Wick Academy FC
Club History - From Facebook entry
The club was known in Wick simply as Academy and sometimes in other parts of Caithness as Pulteneytown Academy. An indirect and unofficial connection with the local school of the same name was maintained with the election of a teacher, John Davidson as the first captain or ‘leader' as it was termed in the minute book of the first meeting. The club's first game was a friendly away to Castletown. Home games were played at Harrow Park, now known of course as Harmsworth Park. Ten matches, with only two defeats, were played in that first season against teams like Thurso Thistle, Wick Thistle, John O Groat FC (formed that same year in Wick), Lybster Portland and Dunbeath.
The Wick League was started in 1896 and Academy won the championship in the third season 1898/9, the first of 17 league titles. From 1907 to 1914 Academy had virtually a clean sweep of the league and local cups and in 1911 applied successfully for full membership of the SFA so as to play in the Qualifying Cup.
Academy's Qualifying Cup debut was a home tie on 2 September 1911 and a crowd of about 800 saw a 4-0 win against Inverness Thistle. Men paid 6d, boys 3d, ladies were admitted free and gate receipts were £17. Caldedonian won a 2nd Round tie in Wick 4-1.
Right winger in those games was Jimmy Miller who was later secretary and President, his commitment to the club continuing almost 50 years to 1954.
A Caithness County League was started in 1926/7 by which time the Harmsworth family had bought the park and gifted it to the town with the Burgh Council as trustees and local sports clubs forming a management committee. Only the football clubs seemed prepared to do the work of the ground improvements and building a stone wall to enclose the park. Changing rooms were built and were saved from demolition in 1973 when Academy agreed to keep them in a good state of repair. The building now houses an office and the tea hut. Academy won the county league in 1927/8 and again in 28/9, 30/1, 35/6 and 37/8.
As the only SFA club in Caithness (Thurso Pentland were also members for 3 years from 1936), Academy was allowed to sign players from other clubs to play in Qualifying Cup games. From 1928 onwards they were unbeaten at home in Qualifying Cup ties. In 1933 they beat Nairn, Caley and Keith, all away, to reach the Scottish Cup proper losing 3-0 to a strong Scottish League Division Two side, St Bernard's on 20 January 1934 at the Gymnasium Ground in Edinburgh. In 1936 Academy drew 3-3 in Wick with local rivals Brora Rangers, won the replay and two more games at Forres and Buckie to earn a tie at Stirling. Academy scored first against King's Park but lost 6-1. Several prestigious friendlies were played, Celtic and Aberdeen were among the teams who appeared at Harmsworth Park in the 30s.
Academy had also joined the North of Scotland FA in 1914 but had been unable to play their first tie away to Forres Mechanics as most of their players had been called up by the Territorials. They had to wait until 1954 to be readmitted but made up for lost time with a 4-3 win at Brora Rangers before losing 3-1 in the semi final away to Caley.
In 1960 the Caithness Amateur Football Association switched to summer football and to retain its SFA membership Wick Academy had to stay with the normal winter season playing only cup ties and friendlies for the next 12 years.
In 1972 with Clair Harper now as chairman, the club joined the North of Scotland 2nd XI Association to have regular league fixtures, drawing 2-2 at home to Dingwall Thistle in the first game. Academy were a strong team in this North Reserve League, later to become the North Caledonian League and were champions four seasons running from 78/9 to 81/2 under manager John MacDonald and also won several of the league cups. With former goalkeeper Pat Miller as manager Academy won the league again in 1986/7. In July 1984 Heart of Midlothian fielded a full strength first team in a friendly which attracted 2,400 fans to Harmsworth Park. 900 copies of a souvenir programme sold out five minutes before kick off. Richard Hughes scored for Academy in a 6-1 defeat.
After having several applications knocked back Academy were at last voted into the HFL in 1994 when Caldeonian and Inverness Thistle amalgamated and left to join the SFL along with Ross County. The first game at home to Cove Rangers drew a crowd of 1700 but ended with a 3-0 defeat. After a draw with Rothes, Academy beat the then League leaders Forres Mechanics 1-0 and after three straight wins in October were briefly 4th in the table.
In 2001/2 Qualifying Cup wins over Lossiemouth and Nairn County saw Academy in the Scottish Cup proper and BBC TV cameras were at Harmsworth Park where Threave Rovers won 3-2. Academy regularly reach the semi final of the North Cup but have so far been unable to make it to a final.
Midfielder Martin Gunn represented Scotland in the Four Nations semi-professional tournaments in May 2005 and May 2006.
In January 2007, the club appointed Ian Munro and Richard Hughes as 1st team joint managers after Peter Budge resigned to join the SFA as football development officer at the Highland Football Academy. Munro and Hughes have long been associated with the Caithness side. Munro has been a coach with the club for the past seven years and played for Academy when they played in the North Caledonian Football League between 1977 and 1994 while Hughes also played for Academy in the North Caledonian Football League and the HFL.
After finishing usually between 10th and 13th, Academy completed a run of ten successive league wins in 2008/9 to finish 5th. Co-managers Ian Munro and Richard Hughes received the league's Manager of the Year Award with Richard Macadie voted Player of the Year.
Wick Academy undertook the longest journey in Scottish Cup history (720 miles return) on 27 September 2008 when they played St. Cuthbert Wanderers FC, who are based in Kirkcudbright. Wick won by 3 goals to nil.
In 2009/10 wins over Clachnacuddin and Girvan put the team in the third round of the Scottish Cup for the first time, earning a home tie with SFL Division 2 side Brechin City. Academy almost pulled off a shock but an equaliser for Brechin five minutes from full-time saw the game finish 4-4 and Brechin then won the replay at Glebe Park 4-2. Academy finish the season in 9th spot in the league and midfielder Sam Mackay is voted the Sunday Post Young Player of the year.
2010/11 saw the Scorries under-achieve in the league with a disappointing 14th place finish, but the Club reached their first senior Cup final in September 2011. Academy beat Brora and Thurso to reach the North of Scotland Cup semi-final where we produced a magnificent performance in beating a strong Inverness Caledonian Thistle side 3-1. This set up a final against current cup holders Forres Mechanics. The final was played in Brora and Academy took over 1,000 supporters over the Ord where they created a sea of black and white inside the grounds of Dudgeon Park. Unfortunately Academy had a poor first half and went into the break trailing by three goals to zero. A battling performance in the second half saw the score pegged back to 3-2, but as we pushed for an equaliser the clock ran out and Academy hearts were broken.
It was a similar story in the Scottish Cup in season 2010/11. We go a bye into the second round and drew Whitehill Welfare away at Ferguson Park in Rosewell. Academy traveled as far as Perth the day before the game and woke up on the Saturday morning to the news that the game was postponed due to a water-logged pitch, so had to turn tail and head for home without a boot being dirtied. The return trip the following weekend also ended in disappointment. The sides went in at half time with the spoils shared at a goal each, but Whitehill scored 3 second half goals in a 5 minute spree that put them in a commanding 4-1 lead. Academy however fought back and pulled the score back to 4-3 but again the sands of time ran out and Whitehill went on to face Montrose in the 3rd round whilst Academy headed back up the A9 for another marathon trek home.
At the end of season 2010/11 co-managers Tichie Hughes and Zeeky Munro announced their resignation and the hunt began for a new manager. Former East Fife, Ranger, Hearts, Airdrieonians and Raith Rovers player Davie Kirkwood was appointed into the hot-seat. Davie who had previously worked as head of youth with Raith Rovers, Rangers and Ross County duly appointed Tichie as his assistant and Gary Manson bolstered his back-room team as a player coach, and the was followed shortly afterwards by coach Rab Mulheron. In his first season Davie took the club to 8th in an 18 team league.
The Harmsworth Park also had a make-over during the 2010/11 closed-season. The Club was striving to apply for a SFA National Club License for the start of 2012 and the work necessary to take the park up to the required standard was completed. This included the upgrade of the floodlight, creation of a medical room and a successful safety inspection and associated "letter of compliance" from Highland Council. In additional both stands received a freshen up with bench seating installed against the south stand back wall, boarding was erected around the park perimeter fence, new goal posts were erected and a massive amount of work was done to the playing surface to take it into tip-top condition.
As a result of all the hard work the Club was one of the first Scottish Highland League sides to be awarded a SFA National Club License in February 2012. As a result of obtaining Club licensing the top two licensed SHFL Clubs were invited into the first round of the Ramsdens Cub. Wick Academy along with Inverurie Locos secured the two slots and Academy drew a home tie against Raith Rovers. The Scorries gave the 1st Division side a real fright and at 2-2 it looked as if an upset was on the cards, but unfortunately Raith went on to win the game 4-2. Pre season 2012 saw the club draw with Aberdeen 3-3 Inverness Caledonian Thistle 0- 0.
At the end of August 2012 Manager Davie Kirkwood resigned to join local rivals Brora Rangers. Richard Hughes took over as caretaker manager but the shock resignation of Kirkwood was taken in the stride of the players as they did their talking on the park. As fate would have it Academy met Kirkwood's new team in the semi-final of the North of Scotland Cup within a few weeks of his sudden departure, and the Scorries thrashed Brora 3-0. Academy faced Nairn County in the final which was played on October the 20th 2012, but lost out 2-1 with Nairn’s winner coming in the first period of extra time after the game had ended 1-1.
In the Scottish Cup Academy became the first Highland League team in over 10 years to beat Cup specialists Spartans 2-0 down at Ainslie Park, and then drew another mammoth away trip to Berwick Rangers in the second round. Academy missed a penalty in that game and with the score at 0-0 in the 90th minute and a re-play on the cards Berwick were awarded a penalty of their own which they converted to win the game 1-0.
Barry Wilson was announced as the new manager on October 14th 2012 with caretaker manager Richard Hughes staying on as his assistant. Barry Wilson's first game in charge was a 5-1 demolition of Keith which took his new side to the top of the Highland League.
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