MARTIN Maclean looks to have played his last game of the season for Back after putting pen to paper on an amateur contract to bring his boots to the Highland League with Brora Rangers.
The midfield lynchpin, a key man for both Back and the Lewis and Harris Select, wowed Brora bosses with a 90-minute trial match against Second Division Stirling Albion last Saturday in which, despite having played a gruelling 90-minutes the night before, he sailed through the match in typical style.
Maclean was offered terms to sign for the ambitious Sutherland club but the club and player have reached a compromise for the 20-year-old to sign for three months on an amateur basis initially to test how the travelling from Lewis for games will work.
Now instead of preparing to play Stornoway Athletic on Saturday night at Goathill Park the midfielder is preparing for 90-minutes in the midfield boiler room against SPL stars Inverness Caley Thistle.
Playing for Brora will require a big commitment from Maclean with overnight stays required every week and with some games taking place in the far north and north east it would mean him being away from Friday afternoon until Sunday night.
For Back his departure leaves a gaping hole at the heart of their team. Maclean is a player who is absolutely irreplaceable as he is a player who can do it all at this level - tackle ferociously, win the ball in the air, read the game, pass accurately, push forward and go for goal.
The reigning Lewis and Harris Player of the Year is a man for the big occasion as his goal in last season’s Highland Amateur Cup final proved last season but his team mates will now have to try to retain their title without their star man.
Whichever local football club you may follow only a philistine could fail to enjoy the verve and charisma of a player like Maclean and his chance to enter the Highland League should give other local youngsters the incentive to work at their own game and seek their own rich rewards.
Back boss Iain Maclennan paid tribute to Martin as he prepares for the step up. He said: “We are absolutley delighted for Martin as he really deserves the opportunity to test himseld at a higher level.
“In my view he has been the outstanding player in Lewis and Harris for the past couple of seasons and his contribution was vital in terms of Back FC winning the league and also the five trophies since last August.
“He has played a huge part in ensuring we are also in contention for the league this year and now it is a chance for others to step up.
“He will be a huge loss but it was always felt that Martin was destined for bigger things because although he has great talent he also has the work ethic to go with it.
“He goes with the best wishes of everyone at the club and we are sure he will excel at Brora but hopefully it will not be the last we see of him in a blue jersey.”
Lewis and Harris Select manager Billy Flower added: “I thought it was a great 12 months for the Select when we won three cups for the first time in our history, but the news that one of our own players has been selected to move on to the next level surpasses even that.
“I have rarely seen a player with a better attitude towards his football than Martin Maclean. It has been an honour and a privilege to coach a player who has always made himself available, always attended training and was always willing to listen and learn.
“Personally, I feel that Martin now needs the challenge of stepping up a level and I believe that this chance has come along at the perfect time for him. It is also a huge encouragement to local players that if they keep working hard at their game, then the rewards will follow.
“Martin will obviously be a huge loss to the local Select team, but he moves on to this next stage of his career with the very best wishes of everybody involved with Select football.
“Good luck Martin, head down and work hard, and you just never know what might be just around the corner.”