FORMARTINE United may have come off second best against Dundee last weekend, but as far as the club is concerned, the test against an outfit several divisions higher is one which gives grounds for optimism for the season ahead.
Manager Steve Paterson said at the end of last season that the club needed 10 players in order to create competition for places. Over the summer, the management team has been busy securing the services of a number of new faces which they hope will strengthen the North Lodge Park club.
“The standard at the club was nowhere near what I wanted, which was very evident after watching the first couple of matches from the dug out”, said Paterson via the club’s website. “It was important to bring in boys with high energy levels, good legs in terms of bringing pace into the team and I think we’ve got that”, he said. “Hopefully before the season kicks off we can maybe add another couple of players or see if a couple of the younger lads like Jason Coyle, Lewis Knight or Darren Bailey are ready to progress and step up.”
While securing the services of former Dundee and Caley Thistle defender Bobby Mann in a player/assistant manager role has grabbed the headlines, Paterson is particularly satisfied at having secured the goalkeeping services of Ross Bremner. Says Paterson “I consider Ross Bremner to be one of the best, if not the best keeper in the Highland League. I’ve known Ross since he was a 15 year old at Huntly and he adds some real competition to Derek Soutar for the No. 1 jersey. Stuart Gray has decided to move on as his work commitments meant that he could not guarantee his attendance at training and with Ross becoming available we had to move to strengthen the goalkeeping options.”
Another new face at training has been defender Ross Campbell, whom Paterson managed for a time at Huntly. “He knows his strengths and he doesn’t try and do things he knows he can’t do”, says Paterson. “He basically wins the ball in the air. He’s a hard tackler, very disciplined and he’ll work well with Bobby.”
Versatile left-sided defender Stuart Smith has been snapped up after the club learned that he had not agreed terms with Peterhead, and Paterson is impressed with his references as well as the twenty-one year old’s athleticism, Also joining the club from Peterhead is Neil McVitie, who is regarded as a ball winner with good movement and distribution, and whom Paterson hopes will be able to add a fresh dimension to the side with his ability to play a holding midfield role.
Joining McVitie in the middle of the park is former Huntly player Colin “Coco” Robertson, whom Paterson describes as an ‘aggressive, competitive player’, who can bring a ‘fighting spirit’ to the side, whether playing in either left or centre midfield, or covering the left back position.
Another face new to the club but familiar to the gaffer is Stuart Soane, whom Paterson has now signed for the fourth time after spells with Caley Thistle, Peterhead and Huntly. Adding to the combative edge which Paterson hopes to instill in the side, Soane is a player whom the manager believes can “provide aggression and energy to the middle of the park as well as creativity and the ability to score a decent amount of goals in a season.” Kyle MacAulay has also re-signed for the club, but is set to miss most of August having been selected to play for the British University team at the World Games in Shenzhen, China.
Up front, a player Paterson has high hopes for is Michael McGinlay, son of former Scottish Internationalist John McGinlay. Paterson sees a lot of his father’s traits in Michael as a clinical finisher, and believes that he has the potential to finish as one of the Highland League’s top scorers. “My own feeling is he still has a chance to go onto a higher level”, says Paterson. “He has areas to work on such as his work rate and having a wee bit more aggression, however if he puts it all together and starts rattling in goals then he could move onto a higher stage.”
Paterson obviously hopes that there will be a spin off, not just from the qualities brought in by the new faces, but also in the spur it will give to the players retained to fight for places. “Of the guys that I’ve kept at the club from last season, I’m sure the likes of Kaiser [Stuart McKay, who retains the captaincy], Bagshaw, Cummings, Notman and Rusty will be better players with the new group of player brought in, with a better spirit as well as a far, far higher standard of fitness”, he says.
The new boys will be given their chance to shine during Formartine’s pre-season, which continues with further friendlies against Maud, Hall Russell Utd, Echt, Ellon and Newmachar, as well as a training camp in Sweden.
Formartine’s Highland League campaign kicks off on 30 July away to Brora Rangers, while they face Fraserburgh in the Aberdeenshire Cup on 9 August, with the winner earning the right to face Aberdeen in the second round of the competition.