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'It's time to give something back', says new manager of Tain amateurs

By Niall Harkiss

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They were, at one time, one of the most decorated amateur football teams in the north.

But long-time summer contenders, Tain Thistle, have not kicked a ball in anger since 2019.

Now, as the new season looms, one of the team's former players is setting the wheels in motion for a dramatic revival.

New Tain Thistle manager John Maclellan says it is time for him to "give something back".
New Tain Thistle manager John Maclellan says it is time for him to "give something back".

First established in 1997 by Gordon and Pat Burry as a welfare football club, the club competed for many years as members of the now defunct Ross-shire Welfare League.

The club eventually built a reputation as a proving ground for young players from Tain and the surrounding area, with several youngsters, such as Garry Perks, Steven Martin, Liam Rostock and Arron Christie, also finding their feet at Highland League level.

The 'Jags' finally achieved success on the park in 2007 when they won the Pattisons' Challenge Cup, before the club went on to win the Ross-shire Welfare League itself in 2009, and again in 2013.

By the end of the 2010s, they had become the dominant force in the league, with multiple cup successes and three back-to-back league championships (in 2015, 2016 and 2017) to their name.

The collapse of the Ross-shire Welfare FA in 2018 meant that Thistle had to make a switch to amateur status and it was then that they found a home in the North West Sutherland amateur league.

The away days were further flung, but they were able to continue their success – winning the North West Sutherland AFA league title and the Polla Cup in 2018, and the league once more in 2019.

But like many clubs, things came to a standstill during the pandemic. Team manager Tony Farquhar announced his decision to step down in 2021, and when the league resumed competition in 2022, the club opted out of competing.

Fast forward one year and from the ashes, a new hope arises.

This year, the club have appointed a new manager in ex-player, John Maclellan – and he says he is ready to put Tain Thistle back on the summer football map.

The club also confirmed that they have rejoined the North West Sutherland Amateur League for 2023 and will compete in Division 2 of the new set up.

Maclellan, who lives in Edderton and works locally as a PE teacher, believes that it is time for him, and players like him, to give something back.

He said: "So many people over the years have put in so much of their own time and effort running Tain Thistle for teams that I’ve been involved in, and I’m excited about the opportunity to take that on myself and give something back."

The new gaffer, who first played for Thistle at the age of 15, returned to Scotland last summer after six years working in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where he played for amateurs Dubai All Stars.

He added: "I’ve got so many good memories of playing for Tain as a schoolboy and being shown the ropes by boys such as Darran Goller and Marty Farquhar. We’ve had a lot of success over the years, and looking back, kicking a ball for Tain and having the craic with the boys is always a part of the year I’ve looked forward to.

"Three years is too long for a club like Tain Thistle to not be competing, and I’m looking forward to helping get the club back where it belongs."

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