It’s often said top players have an inherent ability to read the game that enables them to anticipate what’s coming next but there’s no way Pollok’s footballing brothers Gary and Stuart McCann could ever have envisaged events that have unfolded over the past 12 months.

Both featured in gaffer Murdie MacKinnon’s starting line-up when the Southsiders brought  February to a close last year with a memorable 4-1 Scottish Junior Cup quarter-final victory away to Neilston (Stuart was on the scoresheet) that set up a double-header  showdown against top-flight rivals Auchinleck Talbot or Hurlford United in the Holy Grail’s penultimate round.

One can imagine the feel-good factor in and around Newlandsfield’s dressing room however this elation was to last only a further 90 minutes of competitive action (a 2-1 West of Scotland Cup win over Dalry Thistle) before the onset of coronavirus saw the season initially put on hold before being abandoned altogether with Pollok subsequently deemed to be third best of the Premier Division pile after final league placings were decided on an average-points-per-game basis.

Elder sibling Gary - he’s 30 and Stuart is 24 - recalled: “I do believe we would have finished one spot higher in the table but the biggest disappointment was undoubtedly the call by the SJFA not to continue with the Scottish Cup.

“It’s the aim of every footballer coming into the Juniors to play in the cup final so to have that opportunity snatched away at such a late stage in the competition was a real kick in the teeth and I felt it more than most, having previously been a losing semi-finalist in 2014 with Irvine Meadow (against Hurlford United).

“Tony McInally signed me just after Beith beat Pollok in the 2016 final and I always thought a club of our stature would be regularly appearing on the big stage but this was as close as I’d come."

Scotland Junior internationalist Gary’s career has been on the up and up ever since mentor Stevie Rankin persuaded the promising Arsenal Boys Club winger prospect to join Ashfield back in 2010 and develop under him and then Saracen Park No.2 MacKinnon.

Gaz revealed: "Stevie and Murdie actually had me training twice a week with Ashfield and taking part in all manner of friendly matches throughout 2009 and I think that intense preparation served me well when I eventually made the step up.

There was to be no such mollycoddling approach in the case of Art College student Stuart who was thrown in at the proverbial deep end as a 16-year-old debutant for Irvine Meadow when the fall-out from a dispute with Medda club officials saw the feted management duo’s initially successful move to take charge of the famous old Ayrshire hit the buffers.

Current Pollok manager MacKinnon insisted: “Stuart had trained at Meadow Park and was a great prospect, more physical than Gary but blessed with the same burning turn of pace so Stevie and I did not hesitate to give him his chance to shine.”

He clearly did that and then some because even after Rankin and McKinnon tendered their resignations and moved away, Stuart remained in the Irvine Meadow fold and played out the season as a first pick under replacement gaffer David Greig before being enticed to put pen to paper for city outfit Petershill where he spent a fairly uneventful season and a bit before teaming up with Gary again through a 2017 transfer to Pollok.

Their pace, bravery and direct approach has established the brothers as Lok fans’ favourites and there was good cause for both to be looking forward to the Covid-19 delayed start to this season prior to the early October bombshell announcement of Pollok opting to withdraw from the inaugural WOSFL season.

Stuart said: “We had played a total of four friendly matches, all against city clubs in order to meet protocols stating you had to cut down on travel, winning three before losing 3-1 away to St Rochs in our final outing.

“Maybe having whispers circulating about what was coming next was a contributory factor in our defeat but what I do know for definite was that a meeting, called a few days after the St Rochs game, voted for Pollok not to play this season.

“Some of the guys were keen to keep playing through loan deals and my mind was made up for me on that score by Queens Park getting in touch with an invitation to train at Hampden Park so I went there with Murdie’s blessing .

“I’m a student and able to fit in studies with full-time training so it was a great experience and I was treated very well however the intention to sign me during the January transfer window in order to play competitive games was kyboshed by the latest lockdown and I’ve now resigned myself to returning to Pollok.

“Like everyone else, I still cannot set foot anywhere inside Newlandsfield but I go through laid-down training routines alongside Gary every day to keep ourselves ticking over as best we can.

“Obviously match sharpness is a problem and in this respect Murdie is keen for our entire squad to go out on short-term loan deals to Conference or Lowland League clubs but even they are prevented from playing by current restrictions and nobody knows if or when a restart will ever be possible.”

Stuart’s demonstration of a McCann-do attitude is shared by big bro Gary, one of those very same Pollok players trapped in a seemingly perpetual state of limbo after his coming to an agreement in January to join first Junior club Ashfield was wrecked a few days later by the SFA and Scottish Government  combining to impose a suspension  on all lower league football which is not due for review until Monday 1st March.

He insisted: “Working out with Stuart is all very well but there’s nothing to beat an all-in session with a team so I was keen to go along to Ashfield where my former team-mates Paul Maxwell and Ryan Cairley are in charge.

“Pollok pair Josh Lumsden and Josh Weir are also there on loan but they like myself have never had the chance to hone their fitness levels and it’s even worse that Ashfield are prevented from playing any competitive matches because that’s the main reason for coming to Saracen Park in the first place.

“I’d love to do Maxi and my old team a turn but  it works both ways as Murdie wants to improve each and every Pollok player’s match fitness in case the go-ahead is given for the Scottish Junior Cup to be played.

“We can only wait and see what happens but first and foremost I would think a decision will need to be made on whether the WOSFL can resume without testing players.”

Meanwhile, sad to hear news from down in Kilwinning this week of the passing of much respected club official Tommy Moore who devoted more than 30 years to serving the Ayrshire club in various roles and had also earned the distinction of  life-long membership of the SJFA.

Tommy, a straight-talking type whose gruff tongue never spared members of the Press if he thought reports on his beloved Buffs were even slightly off the mark, was regarded,  in tandem with wife Betty, as part of the fixtures and fittings at the old Abbey Park and will be sadly missed.