GALA Fairydean Rovers are gearing up for the new 2020-21 Lowland League season with a clutch of exciting signings. Despite the Covid-19 lockdown, the club has been busy behind the scenes securing the signatures of players to compete in Scotland's fifth-tier set up.
Manager Neil Hastings is anxiously waiting for the green light from the football authorities to resume training at Netherdale and decisions from the Lowland League on when competitive fixtures can resume. But having put together arguably the strongest-looking squad on paper for years, Gala are eagerly anticipating the season ahead and confident of competing against the league's big guns which will again include Kelty Hearts and Bonnyrigg Rose - who were denied moving up to the senior set-up when reconstructions talks broke down.
Defender Calum Hall from Edinburgh City is a notable new face to the squad but Gala were also delighted to retain the services of star players such as Danny Galbraith, Gareth Rodger and striker Zander Murray with East Kilbride showing strong interest in the latter before he pledged his future at Netherdale. Local lads Marc Berry, Craig McBride, Tommy Patterson, Jacob Campbell and Kit McRitchie have all signed up again while last season's player of the year trophy winners Ben Herdman, Lewis Grant and Fraser Morton will be back in Gala colours. With stalwarts including Scott Taylor McKenzie and Ross Aitchison also on board, Gala have never looked stronger and there is optimism they
can be challenging for honours when the season finally does get underway.
But one familiar face who will be missing from the Netherdale dug-out is assistant manager Eddie Mangan who has landed a dream job coaching youngsters and setting up a football academy in Sri Lanka.
He said:"I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at the club and will miss everyone.
"Gala is a very special club and I am proud to have been connected with it.
"I wish everyone at the club well for the future and would like to say a big thank you for giving me the opportunity to coach at Netherdale."
Gala Fairydean Rovers chairman Ryan Cass said:
"Everyone at the club wishes Eddie all the best for the future.
"He is a popular lad and it is a shame to lose him but we would never want to stand in the way of such an exciting opportunity for him.
"Personally I want to thank him for his positivity and commitment to Gala Fairydean Rovers FC."
Manager Hastings is now on the look-out for a new assistant to bolster his backroom team but must be satisfied with his playing staff particularly with new recruits Archie Roue from Civil Service Strollers and Liam Campbell from Pumpherston on board along with local pair Jack Temple and Joe Tait as well as Hall.
Gala tried to bring the versatile defender - who turns 20 next month - to Netherdale last season but after his contract expired at Edinburgh City the Braw Lads moved quickly to snap him up.
Hall said:"I am delighted to be joining Gala and coming to a club with high ambitions and expectations.
"The club has given me a great opportunity to play and learn which is the main factor for me just now.
"Hopefully we can go on to have a really successful season as we have got a young hard working team that want to play total football."
Chairman Cass is also pleased with the work behind-the-scenes bolstering the playing squad and welcomed the youngster to Netherdale.
He said:"On behalf of everyone at Gala Fairydean Rovers we are so delighted to finally bring Calum to the club.
"He will fit in well at Gala with his work-ethic and views on the style of football we play.
"It's refreshing to hear his passion and admiration on the way be believes the game should be played."
"This proves the huge strides Neil and Eddie have made in the last 12 months. Their recruitment over the last year has been different class.
"We have also re-signed most of our squad from last season so it's an exciting period for us and plenty to build on.
"We can't wait to get going again and look forward to seeing football and our supporters back down at Netherdale in the near future."