Hawick Royal Albert United emerge from coupling of clubs

Josh Neill was top scorer last season during a difficult campaign for Hawick Royal Albert (archive pic).
Josh Neill was top scorer last season during a difficult campaign for Hawick Royal Albert (archive pic).

Two of Hawick’s football clubs have merged – with survival and greater opportunities for local players among the principal goals.

Adopting the model followed by Gala Rovers and Gala Fairydean, when they streamlined in 2013, Hawick United and Hawick Royal Albert have spliced together to form Hawick Royal Albert United.

Hawick United, in Division ‘A’ of the Border Amateur FA, aims to stay there and be a feeder squad to its more senior counterpart.

Hawick Royal Albert United will be among 12 teams in First Division Conference ‘B’ of the reshuffled East of Scotland League, beginning their 2019-20 campaign on July 27 away to Tweedmouth.

The move follows another turbulent season for Hawick Royal Albert, who finished second bottom in the 2018-19 table and won just four league games, but faced a constant struggle to field a team each week.

With only one signed player – goalkeeper Craig Saunders – when (now former) manager Paul McGovern arrived, they had to rely heavily on trialists, while they were hit almost weekly by work commitments and late player call-offs.

Attempts to attract players of a high enough quality for the league were hampered by them already being committed to other clubs, or unwilling to travel to the south-east.

Despite a commendable effort, all of this, and more, made it very difficult to live with experienced, established and well-financed East of Scotland contemporaries, a number of whom had junior football experience. HRA had also suffered financially from a very expensive foray into the Lowland League.

HRA’s ex-secretary Dougie Purves, now HRAU’s SFA liaison officer, said it became a question of survival for the Albert Park club.

The cost of training in Edinburgh each week was unsustainable, while the disappearance from the leagues of clubs such as Selkirk, Eyemouth and Duns had given many in the Borders game a jolt.

It was decided the best remedy was to blend with Hawick United, said Dougie – a move accepted by the Wilton Park club and the SFA.

He stressed HRAU was not a new club, but the product of two clubs merging.

It was also felt the committee needed “young blood”, added Dougie (67) and Hawick United had a big committee, with younger people involved.

There would also hopefully be greater chances for Hawick-based players to play at East of Scotland level, said Dougie – and maybe a lessening of the resentment over clubs allegedly turning their backs on the Borders by looking towards Edinburgh for players.

“It will be hard for them this year and it’s not going to happen overnight,” said Dougie. “We are not looking to be world beaters and a lot of people are going to be hanging back to see if it’s really going to work. But the response from the people of Hawick has been great.”

With a slightly modified club badge, HRAU will be plahing in orange and royal blue this season and have secured sponsorship for their home and away kits, as well as match day travel t-shirts.

Paul McGovern has left the managerial post – Geo Shepherd is the new general manager, with assistant John Drysdale and coaches Kevin Strathdee and Mick Murphy, amid plans to add more coaches.

HRAU are due to play a friendly at Albert Park against a Select team, chosen by ex-boss Graeme Chadwick, tomorrow (Friday) at 7pm.

According to HRAU’s Facebook page, players on board for the season include midfielders Danny Bolton and Sam Kelly, defender/midfielder Daniel Chandler, and defenders Ryan Shepherd, David Strathdee and Aidan Reilly, plus goalkeeper Dean Fry.

Another forthcoming attraction is ‘An Evening With Tam Cowan’, the comedian, newspaper columnist and co-host of Radio Scotland’s ‘Off The Ball’, at the Albert Park clubrooms on August 17.

Hawick United’s manager for the new season is Alan Campbell, with coaches Dougal Prowse and Ian Turnbull.