Manager Ronnie Sharp says County Nairn may have to move away from youth development to ensure the survival of the Highland League.
Wee County have long been keen on giving youngsters a chance in the first team and promoting from within, with several players having come through the ranks at Station Park in recent years.
Jordan MacRae and Max Ewan are just two examples of players who made their mark at Nairn and then signed for Brora Rangers, but Sharp fears the club’s current model is not sustainable.
Nairn are currently second in the Highland League with no wins to their name, and after Fort William’s relegation to the Highland League last season, Sharp knows that the most important thing is to get results now rather than build for the future.
“It’s getting harder and harder to find young blood players – you really have to choose between going that route or looking for more hardened professional boys who have played at a slightly higher level, or even just in the Highland League for a long time” , said Sharp.
“We are getting to the stage where there has to be a choice one way or the other.
“We’re near the bottom so the youngsters are going to have to be really good for me to strap them down. You have to win in the Highland League now with relegation coming up so we might have to sacrifice that.
“It’s something we have to look at – you don’t have many games left in the league now that you can try to bring in youngsters.
“The other side is that we’ve been doing it for years, but a lot of players have moved on to the top teams in the Highland League.
“You start to wonder if it’s worth continuing to do this for them to move on because we’ve lost so many players to the top four or five teams in the Highland League.”
If Nairn decides to prioritize more immediate success over player development, it will require a change in approach from what Sharp has been used to on the training ground over recent seasons.
“It’s very difficult when you’re used to coaching to develop players,” he admitted.
“That’s why we created our reserve team in the North Caley League, but right now you’re like ‘how is this going to work out financially?’ This could be the key question to maintain it or not.
“You may have to spend your money elsewhere. That’s what we need to look at over the next few years.
“At the moment we know that we are going to have to step up our game, but our problem is to bleed the younger ones – because they need time to get used to this league, but we don’t have time.
“When you come in now you look at all the teams and probably from around 10th there are only three wins between everyone.
“There’s not much in it, if you win a few games it can propel you up the league and give you confidence, but we have to prioritize winning games now. We may need to be a bit more ruthless with the players.”