Last season as a whole was naturally one of transition for Stornoway Athletic, and with a clear remit to change the style, boss in gloves, and boots, Colin Macritchie was ambitious enough to hand top-team chances to a large number of junior team graduates.
With one of the smallest pools of players in the league to call on it was a difficult campaign for the Stornoway side and at times some of the teenagers struggled with the chance but to Macritchie’s enormous credit, though, he found an appropriate balance, and with the signing of John Woodman and Mo Khalil and Ross Allison coming into form, Aths finished the season with a bang.
A thumping 6-3 win at Fivepenny followed a narrow 5-4 defeat to Carloway in a Goathill thiriller and a win in the town derby against United.
This time around Aths have lost the services of a few more of their elder statesmen. Former skipper Steven Clinton is unlikely to feature much, Nicholas ‘Nuck’ Davies has hung up his boots and Gary Macleod – a player who must boast Lewis football’s best delivery since Santa brought me a Castle Greyskull toy in the 80’s – requires a second operation on a crocked knee.
A further degree of compromise might have to be made with youngsters from the youth ranks trying to find their way alongside the more-experienced campaigners.
Player manager Macritchie said: “We will be much about the same as last season to be honest. We have lost a few guys but I’m hopeful of bringing a few guys in although I’m not mentioning any names just yet.
“Steven probably won’t play much but I think he will make himself available if we are struggling. I don’t think he’d every turn us down. ‘Nuck’ is the same as Steven in I hope we can call on him if we are desperate.
“We will be much about the same as last year but the young lads will be a year wiser, stronger and fitter. We have another few juniors coming through the ranks and I’m keen to give them a taste of senior football. I don’t have much option but to give young players a chance but it’ll be great for them too.”
The departure of Allison and Macleod to Lochs and Carloway respectively have added to Aths woes but ‘Titch’ is confident his side can continue to improve and pose any team a problem.
He added: “It’s tough at the moment but it is hard to hold onto your best players when the teams doing well come sniffing about. Looking back at last year and I really feel the guys were good last year and we enjoyed the season.
“We did well considering what we had. There were no games when we came off the park thinking ‘wow, we were gubbed there.’
“Most games we were in it and we did ok and I’m sure we will again.”
Ali ‘Koch’ Morrison will remain crucial to Aths hopes as he is the glue which holds them together in defence.
Further up the pitch and there are goals in Aths with the attacking trident of Connor Maciver, Mo Khalil and Callum Masson.
Maciver has all the tools to light up the team if he can stay fit and in the mood.
Having made his senior league breakthrough two years ago now 2017 could be a pivotal year in his development.
Nevertheless, a genuine game-changing player and the one to watch is the temperamental Khalil. On his day he can be lively and committed, scoring and assisting goals as a one man demolition of Lochs proved a year or two ago.
Khalil needs to carry this form into the new season and become the consistent attacking threat his talent has often promised.