THERE is no shortage of ready-made excuses available in advance of Glenafton’s anticipated return to the Scottish football scene for the 2021/22 season, but do not expect to hear any being made by their new management team, boss Mick McCann and his newly-appointed No.2 Brian McGarrity.

The Ayrshire club’s decision to release their entire squad after withdrawing from the inaugural WoSFL season last October leaves the untested pair without a playing framework and starting from scratch.

It is far from ideal with fully seven sides to be relegated from the 20-club Premier Division, but both McCann and McGarrity are well aware that neither their fledgling status nor their feted playing careers with the Glens will save them from criticism if they fail to triumph over adversity.

The difficult task of replacing their former team-mates is uppermost in their thoughts according to former goalkeeper McGarrity after his unveiling last week as assistant manager.

“Glenafton are potentially a huge club with expectations to match after the high standards set by the previous management team of Southy [Craig McEwan] and Pottsy [Craig Potter]," he said.

“Mick and I always knew filling their shoes was going to be difficult, but probably an even bigger ask is to put together a dressing room similarly packed with so many quality players at this level.

“A winning Glenafton side, particularly one playing with a bit of style, is a sure-fire way to get fans onside as we both know from playing here and our intention is to draw from that experience when it comes to building a team.

“Mick took up the helm mid-season when it’s too early to make new signings and neither are we allowed to take in games and run the eye over recommendations, but nevertheless definite progress has been made on the playing front."

McGarrity started out at Annbank United and moved on to become second fiddle to Andy Leishman at Auchinleck Talbot for two seasons before joining the Glens in 2013 where he quickly established himself as the Loch Park No.1.

He was between the sticks throughout their successful 2017 campaign, winning the treble of Scottish Junior Cup, Premier Division title and Evening Times Cup, but a year later, he was prematurely forced to call time on his playing career due to a serious knee injury.

“Injuring my knee in a game against Rob Roy sidelined me for the entire season, but the following summer I returned to play in a few pre-season friendly matches despite suffering some discomfort," the 32-year-old said. “I gritted my teeth to then play in our opening league game away to Auchinleck, but had to come off injured and a subsequent hospital revealed I had ruptured my [posterior] cruciate ligament. The NHS were not willing to operate and reverse the damage just for me to pursue my playing career and the costs involved in going private were prohibitive so I decided to hang up the boots.

“I still wanted to be involved with Glenafton, but the idea of coaching goalkeepers has never appealed in the slightest so I did what I felt was the next best thing by obtaining a seat alongside the many punters in the Mick Morran Stand to support the team.

“Seeing things from a different perspective was an enjoyable experience, but obviously that all ended when Coronavirus forced clubs into playing behind closed doors and caused an early halt to last season as well as forcing Glenafton’s officials to pull out of the first WoSFL season.

“Football and their local team Glenafton means everything to the New Cumnock folk so it was an extremely tough call to make, but the right one as it turns out because weekly testing is the only safeguard against players unknowingly spreading the virus …yet a year down the line and it’s still not mandatory at lower league level.

“We all miss our football on Saturday afternoons, but surely not at any cost.”

So how did McGarrity graduate from avid Glenafton fan to assistant manager?

"Mick and I have played together at Annbank, Talbot as well as the Glens and for the last few seasons have been travelling companions due to the fact we both stay in and around Annbank," he said. “Neither of us have been shrinking violets when it comes to being a voice in dressing rooms or indeed during car journeys so we had many frank exchanges of views and had spoken previously about joining forces if the opportunity ever arose, and now it has at Glenafton.

“This is Mick’s gig so he’ll be the figurehead who sets the standards, and my job is to support him in attaining them.”