have a big part to play in his team’s quest for promotion back to the Premiership.
Ridgers was unable to keep out Flannigan's spot kick, but made a handful of excellent saves (Image courtesy of caleyjags.com)
Match Reaction Barry Wilson
Inverness first team coach Barry Wilson was annoyed by the performance, but also felt that the penalty awarded to the visitors was very harsh.
Alloa boss Peter Grant was delighted with his team’s performance but felt they did more than enough to come away from the Caledonian Stadium with maximum points.
“We didn’t have a great game” he said. “I thought we were too negative in our passing, particularly in the first half. But having seen the penalty again, I think it’s very soft, and is quite like one we didn’t get at Ayr last week.
He said: “We are disappointed not to get the three points. Alan (Trouten) has a great chance to win it at the end and I also thought we had a couple of other good opportunities, but all in all I am very pleased because it is such a tough place to come."
“With Sean Welsh coming on we were able to get a bit of impetus, and after we got the equaliser it did look like we were going to go on and win it.
Grant was also very happy with new signing Keiran Wright’s showing between the sticks, who joined the club last week.
“Jordan’s (White) header at the end is probably one he feels he should have scored, but at the same time we have Mark (Ridgers) to
training session with us, so I’m very pleased with him.”
“I thought young Kieran handled it ever so well having only had one
thank for a brilliant save just before that as well.”
Caley coach Barry Wilson felt his team didn't produce a great performance (Image courtesy of caleyjags.com)
Wasps manager Peter Grant said his team were unfortunate not to come away with all three points (Image courtesy of alloaathletic.co.uk)
Hot prospect Finlay Robertson continues to stake his claim At 17 years of age, Finlay Robertson has already become first team fixture in the Dundee squad. Since making his debut on the final day of the Premiership season last year against St Mirren, the young midfielder has started to make his mark under manager James McPake in the Scottish Championship. Robertson signed his first professional contract with his boyhood club at the age of 16. He has picked up several Man of the Match awards in the current campaign including an excellent performance against Aberdeen in the Betfred Cup in the opening month of the season. His breakthrough into the first team set up at Dundee has also been recognised on the international scene, with two caps for Billy Starkâ€™s U19s team.
Finlay Robertson in action for Dumdee v Brechin City in the Beftred Cup earlier this season (Image courtesy of BBC)
The youngsterâ€™s composure and care of the ball suggests that he is playing beyond his years and has seen him become an important part of the Dee side that are trying to bounce back to the Premiership through the play-offs. His development is sure to have been noted by big clubs south of the border, and the Dundee hierarchy may look to cash in on their young starlet, who most certainly has a very bright future in the game ahead of him.
BY ANTHONY EVANS
Blue Toon boss continues to fight on
s he approaches the end of his ninth season in charge of Peterhead, Jim McInally has now cemented his place as the longest serving manager currently in Scotland football. Since taking over the reins from John Sheran in October 2011, the former Scotland international has overseen both promotion and relegation during his lengthy spell but is extremely pleased that he holds this exceptional record. “I’m really proud of that fact. You can never think that you can possibly stay in a job that long, especially with the way football goes nowadays. I do think that being up here for that amount of time has created a good feeling around the club. “Peterhead has become a huge part of my life, and that’s why I am so intent on keeping us in the league this season and building on it for next year.” One man who has had an impact on McInally’s career is Brian Clough. Signed by the legendary coach for Nottingham Forest from Celtic in 1984, McInally spent two years playing under one of the most successful and colourful managers the UK has ever produced, winning the club’s Player of the Year in 1985.
Peterhead are the fourth team Jim McInally has managed (Image courtesy of Evening Express)
"He would be turning in his grave at some of the ideas in football now" “It was just awesome to play for Brian”, adds McInally, “he could be a scary man at times because he had such a huge reputation, but it was such an honour to have been signed by him.” The Balmoor stadium boss notes how basic Clough was in his approach to playing football. “Everything was so simple and straight forward with Brian” says McInally.“He would be turning in his grave at some of the ideas in football now, and the way that teams play out from the back when they are under pressure. “He liked to play football as much as anyone else, but he wasn’t in the business of taking any chances. He wanted his centre halves to head the ball away and his full backs to stop crosses. He wanted his midfielders to constantly pass the ball forward and his strikers to hold it up. It’s basic stuff, but if you couldn’t do it you wouldn’t play, and that’s why he was so successful.” As he came to the end of his playing career, another managerial icon Jim McLean recommended that McInally, along with other senior players at Dundee United at that time, go into coaching.
Brian Clough led Notts Forest to successive European Cups in 1979 and 1980 (Image courtesy of wikipedia.org)
After spells as a player/coach with Raith and Dundee, the 55year old’s first taste of management came in a brief stint with Shamrock Rovers in 1999. He then spent the next five years on the coaching staff at Celtic before taking the reins with Greenock Morton, then playing in Scotland’s third tier, in 2004.
McInally is a strong believer that young managers coming through should have to prove themselves in Scotland’s lower leagues and feels that those within his own division, are being overlooked for jobs of a higher calibre. “There are a lot of good managers in our league, like Darren Young and Stewart Petrie for example, who for me have been let down by clubs not coming in for them. I do think that learning your trade in the lower leagues is the way to go, but I’m not sure that is what chairman are looking for anymore.” After missing out on promotion to the First Division in the 2005/06 season, (losing in the play offs to future employers Peterhead) McInally’s Morton bounced back the following season by winning the league title. However, he was soon on the move again, dropping down to the Third Division with struggling East Shirlingshire in March 2008, just a month after resigning from his post with Morton. He remained with the Falkirk side until the end of the 2010/11 season, resigning after his team finished second bottom of the league. The following October he arrived in the North East with the Blue Toon, where has led his team to the League Two title on two occasions, with the 2013/14 triumph giving Peterhead their first piece of silverware as a professional club. Last season McInally’s side saw off stiff competition from Edinburgh City and Clyde to clinch the title on the final day of the season, which saw them return to League One following relegation via the play offs in 2017. But there is one day that the man who was capped 10 times by Scotland picks out as his most memorable moment with the Balmoor stadium outfit so far.
Jim McLean, who took Dundee United to the semi finals of the European Cup in 1983-84, also had a huge influence on McInally's early days in coaching (Image courtesy of wikipedia.org)
“I think getting to the Challenge Cup final against Rangers at Hampden stands out for me” adds McInally. “Although Rangers were in the lower leagues at the time, it was the top game that any of the clubs at our level could have hoped for. To go there and play in front of 49,000 people was just something special and probably won’t ever be repeated.” As he edges ever closer to a decade in charge of the Blue Toon, McInally is optimistic that his side can make that next step up to the Championship, sooner rather than later. “I think we have came into this league at quite a difficult time with three professional teams now playing in it, so I think this season is all about making sure we retain our place in League One for next season, and hopefully we can continue to build from there. “Arbroath have shown that it can be done, so it’s always got to be the aim for this club.” With a successful career both as player and manager, Jim McInally is most certainly a household name in Scottish football.
BY ANTHONY EVANS
McInally holds aloft the League Two title last season (Image courtesy of SPFL)
Cove ace gunning for more
Megginson celebrates with teammates and the Cove faithful (Image courtesy of BBC)
utside of Scotland’s top two leagues, there are very few strikers who are as prolific as Mitchel Megginson.
Megginson also notes how the togetherness in the Cove squad has also helped him take his own game to the next level.
The former Aberdeen man had already netted over 100 goals for The “Wee Rangers” since joining in the summer of 2016 and his incredible form has continued as he made his return to the SPFL.
“Quite a few of the players here played together in the youth team at Aberdeen” he added, “so we have a close dressing room and being good mates help massively.”
Megginson has joined his father Mike in gaining iconic status with Cove and says his relationship with the club has played a huge part in his exceptional rise. He told Northern Fitba:“I think the secret to my success is playing for a club that means a lot to me and enjoying the football that is being played. “My passion for this club is different to others which maybe gives me that further boost in every game. "A big part of football and performing well on a consistent basis I believe is down to confidence. " Knowing that the Chairman and Manager trust you and believe in your quality, helps to keep performing consistently at a high level.”
The 27-year old leads the scoring charts in League Two this season with 24 goals and says that his personal ambitions going into every season are straightforward. “I don’t set myself any specific goal targets, but I always want to better last season’s tally. "Of course, the aim of any striker is to finish as the league’s top scorer, and if you don’t have that ambition then you don’t believe in your own goal scoring abilities which you need to have as a forward. “However, I think aiming for a certain amount of goals can put a lot of pressure on yourself to make sure you hit them which can affect your performances and decision making.”
The striker has turned his career around after being released by Aberdeen (Image courtesy of backoffice.afc.co.uk)
“It’s when your head goes down and you stop working that it becomes a problem. If you don’t try and find the opportunities, then you won’t get any goals. Having self-belief is hard but try and always believe in your ability.” The former Aberdeen man returned to the North East with Cove in the summer of 2016 after spells with Dumbarton, Raith and Alloa, and says that the need for regular football was a big factor in his decision to join the club. “I always believe that if you love football then you should be at a club where you will play every week. It’s a short-lived career and there is nothing better than playing every week in a successful team or winning an important game. "Luckily for me everything seemed to time itself well with Cove. I had been in Glasgow for 3 years and was looking to come back to my home town of Aberdeen. "I met the manager John Sheran at the time and he sold me the ambition of Cove and how they were building the new season and aiming to get promoted through the pyramid system and cement their place in the Megginson has re-adjusted perfectly to life back in SPFL.” the SPFL (Image courtesy of Evening Express)
Dropping down to the Highland League can be perceived as a step down, but the striker notes that he didn’t see it that way. “In my head It wasn’t a case of dropping down to the Highland League, it was an opportunity to get a club that I have followed all my life into the SPFL and help make history. "I don’t think the feeling of achieving that will be topped for the rest of my career.” Last season Cove became the second team after Edinburgh City in securing a place in the SPFL through the pyramid system. The “Wee Rangers” have adapted to life in League Two rapidly, and currently top the table going into the final months of the campaign. “Our main aim at the start of the season was to secure our SPFL league status for a second year” says Megginson, “But with the ability in our squad and ability within in that squad I always believed we would be there or there about challenging. " The winning mentality that we have here and the fact we didn’t lose many games in the Highland League wasn’t going to change how we approached our first season in the SPFL.”
A well-rounded striker Despite establishing himself as a prolific marksman in front of goal, Megginson idolises a lot of the top strikers in the game who are much more involved in the general play. There are a few strikers I like to watch who are probably not your out and out goal poachers, but ones that get involved in build-up play and create chances as well as scoring goals as I feel that is similar to my game. Growing up my idol was Zinedane Zidane, but I enjoy watching the likes of Antoine Griezmann, Sergio Aguero, Jamie Vardy and of course Lionel Messi, as I don’t think anyone can get near him in terms of his overall ability with a football.” Megginson's message to strikers who are struggling to find the net is also simple, but inspiring. "The key is to keep working hard and making runs to find opportunities” he added, “I always feel if you are going through a tough spell without goals, but you are getting chances, then it’s just a matter of time before you go on a scoring spree.
Megginson was presented with an award by Cove chairman Grant Moothouse for reahing 100 goald for the club (Image courtesy of Cove Rangers)
A club icon The 27-year old has already gained legendary status with the Balmoral Stadium faithful but is extremely optimistic about his and the club’s future in the coming years. “I can’t speak for the club but for myself the ambition would be to see how high up the leagues Cove can go. "As a player you want to be fighting for leagues and promotions rather than your life in a relegation battle. I’m sure the chairman at Cove has a similar ambition and will want to see Cove playing at the highest level." “From a personal perspective I want to keep enjoying playing football and of course scoring goals hopefully this continues until I decide to hang up my boots.” Mitchel Megginson’s goalscoring exploits have catapulted Cove into the SPFL, and have seen him rapidly become one of the most lethal goalscorers in the country.
Megginson helped Cove secure promotion to League Two with victory over Berwick Rangers in the relegation play off final last season (Image courtesy of BBC)
BY ANTHONY EVANS It appears that the sky very much is the limit for both Cove and their number nine, who has came along way from his days as a youngster trying to make a name for himself at Aberdeen.
Megginson has been nothing short of a revelation since signing for Cove, where his dad Mike, is also a club legend (Image courtesy of Evening Express)
Locos proud of working class roots BY ANTHONY EVANS
nverurie Locos Football Club are a club who are very proud of their heritage. The club’s name comes from the local workers from the Great North of Scotland Railway who founded the semi-professional side in 1902, and club secretary Billy Thomson says it is important that the club never forget their roots. “We are immensely proud of our history here at Inverurie” said Thomson. “It’s a super town to represent, a real market town. We are strongly supported by sponsors as well as people paying to come and watch us. The club has a unique heritage that is embedded in a working-class society, and it is critically important that we retain this kind of identity”. One way in which the club do this is continuing to have strong relationships within the local community. “We’ve won six SFA community engagement awards as a club and we are very happy with the way in which we interact with our charted partners, the town as a whole and its surrounding areas.” Locos also place youth development as one of the highest priorities in their infrastructure. “We’ve got under 15s, under 17s, under 19s and under 20s youth teams, and looking after our own and bringing them through is of paramount importance to us.”
"Our various social channels are really important to us" The club have embraced the demands of the 21st century with their active presence online and on social media. Locos produce content on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, as well as their club website which has recently been relaunched. Locos TV, the club’s YouTube channel also put up highlights after every match, and Thomson details how their social platforms allow them to engage even further with those following the club. “Our various social channels are really important to us. They keep people up to date and we get super feedback from our local supporters, but also from ex-patriots who now live in Australia and Dubai, who can still feel involved with their home country.” Harlaw Park is widely recognised as one of the bestknown “non-league” grounds in Scotland and have even staged matches of a much higher calibre. As recently as last year the club staged an international schoolboys tie between Scotland and England in front of a packed crowd and have also hosted Scotland’s under 17s ladies’ team in their UEFA European Championship qualifiers.
Harlaw Park (Image courtesy of Inverurie Locos)
"These games have been a huge success and have brought more commerce into the club. Although there is a limit on what we can do because of the size of our pitch, we are certainly keen to host more non-Locos games in the future.” After establishing themselves as one of the best junior teams in the North East of Scotland by winning dozens of honours, the club were accepted into the Highland League in 2001. Within three years the club was again tasting tasting more silverware, winning the Aberdeenshire Shield in the 2003-04 season. Locos have gone onto win nine senior honours during this time and have more than cemented their place as one of the leading sides in the league. Cove Rangers became the latest team from the Highland League to secure promotion to the SPFL last season, and Thomson believes that manager Andy Low’s Locos side, who currently sit second behind Brora Rangers in the league standings, have a good chance of replicating
that feet. â€œOur mantra is very straight forward. As soon as the new Scottish pyramid system was announced, we made it very clear that we were going to aspire to be the best that we can be. If we can go up then we will embrace it, but as long as we are in the Highland League we will continue to challenge at the top.â€?
Locos fans backing their team on their travels (image courtesy of Inverurie Locos)
Manager Neale Cooper and his Locos squad for the 2019/20 season (Image courtesy of Inverurie Locos)
Podcast sensation keeping foot on the ground Simon Ferry is one of Scottish football’s most popular names, thanks to the success of the Open Goal podcast. Along with his good friends and former footballers Paul Slane and Kevin Kyle, the vibrant podcast continues to come on leaps and bounds.
However, injuries severely hampered the youngster’s progress, and he left the club for English League One outfit Swindon Town on an initial loan deal in January 2010, having never made a first team appearance.
It has continued to grow rapidly, so much so that their live show this coming May at the SSE Hydro in Glasgow sold out within minutes.
Ferry in pre-season action for Celtic v Manchester City (Image courtesy of theCelticWiki)
Although things didn’t go to plan for him at Celtic Park, “Si” as he is affectionally nicknamed, remains upbeat about his years in the green half of the city. “It was great just getting to see how top players like Neil Lennon and Chris Sutton would act. Ferry (right) continue to thrill lfans of Scottish football with their personalities (Image courtesy of Open Goal)
But it was nearly 15 years ago for Dundee-born Ferry, who now combines his media role with playing for League One side Peterhead, that his football career started. He joined Celtic as an 11-year old and signed his first professional contract with Celtic seven years later in 2006. Ferry was part of the Hoops youth team which won a league and cup double the same year.
"They wanted to win every single game, whether that be in a match or just in training, and if they didn’t there would be uproar! "If you gave a pass away, they would be straight onto you, and that desire and determination is definitely something that has stayed with me throughout my career.” Ferry immediately found first team football easy to come by at Swindon, and helped the club reach the League One play off final at Wembley, where they were narrowly defeated 1-0 by Millwall. Having made a strong impression, he was signed permanently by the club in the summer of 2010.
Celtic’s ranks at that time included future Scotland international Charlie Mulgrew, winger Aidan McGeady and two young players who had also made the move to Glasgow as youngsters from Dundee, midfielder Ross Wallace who went on to have a successful career in England, and Michael Gardyne who has become a club legend at Ross County.
During the next three years he went on to establish himself as a fans favourite, racking up nearly 200 appearances.
Ferry was one several players who were tipped for success at Parkhead, and soon found himself involved in first team training and pre-season outings. The 32-year old says that the quality of Celtic’s youth side helped him to make that move into the first team environment. “It wasn’t really a surprise to me when I was called up to the first team as I had been training and playing with top players since I was 11, so we always felt we were ready. Obviously, Tommy Burns was brilliant for all the young guys and really got us prepared for first team football. Those were the best days of my life.”
Ferry quickly endeared himself to the Swindon faithful (Image courtesy of Alcetron)
He was an ever present in the “Robins” team that bounced back from relegation to win the League Two title in the 2011/12 season.
However he was one of a number of players who were let go at the end of the following season, as the club went through a period of financial difficulty.
“I loved every minute of my time there"
“It was probably the biggest mistake of my career to come back to Scotland. I had made a bit of a name for myself down south, and Portsmouth’s manager Ritchie Barker was keen for me to stay. “My wife had just had our second child at the time and was desperate to get back up the road.”
Ferry’s relationship with the Swindon and its faithful remains as strong as ever, and he is hosting a sold-out Q&A at the County Ground later this month.
The former Celtic youngster spent just a season at Dens Park, after both parties decided to terminate his contract by mutual consent.
"There were some good players in there, some real winners, and the same can be said for the managers I had in Paulo Di Canio and Danny Wilson. The fans really took to me and everything just seemed perfect.”
“Jim had been my youth team manager at Celtic, and we had always got on really well, and he just asked me to come up and get myself fit.
“As soon as I got back there, I knew it wasn’t right. I was given the “I loved every minute of my time there. I think when I went in there number 11 shirt which immediately told me that they wanted me to it was probably one of the last “old school” dressing rooms. The ban- be an attacking midfielder, and I am not that kind of player.” ter was ruthless, but I was able to take to it straight away. Ferry then opted to stay in the North East, signing with League One “There was drinking culture within the club which I also enjoyed. side Peterhead in September 2015, despite being offered a return to I was still a young player at the time who had moved away from England by a few clubs and said that Blue Toon boss Jim McInally home and playing with some of those older guys really helped me. played a big part in his decision.
After spending the 2013/14 season with Portsmouth, Ferry decided to return to Scotland with his boyhood club Dundee, despite still having another year left on his deal at Fratton Park.
“But as soon as I got there, I really enjoyed it, and I found the love for the game again after a bad year at Dundee.”
Ferry has experienced both promotion and relegation with the Blue Toon (Image courtesy of Evening Express)
The midfielder got his first taste of silverware at the Balmoor Stadium last season, when Peterhead saw off competition from Edinburgh City and Clyde, to clinch the League Two title on the final day. The club are currently in the bottom half of the table in their first season back in League One, but Ferry doesn’t completely rule out a promotion to the Championship in the coming years. “We are fighting for survival in the legue this season, so it hard to say. But having seen Arbroath who are a similar size of club to us in terms of resources, go up, I think we would be able to compete in Championship. “We have some really good players here, but I think we need a couple of years in this league to establish ourselves, and then we can go on from there.”
A second career Simon Ferry’s career took another twist when he decided to go into the growing world of podcasting, with his two friends and former footballers, Paul “Slaney” Slane and Kevin Kyle. “I had known those two guys for quite a while” he added “and after we talked on the phone, we all felt that we had something different about us and decided to give it a try.
They had a lot of ideas of who we could interview, and after putting our first video out it just seemed to kick on from there.” Open Goal’s incredible success in such a short space of time is described by Ferry as “madness”. He has become the podcast’s host, and has gone onto interview some of the biggest names in Scottish football over the past couple of years, including Liverpool full back Andy Robertson, Blackburn legend Colin Hendry, and manager Craig Brown, the last man to take Scotland to a major international tournament. But when asked who his favourite interview has been, the name Ferry gives might surprise the podcast’s devoted followers. "Garry O’Connor has to be my favourite. He is probably the funniest person I have ever met. "You know that he is adding arms and legs onto things and just makes it so much better.
Ferry sits down for a chat with a player or ex player every week (Image courtesy of Open Goal)
“I also love the guys who came from council estates or have had hard upbringings but have managed to make a name for themselves.” The Peterhead man feels that Open Goal is completely unique in its approach to talking about Scottish football. “I think that people like us because we just say it how it is. If you just go on and say it like everyone else does, then I don’t think you will get anywhere. “Obviously Slaney and Kevin Kyle have been massive for us, and when we sit down it’s just like we are having a chat in the pub. We’re all just having a laugh at the end of the day.” Although the podcast continues to break boundaries, Ferry is surprisingly coy on where he sees himself and Open Goal in the future. “Some people like to set goals and targets, but I’ve never really done that. On and off the pitch I just take life as it comes and whatever happens will happen." With a bubbly personality and talkative nature, Simon Ferry is someone who we might see on our screens a lot more in the coming years.
BY ANTHONY EVANS
Brora Rangers chairman hails club support BY ANTHONY EVANS The village of Brora in Sutherland is home to just 800 people, but Highland League club Brora Rangers continue to captivate and engage with their fanbase. In December’s Scottish Cup replay with Championship outift Greenock Morton, the Dudgeon Park faithful turned out in their numbers to back their side, and although the Cattachs were ultimately defeated, the level of support did not go unnoticed. “The Morton directors left the Highlands very impressed that night”, recalls club chairman William Powrie, “they couldn’t believe that such a small club could attract so many supporters. “We’ve had our fair these of kind of games in the last few years, and our fans never let us down when it comes to the big games. “Of course, there is an element of a potential shock on the cards when SPFL teams come up to our ground, but there is an absolute love for the club in the village and a real emotional interest. “To see them all come to the game with their bagpipes and their flags was a real credit to everyone involved, and the Highland League scene in general." Powrie then tells Northern Fitba how their fanbase isn’t just confined to Sutherland. “Abroad we have ex-patriots who follow the club, and we also have a number of followers who are based in the Central Belt.” The club then in turn are able to call on local investment, but Powrie is realistic in what Brora can achieve financially. “A successful football club can always benefit from the economic activity from around the area, but because the Highland League’s influence out with the North of Scotland is limited, we are always seeking more forms of investment further afield. “If we are fortunate to win the league title and go up to League Two through the play-offs, we would expect our economic climate to improve.” Social media plays a huge part in football nowadays, and the Cattachs chairman feels that his club have fully embraced the challenges that new forms of media brings.
"an active social media presence allows us to interact and connect “Sometimes it is difficult to say how good your own social media is, but we tend to think it is of a good quality. “We have a website which I update reguarly, our own TV channel, and are highly active on our Facebook and Twitter platforms. "So as far as a Highland League club goes, we are probably one of the better ones. "As some of our support tends to be further afield, having an active social media presence allows us to interact and connect with them. So, it’s extremely important.”
Brora keep their followers up to date with muinute-by-minute match updates on Twitter (Image courtesy of Brora Rangers)
Thanks to their position demographically, Brora are able to bring players in loan from the two big clubs in the Highlands, Ross County and Inverness Caledonian Thistle, but Powrie stresses that SPFL clubs should look to loan out their young players to smaller sides, to the benefit of both parties.
The Brora players celebare after taking the leaue against Morton in the Scottish Cup Third Round at Cappielow (Image courtesy of Brora Rangers)
“These clubs have a huge number of players on their books, and rather than playing in the youth or reserve leagues, we give them the opportunity to play first team football against seasoned pros and grown men. "Having these players on board obviously helps us but is also hugely contributes to their progression and development.” Playing in the Highland League also gives clubs a number of domestic cup competitions to compete in across the season, and although it makes the season schedule problematic at times, it is something that the Dungeon Park side relish. “First and foremost, we see them as an income generator, depending on how far you go in these cups. The supporters love to see the club win silverware, so it’s something that we look forward to. "We were fortunate enough to win the North of Scotland FA Trophy this season against a strong Inverness side, so we can’t really complain about having too many matches.”
Cattachs supporters created a flag display before their cup replay with Morton (Image courtesy of Brora Rangers)
Brora have taken the Highland League by storm this season, and having missed out on a place in League Two with defeat in the play-offs to Montrose at the end of the 2014/15 campaign, Powrie is confident that Steven Mackay’s side can make the jump into the SPFL this time around. “We are absolutely going for it. We’ve only got a small squad and have suffered with injuries throughout the season, but if Steven (Mackay) can get the team completely focused, we are hopeful we have what it takes to follow in Cove’s footsteps from last season.” With an ambitious chairman and a strong, loyal, ever-growing fanbase, Brora Rangers are putting the SPFL on notice. Club chairman William Powrie is hoping to lead the club into the SPFL (Image courtesy of Brora Rangers)
Q&A with Scott Robertson - Forfar Athletic Q1: How special was it being a local lad coming through to play for Dundee? A: It was a really big moment for me and my family. As a young player at the time the coaching I got was really good and being in that first team environment really helped me develop my game. It was a lot of hard luck and I wasn’t getting a lot of money, but it was one of the most enjoyable parts of my career.”
Q4: You managed to win two caps for Scotland during your time with Dundee Utd, how proud were you to represent your country and do you feel that you were unlucky not to earn more caps?
A: “To get the chance to play at that level was brilliant, and it was a great time for the club as there were a few of us who had gone really well and got rewarded with a place in the national set up. Who knows what would have happened if I hadn’t had such Q2: After five years in the first team at bad injuries, but it was still a very proud Dens Park you then made the move moment when I pulled on that Scotland across the city to bitter rivals Dundee jersey.” United, what made you decide to make that switch? Q5: The move to Blackpool didn’t work out for you, how do you reflect on it A: “Although I was able to get a lot of looking back? football in the First Division with Dundee, we weren’t quite able to get promoted back A: “Yeah that was a poor decision from to the Premiership. I was 23 and when the me. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and opportunity arose to join United, I had to looking back I had better offers financially take it seriously. and from managers at a good level. But the appeal of the English Championship got "Craig Levein was the manager at the time, my attention, so I thought I would give it a and he had also tried to sign first at Hearts try. I ended up having four managers in my then at Leicester, so him being there was six months there, which made the situation a big factor in me deciding to make the even more difficult.” move to United. Q6: You then returned to Scotland with "Having supported Dundee all my life, it Hibs where you experienced relegation was incredibly difficult to leave, but the from the Premiership, another Scotchance to play in the Premiership again tish Cup Final in 2013 and a semi final was too good to turn down.” play-off defeat to Rangers, so how do you feel about your two and a half Q3: You came on as sub in the 2010 years in the capital? Scottish Cup Final in the win over Ross County, how good a feeling was it getting your hands on some silverware after such a torrid time with injuries?
Forfar are Robertson's eight club (Image courtesy of Chris Coutts)
A: It definitely is one of the best periods of my career. I knew how big the club was, but it’s only when you see the stadium and the training facilities in place, that you realise just what Hibernian is about. Relegation from the Premiership was tough, but the following season in the Championship was one of my personal bests in terms of performances and goals scored. The balance of the squad was good, and we had some excellent players, so it’s a shame that it didn’t go the way we had hoped.”
A: “I had got off to a flyer at the start of the previous season and had even managed to get my first cap with the national team, but the next 18 months was filled with absolute frustration. "I wasn’t sure that I would ever get back playing again and started to look at college/university courses. "Fortunately, enough I was able to get back in time for the final, and just to get on the pitch and be involved in it was fantastic.”
Dundee United won the Scottish Cup in 2010 for only the second time, the first being in the 1993-94 season (Image courtesy of Universal News Sport)
Robertson came agonisingly close to promotin to Scotland's second tier with Raith (Image courtesy of Fife Today)
Q7: You then made the move to Romania with FC Botosani which obviously surprised a lot of people, how did that move come about and why did you decide to make it? A: Again it was another poor decision from myself. Hibs had offered me a new contract at the end of the season, but because we hadn’t been able to get promoted, it required me to take a wage cut. Going abroad was something I always wanted to do at some stage in my career, so when the opportunity to go to Romania came, "I took it as it probably would have never
come around again. But looking back, it was a really poor decision.” Q8: You then had a three-year spell back in Scotland with Raith Rovers, did you enjoy your time there? A: Yeah, Raith are a really good club. In my last season there we missed out on promotion to the Championship having failed to win the last game, and because I was planning to retire at that point, it would have been the perfect way to bow out. But of course, that didn’t happen, and I opted to keep playing.”
Q9: Forfar had an excellent season in League One last year, exceeding everyone’s expectations by reaching the play offs. The club have endured a tough season this year, but how confident are you that the future is bright at Station Park? Although we are realistic, we know what we are capable of. We have some good players and it’s just about giving are all for the rest of the season and beyond. We have to make sure that we distance ourselves from the bottom of the league and hopefully push on and close the gap on the teams above us.”
BY ANTHONY EVANS
Roberton challenges for a header in a pre season friendly at home to Dunfermiline (Image courtesy of Dunfermiline Athletic)
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