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INVERGORDON SEASON PREVIEW

For the first time in the 134 year history of the North Caledonian Football Association, the winners of the league championship have qualified for the Scottish Cup.

As the saying goes, the league table never lies - and at the end of a long, difficult campaign in 2021-22, Gary Campbell's Invergordon sat at the top of the Macleod & MacCallum North Caledonian League as champions for the first time since 2017.

The title win will have felt like a long time coming for the manager, who has seen his side's campaign in 2019-20 derailed due to the outbreak of Covid, and then in 2020-21, capitulation following a long mid-season break.

Campbell said: "The boys were brilliant all season and full credit to them. We are a small club and have a small committee, but everyone works hard here. It has been five years since we last won it, so it was good to get it done."

The reward of Scottish Cup action came as a late bonus to the Invergordon boss, with the news announced only after it had been confirmed at annual general meeting of the Scottish FA.

"It's a great incentive for teams winning the North Caley to be given the opportunity to go and play in the biggest cup competition in our country.

"It's a first for Invergordon and it's something for everyone involved with the club to be excited about."

The manager is hopeful that he can retain the majority, if not all of his squad from last season, and is looking also to welcome some new faces.

But after two years without kicking a ball, amateur football clubs are back playing with avidity this summer - and Campbell has had to adjust his pre-season plans to suit.

"Pre-season training is always hampered with lads still playing summer football, so we prefer to have a shorter pre-season then up the intensity of the training when they come back.

"Our lads trained really well last year and hopefully we can carry on from where we left off."

Needless to say, there is little doubt that Invergordon will be among the favourites to challenge for the title, aiming to become the first club to retain the Macleod & MacCallum North Caledonian League title since 2012.

They begin with what is sure to be a fiery encounter, away to Easter Ross rivals, Alness United.

"Our opening game is away to Alness. It's a local derby and I expect both teams involved to be highly motivated. Hopefully we can get a win and make a good start to the season."