On the face of it the future looks bleak for Brechin City.
The Angus club will spend next season in the Highland League. They have been in freefall ever since reaching the Championship on May 20th, 2017.
A horrific run since that fateful day has seen them win just 15 out of 121 league games, leading to three relegations in four years.
The very existence of the once-proud 115-year-old club is on the line and they face a 480-mile round trip to Wick Academy next season.
However, scratch beneath the surface of the playing stats and hope springs eternal.
On Monday, a brave new era led by respected local businessman Kevin Mackie was voted through at the club’s EGM as Brechin becomes a limited company.
Mackie, Managing Director of family-run Angus based Mackie Motors car dealership for almost 30 years, has just been installed as interim chairman.
Mackie has a plan, a vision for the club to become the bedrock of the local community.
He wants to attract investment to take Brechin back to where he believes the club should be – an established League One club.
Brechin have a host of high-profile people in the game on their side.
Former managers Michael O’Neill Ray McKinnon and Dick Campbell have given their backing along.
Brechin brothers John and Harry Souttar, Scotland and Australia internationals respectively, have also offered support.
The road back to the SPFL
The road back from the Highland lead is long and treacherous and they don’t yet have a manager to replace Michael Paton.
However, Mackie’s vision is an ambitious yet achievable one if he gains the community and business support he craves.
“If anyone has been looking at the freefall we’ve been in and the position we find ourselves in now then I’m not so sure they will see us as being attractive,” said Mackie.
“But when people understand the vision, the incorporation and changes that are taking place then it’s different.
“When Michael O’Neill came there was a real excitement and positiveness around the community.”
“They’ll realise we’ve not accepted that the Highland League is our destination.
“The is ambition there and with the community behind us I think it will be more attractive that some people initially think.
“If you look back on the good years at Brechin then the club has a lot of history.
“When Michael O’Neill came there was a real excitement and positiveness around the community.
“We now have Brechin Community Trust and our aim is to build a model similar to what you see in Montrose.
“The football club should become a hub seven days a week rather than a few hours ever second Saturday.
“The fans reaction at the end of the Kelty game made us even more determined to make sure we get this sorted out.
“Without the fans the club is nothing.
“The fans stood there and clapped the players off and that installed a fair bit more resilience in us all.
“I see no reason at all why we can’t succeed.
“The competition for the pyramid play-offs is always going to be there and it’s a challenge to get away from these ambitious clubs.
“We don’t want to be looking over our shoulder at the end of every season, wondering if we will be down the bottom of League Two.
“We have to get ourselves safe in League One. That’s the longer term plan.
“It’s going to be challenging. We are in the Highland League so we are going to have, geographically, a lot of travelling to do.
“The plan would be that we’d want to aim to be back out within 12 months.
“That’s not being disrespectful to the Highland League. It could take us longer as there are decent teams up there.
“The plan has to be a positive one that we want to try and focus to get ourselves out within 12 months. If it takes longer then it takes longer.”
Mackie is under no illusions at the task that is at hand at Brechin.
However, with only Mackie and Grant Johnson remaining from the previous committee, they are prepared to take people with them as they seek to attract investment.
No to Lowland League
Their route back to the SPFL will definitely NOT be via the Lowland League.
City were approached last week and asked if they’d consider being admitted to the Lowland League as an alternative to the Highland League.
But after Lowland League clubs initially voted against it, Mackie is not interested in a second vote.
“To be honest it’s a shambles,” said Mackie.
“The chairman was asked on Thursday morning if the Lowland League were to consider offering a position in their league would we look at it?
“Purely from a playing point of view – with regards to the travel distance for the players from Brechin to the Highlands but also from the central belt to Glebe Park – we agreed to look at it.
“We still don’t know. We were told on Friday that it was unanimous support against us.
“I’ve seen paperwork where the president had asked the Lowland League to reconsider.
“We’re not interested now. We will go to the Highland League and that’s it.”