Kelty Hearts club secretary Garry Grandison insists allowing the pyramid playoffs to proceed was the correct decision for the whole of Scottish football.
The SPFL and Scottish FA confirmed on Thursday afternoon that Lowland League champions Kelty and their Highland League counter-parts Brora Rangers will get their shot at glory following several weeks of uncertainty.
— Kelty Hearts Football Club (@KeltyHeartsFC) April 29, 2021
The winner of the initial tie between those sides will face ‘Club 42’ — almost certainly Brechin City — for a place in League 2. The first leg at Dudgeon Park will take place on May 4, with the return game at New Central Park on May 8.
The playoffs were given the green light following a Scottish FA arbitration process, with the final call being made in light of legal clarification from an experienced judge.
“The feeling is relief,” Grandison told The Courier. “We know have clarity in terms of the timetable and the end goal. Now, we can start looking forward to the game up at Dudgeon Park.
“There’s been a cloud of uncertainty hanging over the players and the management team — to finally get rid of that is the best part.
“All we wanted was a fighting chance and we’ve got that. We know the job that’s in front of us and we’re one step closer.”
Ahead of the 200-mile round-trip on Tuesday for a 7.45 p.m. kick-off, Grandison laughed: “All we wanted was the green-light to play this game — so you’ll not hear us complaining!”
Kelty were declared the winners of the Lowland League on a points-per-game (PPG) basis following 13 fixtures, while Brora claimed the title via the same measure after completing just three games.
That prompted Brechin to table reconstruction as a potential alternative, while Cowdenbeath chairman Donald Findlay questioned the fairness of the playoffs taking place under such unusual circumstances.
But Grandison firmly believes that blocking the route into the league for a second successive season would have damaged faith in the process.
He is also adamant that the progress of previous playoff winners such as Cove Rangers — now fighting for promotion in League 1 — underlines the value that ambitious pretenders can bring to the SPFL.
“I feel like this is the right decision for Scottish football,” continued Grandison.
“We have been inundated by coverage and support — from the BBC to fans on the radio and social media. And I think the general tone is that everyone wanted this game to take place.
“You struggle to find anybody out-with the bottom end of League 2 who doesn’t want these games to go ahead.
“You only need to look at the standard of club who have climbed through the ranks to see how important that path is — Cove Rangers, Edinburgh City. They are good sides with excellent players and have justified their position.”
Grandison was also at pains to heap praise on Kelty manager Ferguson, his coaches and the playing squad of the Maroon Machine for their conduct during a period of uncertainty; during which there was a serious possibility all of their efforts would be in vain.
“The players and the management team have been absolutely outstanding,” he added. “The gaffer has a brilliant group of boys and they way they’ve handled this — the professionalism and work ethic — speaks volumes for the group.
“They have never dropped below maximum effort since returning to training and I know they’ll have even more bounce in their step after the announcement. Hopefully, they get their rewards in the tie to come.”