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John Maclellan hails St Duthus as ‘more than a football club’ after taking over manager’s role from Alan Geegan ahead of 2024/25 North Caledonian League season

By Andrew Henderson

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St Duthus have confirmed the appointment of John Maclellan as the club’s new manager ahead of the 2024/25 North Caledonian League season.

The 30-year-old is a Tain native, and works as a PE teacher at Invergordon Academy.

John Maclellan has taken over the reigns of St Duthus ahead of the 2024/25 North Caledonian League season.
John Maclellan has taken over the reigns of St Duthus ahead of the 2024/25 North Caledonian League season.

He has played for the club since 2022 alongside playing and managing Tain Thistle in the summer amateur league, and will now take on a similar role in the North Caley after replacing Alan Geegan.

Maclellan cannot wait to get going as St Duthus manager, saying the backing from all levels of the club made it an easy decision.

“I really am delighted,” Maclellan explained.

“If I’m being honest with myself, in retrospect as soon as Alan let us know that he wasn’t going to be there next season I was thinking it could be a good opportunity for me.

“As time went on and I spoke to different people, the likes of my dad and my friends and (club chairman) Niall Harkiss, I became more and more certain it was something I wanted to do.

“It’s a great opportunity, and with the group of boys who are there, who wouldn’t want to do it?

“In the last week or so I feel like I got the clarity I needed, and now I’m really excited to get started.

“There are a group of boys there who are all pulling in the same direction. We finished the season really strongly, and over the last third of the season or so we clicked really well on and off the pitch.

“I really want to harness that energy and keep it going into next season.”

Timing is everything, and Maclellan certainly feels like the stars have aligned for him to take on the role.

Although a Tain native, Maclellan did not turn out in St Duthus colours until 2022.
Although a Tain native, Maclellan did not turn out in St Duthus colours until 2022.

Prior to joining St Duthus two years ago he had spent six years in Dubai playing for the Dubai All-Stars, where he would face teams with different styles from various countries.

That has helped develop his football knowledge, and he fully intends on putting that to use with the Tain Saints.

“We would play northern African teams who would be very fit and skilful, and then next you would play against the Dubai Irish who would maybe be a little bit more aggressive,” he recalled.

“I was in Dubai for six years. I initially went out because I wasn’t very well travelled at all, and I wanted to do a bit of exploring in the world.

“That part of me just left me, and I wanted to come home and be more present in my family and friends’ lives, and in my community because Tain does mean an awful lot to me.

“I feel like that has really given me a broader experience going into the St Duthus job. The club actually reformed the year I left for Dubai, so in my head they were always an extension of Tain Thistle.

“When I was away, I would be looking for their results, and I’m good mates with a few of the former players so I would always be looking for St Duthus to do well.

“When I did come back, there was no other choice for me. I’m from Tain, I’m a local boy, and I wouldn’t have gone anywhere else.”

Since reforming in 2016 after 11 years in abeyance, St Duthus have reached multiple cup finals – even winning the North Caledonian Cup in 2018 and 2022.

St Duthus lifted the North Caledonian Cup in 2022 thanks to a 1-0 win over Halkirk United
St Duthus lifted the North Caledonian Cup in 2022 thanks to a 1-0 win over Halkirk United

Maclellan’s task will be to try and build on the successes of years gone by, but in his mind his remit goes far beyond the football pitch.

“I want to progress the club forward as much as I can,” he added.

“At Tain Thistle, I feel like I’ve been able to implement a style of play where players can go and express themselves and take risks. We’ve got a lot of very talented players within the squad, but at the same time we make sensible decisions.

“When it’s time to get stuck in and do the dirty work and the boring stuff – things like our positioning, aggression and communication – we’re ready for that.

“That balance between those two aspects of football is something I want to bring to St Duthus and perpetuate as much as I can.

“We’re a close group of boys, and all of them are St Duthus daft. The group chat is constantly talking about how we can make St Duthus better and bouncing ideas off each other.

“As the manager, I’m just going to be an extension of that and try to facilitate that energy and harness that as much as possible to bring the club forward.

“Something that’s important to me is that it’s not just a football club. I know that sounds a bit cliche, but I put a message into the chat when I got announced to say that I would have their backs no matter what, because I care about all of them individually and this club on a personal level.

“If anyone is struggling with anything inside or outside of football, or if there’s anything I can do better, I want us to have that open communication where things are allowed to be said and people can come to me with anything.

“That ties in with our sponsors, Mikeysline. Their service shows that there are people there who will listen if you’re struggling, and you’re never on your own.

“I am passionate about that, and I want the St Duthus players to feel like they can come to me with anything.”

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