Gartcairn boss Willie Kinniburgh fears the lower league suspension could be the final nail in the coffin of a nightmare season.

The uncertainty of Covid and a lack of promotion in the West of Scotland League Conferences this season has seen a host of star players leave the club over the last few months.

A season that started with much excitement and high hopes has all but evaporated with ex-Partick Thistle striker Gary Harkins never kicking a ball in a competitive game, Steven Saunders heading to Lowland League East Kilbride and, most recently, key striker Martin Grehan quitting to join his old club BSC Glasgow, also in the Lowland League.

Martin Grehan in action for Gartcairn

It’s been a huge blow to the Airdrie outfit and although he understands why their big signings have moved on, the latest setback for the club could see the season end.

Kinniburgh, whose side are eighth in Conference B, said: “We were just in the process of trying to revamp a squad that we had built and then lost, and it looks like we’re losing them again, so it has been an eventful season.

“I spoke to Martin. We’re non-competitive and he wasn’t sure whether he would carry on next year, and was just looking to possibly finish his career off in a competitive league, which I understand, so I had no issues.

Lower League Football Suspension

“We weren’t offering him anything other than a game on a Saturday which ultimately didn’t mean an awful lot, other than it being like a private league between the teams that were in it, so it was fair enough.

“It was the same with Steven Saunders and the rest of them that are all away.

“It’s a bit frustrating, but we’ve got to deal with it.

“Had it been a competitive league we wouldn’t have lost the four or five players that we did, so you just roll with the punches, get on with it, and then hopefully gather a decent squad again for next year.”

Steven Saunders has signed for East Kilbride

Kinniburgh understands why the SFA imposed the suspension of football, and just hopes it doesn’t get worse.

While surprised that their setup came under the ‘professional’ bracket, Kinniburgh fears the final whistle could have blown on the campaign.

He said: “When things get worse you’ve got to look at people’s health and consider things like that.

“That comes first, and if they’re mingling with players during the day on a Saturday and a couple of nights training, then going into their work and doing the same it becomes a problem – and they’ve got their families to think about.

“I just hope it’s three weeks, things don’t worsen and it ends up longer.

Willie Kinniburgh is at the helm at Gartcairn
Willie Kinniburgh is at the helm at Gartcairn

“The fear is that they might end up scrapping everything and we wouldn’t want that, but health comes first and you want everything to be back sooner rather than later.

“There had been whispers about it happening for a while now, with the way things were going with Covid, so I wasn’t surprised.

“I was surprised that we fell under the bracket of ‘professional’ in the first place, though.”

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Kinniburgh has also seen players fail to hit the heights with nothing to play for.

He added: “It has been a tough year but it has been tough for everybody and sometimes football is a wee bit of an escape, when you’re playing.

“I can certainly see with some of the players in our squad that the edge isn’t quite there, because you’re not playing for promotion, and I think we’ve suffered quite badly for it.

Gary Harkins joined Gartcairn in the summer

“I suppose it is hard to gee yourself up, be there fully and give 100 per cent when you’ve been looking forward to something and then it’s not quite what you’re going to be playing for.

“As much as you think you might be doing it, your body has already given up the ghost.

“It’s disappointing in that sense, but it’s up to us to get it right for next season, go forward and have a team that’s going to compete at the top end.”

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