With the new football season just around the corner, two new Borders team managers are racing to create the teams they want for a brand new campaign.
The summer has seen big personnel changes among the south of Scotland clubs, on the playing field in the dug-out and, in some cases, the boardroom.
Terry Ferguson is the new man at the helm of Selkirk, after the Yarrow Park side’s most successful season ever in the Lowland League.
Paul McGovern has taken over at Hawick Royal Albert, whose fortunes could scarcely have contrasted more – banished to the East of Scotland League after a 2017-18 campaign which featured only one league win.
Both bosses, however, are having to rebuild the teams practically from scratch, after a large exodus of players.
Gala Fairydean Rovers also have a new manager, Dean Shanks, although his appointment was confirmed some months ago.
For Ferguson and McGovern, however, it’s a work in progress, with experimental pre-season friendlies and searches for new players giving way this Saturday to competitive action.
Selkirk went down 4-1 on Monday night to Easthouses Lily – Ludovic Erhard was the scorer – and succumbed 5-2 on Saturday to Newtongrange Star, with a trialist and captain Unpha Koroma on target.
In both games, however, Ferguson was impressed by much of what he saw, before tired legs and several line-up reshuffles, mixing unfamiliar players, took their toll.
The Souters visit mighty East Kilbride on Saturday and Ferguson said he’d have to rely largely during August on bringing in trialists to help fill the spaces, as well as trying to recruit through the pro-youth set-up, fellow Lowland League and junior teams, and players coming down the grade from professional level.
Of the East Kilbride trip, he observed: “I’ve said to the boys ‘these are the games you want to play in’. It will be a big test but we will go out and try to frustrate them.”
“They have a lot of experienced players and ex-pros, and K Park is a mass, wide-open space, so we have to shut the gaps behind us and in front of the back four.”
Ferguson said the club was about six weeks behind the rest of the league in its preparations but it had a clean slate and aimed to build as it progressed. “The stability from last year may have been lost but there’s a chance to shape and mould things in our own image,” he said, adding the club had a plan for progress on the football, PR and community/social fronts.
Indeed, there’s a community event at Selkirk on Sunday, featuring former Souters players against a Manchester City Legends line-up, featuring such names as Asa Hartford and Willie Donachie.
On Monday at Yarrow Park, Hibernian visit for the Bobby Johnstone memorial match.
Over at Albert Park, Paul McGovern said he was working hard behind the scenes to bring players in – and facing similar time restrictions – as Hawick Royal Albert prepared to visit Tranent on Saturday in Section A of the East of Scotland Qualifying League.
These matches, and recent pre-season games with Heaton Stannington and Hawick United, would offer a chance to shape the squad before league action started in earnest.
McGovern (49) takes over after the resignation of Craig Tully. He spent the last two seasons as assistant manager at Heriot-Watt University, while his playing career included spells at Hibernian, Partick Thistle, Gala Fairydean, Spartans, Whitehill Welfare and also Aris Limassol in Cyprus.
Describing his new role as “a fantastic opportunity, McGovern said the challenge ahead was to recapture some stability after a very disappointing season.
“I am looking forward to the challenge ahead,” he said, adding a major priority would be to bring players in and establish the squad.