THE very moment Glenafton capped their outstanding 2016/17 trophy treble with a 2-0 Evening Times Champions Cup Final victory over Glasgow Perthshire was when the Ayrshire club’s manager Craig McEwan turned his thoughts to next season.

While the champagne corks popped all around him and both players and supporters celebrated wildly at New Tinto Park, he respectfully praised beaten finalists Shire before lauding his own players for their achievements.

The congratulatory calls from fellow club bosses poured in over the weekend and were both welcome and warmly received but already Southy was looking ahead and striving to improve both himself and his Glens team.

Annan Athletic’s close season swoop for skilful midfielder Dan Orsi was undoubtedly a blow but one more than compensated for by the Loch Park arrivals of experienced pair James McKernon (Queen's Park) and Dale Moore (Troon) while the decision to allow Chris Meikle and back-up goalkeeper Blair Lochead to move on was covered by recruiting Iain McKnight and Scott Watson.

Having the latter part of his twin aims done and dusted saw the Glens gaffer recently enrol on an SFA coaching course for his 'B' licence, based at Broadwood Stadium, where he found himself being schooled by Jimmy Bone and Andy Smith along with the likes of ex-Rangers players Darren McGregor and Richard Foster.

One-time full-back Southy, who won a raft of Scotland Under 21 caps during Senior playing stints with Clyde and Raith Rovers, admitted: “I played at a decent standard but never at the top level of the game in Scotland so to see up close the mentality of the guys who play there is really something.

“The final parts of the course are not due to be completed until later this year and the idea then is to go back to Glenafton as a better and more learned football coach and hopefully with lots of good habits and tips to pass onto my players.

He added: “What was quite extraordinary was the fact I was the only Junior team manager in attendance as I truly believe players at our level and the end product out on the pitch will derive a great benefit from managers taking these courses.

“I know there is a cost involved and time needing to be taken away from day jobs but a good first step would be the SJFA finding a way to part fund clubs to help them put forward candidates.”

Though decidedly not for dwelling on last season’s remarkable successes, Southy believes his players are paying a price for being crowned the kings of Junior football.

He reflected: “A lot of teams are setting out their stall to stop us playing and are extra motivated in wanting to take our scalps so we as group have to raise our own standards and meet the challenges.

“Our 1-1 draw last weekend against Arthurlie was a case in point because we started the game as well as we have in any game this season and I couldn’t believe we found ourselves trailing 1-0 at half-time.

“Getting a goal back had me thinking we could go on to take the points but to be honest Arthurlie gave as good as they got over the closing stages and a draw was probably a fair reflection.

“Next up are home games against one of the surprise packets Kilbirnie Ladeside followed by Pollok and I cannot help but think these are must win contests for us even though the league season is still in it’s infancy.”

Southy was at pains to point out the factors impinging on his side’s chances of retaining their Super Premier Division crown.

He reasoned: “A very good Beith team are currently eight points ahead of us from a game more played and that in itself is quite a gap but it could potentially become even greater over the coming weeks because of fixtures.

“Next weekend Glenafton are without a league game because of our Scottish Cup first round obligations against Threave Rovers taking precedence and we also have the Ardagh Glass Cup Final against Auchinleck Talbot looming up three weeks down the line so the possibility exists of Beith building an awesome 14 points lead.

“All we can do is try to stay on their shirt tails by winning our own league games but that in itself is a huge ask and will require my players to find their best form.”

Mention of the Scottish Cup proper where Glenafton are strongly fancied to overcome Threave Rovers and clinch a second round tie on Saturday, October 14, had Southy pointing to the scoring feats of his striker Chris Dallas.

He said: “The big fellow has roared out of the blocks the season and has already chalked up 15 competitive goals but what is notable is six of his total have come in the big Scottish and if he could just bag a few more against Threave then he would be firmly in the running for the William Hill top goalscorer award come next May.”