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Callum Maclean: Nairn County will be galvanised by manager Ronnie Sharp's comeback

By Alasdair Fraser

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Callum Maclean believes the shock Nairn County’s players felt at Ronnie Sharp’s heart attack will galvanise the squad for the new season.

The Station Park manager survived the major scare in May, but recovered swiftly in hospital and has been back on the training ground in pre-season.

For versatile defender Maclean, the incident put in perspective personal and team woes surrounding the club’s Covid-19 outbreak.

“It was just a real jolt. Ronnie’s a roofer by trade, and a fairly active guy,” the 29-year-old defender and midfielder said.

“He doesn’t mind having a shout at people so, maybe, as players we were partly responsible for stressing him out! It came as a real shock to us all that it could happen to someone that fit and active.

“Within a couple of weeks, he was back, which says a lot about his passion and feeling for it. I think there is an element where what happened will bring us all closer together. We’re determined to improve on the last season where we had a decent amount of matches, which was eighth in 2019/20.”

Callum Maclean (right) is looking forward to battles like this, against Strathspey’s James Fraser, in front of fans.
Callum Maclean (right) is looking forward to battles like this, against Strathspey’s James Fraser, in front of fans.

Maclean admits it will be a sweet relief to finally step out for competitive action in front of fans in the Highland League after months of idle frustration and empty grounds.

The Wee County stalwart was the last man to net a competitive league goal for his club way back in January this year – in a 2-1 defeat to Formartine – before the renewed lockdown snuffed out the 2020/21 season in its infancy.

Last month’s Covid-19 outbreak sent half the squad into isolation and cancelled friendly matches against Jeanfield Swifts and Elgin City.

Tonight, in a friendly away to Forres Thistle, Nairn will finally take the field, although tomorrow night’s trip to play Burghead Thistle has also fallen by the wayside due to positive tests in the junior team’s camp.

Maclean, in this first real preparation for the July 24 league opener at Keith’s Kynoch Park, is just happy to be readying for some kind of competitive normality.

“To see matches put back another couple of weeks, after everything that had happened in the last year, was a little bit frustrating, but nothing more,” he said.

“We’d rather have had it happen in pre-season than during the campaign. Hopefully, now, we get a clear run at it. It was just one of those things, the world we live in at the moment.

“In the grand scheme of things, us not being able to play football is hardly the worst thing to happen, but we miss the release from our day jobs and we know the importance it has for the supporters.

“They are such a big part of it. At times, last year we were playing games at an empty ground and thinking ‘what’s the point?’

“In that Formartine game last January, we were travelling by bus when the rest of the country was in lockdown. There was quite a risk to it, but we weren’t getting much out of it. We’re looking forward to the real stuff.”

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