Increased competition in North Caledonian League can encourage clubs to aim for promotion to Highland League, says NCL president Iain Whitehead
Easier access to your trusted, local news. Subscribe to a digital package and support local news publishing.
North Caledonian League president Iain Whitehead hopes that the ever-increasing strength of the division will encourage more teams to push for promotion.
As the line-up for next season stands, only Golspie Sutherland and Fort William – who are still awaiting the outcome of an appeal against their relegation from the Highland League – would be eligible to go up.
However, the North Caley has grown significantly over the last few years, a far cry from when they were threatened with closure due to a lack of teams.
With increased numbers has come more professional approaches to training, and more competition for the league title and cups – with the likes of Loch Ness entering the league and immediately competing at the top.
Now, Whitehead hopes that will spur more clubs on to look further up the Scottish football pyramid.
“It would take a miracle for some clubs, but I think the opportunity is there for others to push,” he said.
“Hopefully they will be ambitious to go for it.
“There’s Halkirk and Thurso who have the facilities close to that level, they just have to improve them a little. St Duthus are there, Invergordon have a decent team and they’re a good club. It would be good to see.
“I would like to think that if teams are playing in a well-run and vibrant league, there’s more chance of them pushing on.
“I think we had a while where teams were just ambling along, and the league almost folded, because there was no incentive.
“The tables have turned, and there’s more of a spotlight on the North Caley, so players are more willing to play in it now than they were before when they weren’t that bothered about it.
“Clubs like St Duthus, Inverness Athletic, and now you’re seeing Loch Ness getting into it, although it will take a while to upgrade their facilities and find parks for some of these teams, hopefully they will look at it.
“It will take a while for a lot of teams, so it will have to come into place slowly.”