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  • North Caledonian Football Association

It has been some 37 years since the Fort William first team played a North Caledonian League game at Claggan Park.

Save for a fleeting spell in the league as a reserve side in the late 2000s, Fort William's last season was their highly decorated campaign in 1984-85, when they won the League Championship, the Chic Allan Cup and the Morris Newton Cup before making a successful application to join the Highland Football League in 1985.

They return to the North Caley in 2022 as the first club to be relegated via the North Football Pyramid system after its introduction last year.

You will struggle to find a story of relegation that makes for fond memories, and certainly for "The Fort", their's was no exception.

Under the management of Shadab Iftikhar, the Lochaber side clocked up seven points, finishing 11 points adrift of their closest rivals, Turriff United. Iftikhar announced his resignation on May 22nd and was promptly replaced by former ex Crawley Town U23 coach Chris Baffour.

The newly appointed manager is focussed on developing a winning mentality at the club, as the club look to make a quick return to the fifth tier.

"Last season didn't go so well for the club with a string of poor results whilst having to play all matches away.

"There has been a lot of changes made on the back of that. Moving forward, we will be looking to bring in players that have the desire to be playing football professionally, and they can help us to perform very well in the league.

"But after being relegated from the Highland League, it's clear from everyone at the club that the main goal for this season is to get back up."

Little is known about the squad Fort William will bring into the North Caley, or who they have been able to retain from their last Highland League campaign.

The club will begin a short three week pre-season on August 1st by holding an open training session at their Claggan Park home. But the manager has tried to ensure that his present squad stay active in the meantime.

"All of our players have received their individual off season program until we meet for pre-season.

"There has been a complete revamp in the squad and the players have informed me that they can't wait to meet the supporters and finally get started.'

Fort's opening game of the season against Golspie Sutherland will not only be their first in the North Caledonian League for several decades, but also their first competitive game at Claggan Park in over two years, having played each of their 2021-22 games away from home.

The manager added: "It will be great for the community to once again have their local team playing at home and we will promise to make their efforts to come and watch the game worthwhile."