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  • North Caledonian Football Association

Robert MacCormack is approaching the new season with an attitude of "must do better", as he prepares for his third year in the Alness United hotseat.

His squad showed plenty of promise in 2020-21, lifting the Ness Cup after finishing top of the second tier of the Macleod & MacCallum North Caledonian League during the emergency pandemic season.

But a run of poor results the season after saw the Easter Ross side become enmeshed in a bottom of the table battle, avoiding a last place finish only due to goal difference.

The club has gone through something of a transition after taking a year out in 2019-20, and many of United's older heads have moved on. But the manager's determination to stick with youth has resulted in many positives.

The emergence of players such as Alexander Mackay, Euan Henderson and 16-year-old goalkeeper Lewis Bannerman has given United plenty of hope for the future. The club's nominee for young player of the year, 20-year-old Ryan Mcfee, has netted 23 goals in 27 games over the past two seasons, and is one to have caught the eye of many.

In the dugout, MacCormack has moved quickly to bolster his own options with the appointment of Robert Mitchell as his number-two. The move came just four weeks after Mitchell had left his post as Bonar Bridge boss following the conclusion of the season.

The addition of Mitchell forms part of a much bigger rebuild at the club, as they aim to improve their league position first and foremost.

MacCormack said: "Robert will be a great addition to the club and will bring in some of his own ideas. Last season was one to forget for us, it was far from good enough. We will be looking to rebuild our squad and finish as high up in the league table as we possibly can.

"We will be looking to bring in a few back from last season. We had a tight squad last season and the league is getting bigger and bigger so we will be looking to add in a few more experienced players to help out the young lads we already have at the club."

United have plenty to be excited about off the field, with the opening of their new playing field, located in the grounds of the recently redeveloped Alness Academy. Their new floodlit artificial pitch was officially opened towards the end of the 2021-22 season and will be their nominated home park for the coming season.

MacCormack added: "Having new facilities on our door step is unbelievable for a club like Alness United and all the players are loving being able to play on such a good surface."

The pristine new park will be in use on August 20 when Alness get their campaign underway with a home game, a local derby against champions Invergordon. But surface aside, the manager is under no illusions of the difficult task ahead of his side.

"Invergordon is a tough start for us, but there won't be any easy games this season. The boys can't wait to get going."