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Brora Rangers focusing on quality over quantity when it comes to summer recruitment as manager Craig Campbell seeks to strike right balance ahead of new Highland League season

By Alasdair Fraser

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Craig Campbell is determined to strike the right balance between squad size and strength in depth as Brora Rangers refocus on promotion ambitions.

The Cattachs’ manager knows the tight nature of his playing pool proved a hindrance last season with threadbare numbers apparent at times through 50 competitive league and cup matches.

There is no temptation, though, for Campbell to prioritise quantity over quality by adding liberally to his current 18-strong squad.

Club stalwart John Pickles’ contract has been terminated due to work commitments, while young goalkeeper Ruardhri Nicol has been added after release by Caley Thistle.

John Pickles will be a big loss to Brora but boss Craig Campbell is seeking quality signings. Picture: James Mackenzie
John Pickles will be a big loss to Brora but boss Craig Campbell is seeking quality signings. Picture: James Mackenzie

“We have a good base looking to the season ahead,” Campbell said.

“We’re not going to sign players for the sake of numbers.

“Within the current squad, everyone is capable of staking a claim to start which gives us good competition. We only want sign players who are going to improve us, and take us to where we want to be. It is quite a lean market at the moment.

“At our level, you don’t want to run with too large a squad, with people not even named in the squad. Given the commitment people show after work, they need to have some reward at the end of it.

“Last year we had a few games where we were very light, so we want to find the right balance.”

One thing is certain – Campbell knows a tough campaign lies in store.

“It is going to be a strong league again and, unlike some years in the past, I don’t think anyone could predict confidently who is going to win the league,” the manager said.

“There’s a group of four or five teams who could all compete consistently every week.

“We look like having Banks o’Dee in the league, a quality club, and that’s what the pyramid system is all about. You want the best teams in your league to make it more competitive. That helps everybody all round.

“We’ve made the play-offs a few times, but I’m not sure if the club was 100 per cent ready for that step-up.

“It is definitely now an ambition for the club. We want to progress into the Scottish leagues.

“First and foremost, you have to earn the right by taking care of your own league, but the bigger goal is to try and make the play-offs and win promotion.”

Pickles’ departure after seven successful years and huge commitment in travelling from native Orkney is a source of regret for Campbell, but a decision he completely understands.

“As much as it is disappointing, I fully understand it from John’s point of view,” Campbell said.

“He just thought it was going to be too much for him. He felt the travelling was getting too much last season.

“He could be down here for two or three days for away games and then we obviously had midweek matches where we had to ask him to travel due to the tight nature of our squad last season, through Covid and things like that.

“He was having to ask for a lot of time off work. Nobody could question John’s commitment to Brora over the years so, as much as it was a difficult one for me, I fully understood it and the club agreed he could get (the last year of) his contract terminated.”

As for young keeper Nicol, Campbell added: “He wasn’t offered a new contract at Inverness but did well with us on loan last season.

“I’m delighted to get him on board to work with Joe Malin. Joe’s getting that little bit older now and we played around played 50 games last season. Ruardhri can maybe share the workload of games and learn a lot from Joe.”

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