Written By Lewis Michie
It’s been over six years at Elgin City for Gavin Price now, three of them as the manager. He knows the club inside and out.
It’s that longevity with both coaching staff and playing squad that has been a great strength for Elgin, it’s something they truly seek to keep.
“I think we’ve got a good mix now, a group that’s at a good age, we’ve signed a lot of them on long-term contracts now.” said Price when he chatted to NE98’s Head of Content Lewis Michie.
“We’ve got a good academy coming through as well, training is made up of a few of them, we’ve had success with bringing a couple into the squad, David Wilson and Aidan Sopel that are now regularly playing in the first team”
“If you look at the success of part-time clubs like Arbroath and Montrose in recent years, it’s a big part of their success story, they’ve kept their squads together”
City have managed to secure a number of their best players on long-term contracts in the past few seasons. Something many clubs at their level struggle to do.
Based off of information from Transfermarkt, nine first team players are signed to deals beyond this summer.
Price says it comes down both to the ambition of his board, but also the commitment of the players:
“It’s a bit of both, certainly the club and board backing my vision”
“It’s a long-term vision we’ve got at the club, we’ve got a quality academy and hopefully we will have one or two of those coming through as a bonus”
“We try and keep this squad together as long as we can and the longer we do that and develop as a team we can only go from strength to strength.”
“You are looking outside the box, because I don’t think we can challenge the central-belt clubs for some of these players.”
“It’s a challenge that we’ve certainly got with geography over the years.”
Of course it’s fantastic to keep quality players around the squad, but you need to get them there in the first place, and in a place like Elgin – An almost four hour drive from Glasgow, or nearly 70 miles on the miserable A96 from Aberdeen – that’s not always an easy task.
Over the past two seasons six players have been recruited to the Borough Briggs from either Inverness Caley Thistle or Ross County. A handful for have come from Highland League clubs.
These are good options where you can secure talented youngsters dropping out of Full-time football, or a diamond in the rough playing outside of the SPFL – but it’s limited.
Central belt, or often Angus based players can be convinced, but it’s the promise of the project, and the salesmen ship of Price that plays a big part in that.
The result is a juggling act of working out the best way to get this geographically mixed group of footballers together.
“We’ve tried different ways to do it, having a purely north based squad – which we found maybe lacked a certain mentality” Price said.
“We’ve tried training different places over my six-seven years at the club, Perth and Keith and Aviemore. Now we are just settled training twice a week in Elgin.”
“We’ve got four or five now from the central belt who have to train with other clubs, but we sacrifice this to have a sort of three quarters north based squad.”
“It’s difficult attracting players to the club, but once they are there it’s a club they enjoy playing for.”
“Once we have the players in, we are quite successful at keeping them”
And when the club haven’t kept talented players in the past few years, they’ve not been losing them to league rivals.
Shane Sutherland and Rabin Omar are the two that stick out.
Sutherland has had four successful stints at Borough Brigs. After making a start at Inverness Caley Thistle he’d bounce between City and Peterhead before eventually returning to Caley last Summer.
Omar another that took his chance for a move to the Championship. After getting his start in Scottish football with Annan the defender made one of the biggest moves you can make in the Scottish game – in terms of distance – to come to Elgin. But it earned him a move to Greenock Morton in the Summer.
On losing players like Omar and Sutherland, Price admitted it’s unavoidable at times, and a good reflection on the club:
“It handy-capped us slightly, but it’s a good thing because guys are going on to progress their careers.”
An example of this at the moment is Kane Hester, League Two’s top goalscorer.
He’s being tracked by various clubs, Dundee are rumoured to be one, but after tying him up until 2023, a transfer fee is likely to come Elgin’s way for Hester to depart.
Just hours after the interview it was announced that all 20 clubs in League One and Two were writing to the SFA with their “A route to playing again”.
It was clear that there is a frustration for Elgin, twice in the space of a year now they’ve seen football suspended in a time where they felt they were hitting their stride.
Price admits it’s difficult to deal with, but of course a reality of the situation across the world.
“It’s been a bit on an adjustment but it’s something we all just have to get on with, there’s more important thing to get on with, and we’ve just got to wait for the green light to get back going”.
“2020 in general was very good for us, we had a good run towards the end of last season before we were shut down.”
“We kept most of that squad together, the continuity factor was something we were trying to keep, we’ve got a good group.”
“They are a good age, all starting to mature a little bit.”
So far so good for City in 20-21. They sit second in League Two, albeit ahead on goal difference of Stranraer and Stirling Albion. Five points adrift of Queen’s Park.
Ultimately a play-off spot is the aim for Price, but every spot higher is of course better.
He told us:
“We’ve started really where we left off, a couple of blips on the way, but in general happy with how things are progressing.”
“2 points a game is normally something that’ll see you challenging, we’ve got that right now, and hopefully we will be there or there abouts at the end of the season”
Making clear the aim for the remainder of the season, Price said:
“As high as we possibly can, it’s a desire to get to the play-offs for us minimum”
NE98 would like to thank Gavin Price for taking the time to speak to us, and we appreciate Elgin City for being so accommodating to set up the interview. Good luck for the remainder of the season.