Way back at the start of the doomed 2020/21 season, Mark McKay was telling anyone who would listen that his emerging Vale of Clyde team could hold their own in the WoSFL’s inaugural campaign.

And few can deny his predominantly youthful youngsters did him proud. Five points from seven games secured ninth in the hotly contested Conference B Division after Covid brought the season to an early conclusion.

A year on, now in his fourth year at Tollcross, he believes the upcoming 2021/22 season will pose an even tougher test for his players. "From what I can gather the Conference Divisions are now to revert to what was their original format before the withdrawals at the start of last season caused a necessary rejigging," he said.

"The upshot is Vale of Clyde having a place in Conference C but this revamp (before any new teams are added) has all manner of  pros and cons.

“On the upside we have fewer long journeys on our plate with only one Ayrshire side, Ardrossan Winton Rovers, to be faced. Howeverm, Conference C resembles a mini-Glasgow League in many respects seeing as it contains fully six city based clubs in Petershill, St Rochs, St Anthonys, Yoker Athletic, Drumchapel United, and Glasgow Perthshire along with ourselves.

“The rivalry between our clubs promises to be intense and will make points hard to come by. Particularly in going head to head with the Peasy and Drumchapel, two of the big spenders who are already being tipped as title challengers before a ball is kicked. 

"There is also the prospect of yet again coming up against Neilston, outright Conference B leaders when a halt was called and probably the best team we faced last season.

“Vale of Leven are the only other opponent from last time out that are back in with us therefore we are going to be largely in the dark as to the playing strengths of the vast majority of Conferennce C sides.

“But by the same token , Vale of Clyde will be something of an unknown quantity and I’m hoping that can work in our favour.”.

The 39-year-old’s confidence stems from him recently enlisting the services of an experienced backroom team in the shape of former Vale goalkeeper and ex-Fauldhouse United manager Jonn Connolly as well as renowned Saturday Morning League team boss David Andrews .

He added: "The three of us have been putting our heads together to try and bring a bit of normality to our dressing room by retaining a large slice of last season’s squad  and talks have gone even better than expected with all of 14 players committed to coming back.

“Our club captain Lee Morrison set an example by being one of the first to give his word and other experienced old heads such as goalkeeper Don Scott and John McHugh are likewise on board.

“It’s inevitable that some guys that our preference is to keep will move on but we have several irons in the fire as things stand and hope to  have several new faces to unveil by the time we restart  training around May 17.

“Here is the possibility of an invite arriving for us to take part in an earlier pre-season tournament  but it’s probably best if we take a break for the next 6/7 Saturdays and concentrate instead on new signings..”

The one time Rutherglen Glencairn hitman admitted to having no choice other than to remain tight lipped over his reputed signing  targets.

He revealed candidly: "Every penny is a prisoner here at Vale of Clyde so we are not a buying club by any means and rely almost entirely on raiding the amateur and Under 21 ranks for players.

“But therein lies a Coronavirus caused conundrum because amateur football has been banned since way before the first lockdown and most players at that level  have not kicked a ball in over 16 months.

“And to make matters worse some of the guys who had shown promise back then became disillusioned with the game and have turned their back on  football altogether which leaves clubs like ours starting from scratch inn searching out new talent.

“It might not be everyone’s cup of tea but there are gems out there doing the miles and hard work to get them could be the difference between a poor and successful season.”

Elsewhere Irvine Meadow are looking to sign midfielder Michael Wardrope. Co-bosses James Latta and Colin Spence will have no doubt what the former Ayr United prospect can do, having worked with him previously while Latta was teammate at Kilwinning Rangers.