BACK in September on a sunny evening in the Highlands, Selkirk boss Bryan Templeton had just watched his team put in a superb Scottish Cup performance only to lose out to a last-minute goal against big-spending Nairn County.
“We have to play at this level from now on and if we do that we won’t be relegated,” said Templeton, speaking from the picturesque town made famous for golf and its association with Charlie Chaplin.
Less than two months on, the result had not changed, but the temperature, scenery and mood could not have been more different.
On a cold November day in Edinburgh’s Muirhouse estate, winless Selkirk slumped to a 2-1 loss against relegation rivals Civil Service Strollers.
It was to be Templeton’s last match in charge, with the club committee deciding to replace him with his assistant Mike McKinnon, a former Cowdenbeath striker.
The change of manager did not see a change of fortunes, as they remained rooted to the bottom of the East of Scotland Premier Division all season, until finally, after five seasons of fighting relegation, the Souters were demoted following another 2-1 loss, this time to Edinburgh City.
But already there have been signs of recovery, with a number of talented youngsters such as Hawick goalkeeper Bruce Connelly having been recruited during the year, and an encouraging 3-0 win over Gretna 2008 recorded last weekend.
And with the core of the squad, including captain John Dodds, having re-signed for next season, McKinnon is confident a return to the East of Scotland League’s top flight can be achieved at the first time of asking.
He told TheSouthern: “Just because we have been relegated it’s not the end of the world and we still want to progress as a club. In order to do that we want to keep our best players to give us the chance to bounce straight back up again.
“Most of the team are right behind us on that and only three days after being relegated eight key players had committed themselves to staying at the club for the 2012/13 season with several more keen to do so.
“At the end of the day it’s entirely up to them. Some of it is down to budget and we have to do this wisely.”
McKinnon, who has been assisted by local lad Aaron Biggs since taking over at Yarrow Park, believes the First Division will take the pressure off his young team.
“They’ve been battling relegation the whole season and it grinds you down week after week, and it’s very hard to get them motivated when you’re in that kind of a battle,” confessed McKinnon.
“It won’t be easy in the First Division. The other teams will be looking to take our scalp because we have just come down.
“We will get results and we will get back in the Premier League. We had short-term goals, now we have long term plans.”
Former Ayr goalkeeper Dodds echoed his gaffer’s thoughts.
He told us: “Since I have been at Selkirk we have been fighting relegation every single year and the inevitable has now happened.
“It’s just been constant and we haven’t been able to build our squad. Guys were leaving it to the last minute and then changing their minds, but there was no structure there, no planning or anything, and we just got caught short.
“When we came to the season itself there just weren’t enough players.
“I can’t say I wasn’t tempted to go elsewhere. Who wouldn’t be after just being relegated, it was a big disappointment.
“Mike has now come out and said ‘Right lads here you go, this is my intention and here are my plans for the club for next season’.
“I didn’t even have to think about it for that long, what he said was enough to get me to sign. I may be here when we got relegated but I’ll definitely stay and help fight to get us back up.”