John Coughlin reckons his toughest job this week has been getting his East Stirlingshire players back to reality as they prepare to face Elgin City at Ochilview on Saturday.
The Shire coach knew he would not have to do too much to get his side up for last weekend’s trip to Ibrox but he is aware there may be an adverse reaction to that game and it is something he must guard against.
His fear that the Elgin game may seem like a comedown to his players is uppermost in his mind.
“It is all very well playing in front of 50,000 people at Ibrox,” he said. “No-one has to raise their game for that kind of experience. But how players react when they return to normality is very important.
“My job now is to forget all the hype surrounding the Rangers game and get the players focused on playing Elgin City at Ochilview in front of a crowd of 300,” he said.
Coughlin says his players would not be human if they did not feel the difference in atmosphere and build up to the game, but is warning them they will just have to get over it and knuckle down.
“It is only natural that some of them might feel a sense of anti-climax in facing Elgin a week after what for most will have been the biggest game of their lives,” said the Shire boss. “But that must not affect their performance this weekend.
“When you think about it, the Elgin match is probably a lot more important than the one against Rangers. That may seem like a strange thing to say but the chances of winning at Ibrox were nil, while winning against Elgin is vitally important and achievable.”
A tough opening two matches have left Shire once more sitting in the wooden spoon position in the Third Division table and they need points quickly if they are not to be left behind on the starting line.
The first two fixtures were as tough as they come, especially the trip to Ibrox where little was expected of them. But now is the time the team has to start proving things have changed from last season.
“We have spent more money on the team than last term and have brought in better quality players,” he said. “I hope we will be a lot more competitive than last term but we have to start showing it.
“Elgin will be a difficult set of opponents but, if the players get it right, then this could be the day when we get our first points of the season. For that reason alone it is a more important game than last week.”
Coughlin is hoping that David Greenhill will be available for the Elgin City match.
The former Berwick Rangers player’s father died after a short battle with cancer only hours after the Ibrox game on Saturday but he has returned to training this week and the coach is hoping the player will be ready to take his place in the starting eleven.
“David was very keen to try to get back to some kind of normality and routine,” he said. “To that end he was back in at training on Tuesday night. But we will talk to him and see whether playing on Saturday is something he feels he wants to do. There will be no pressure from us. Losing a parent is a terrible thing and it really does put football into perspective.”
The Shire boss may have to do without centre-half Ricky Miller who went off early at Ibrox. He has been receiving treatment for a hamstring problem and Coughlin says the only solution may be rest.
“Ricky has been complaining of sore hamstrings for a couple of weeks now and the effort he put in against Rangers eventually told when we were forced to substitute him. I would say he remains in the doubtful category.”
That could mean a first start for teenager Sean Kelly who last week joined Shire on a month-long loan from St. Mirren in time to make his debut in the second half against Rangers.
“You won’t get a tougher situation to be thrown into,” said Coughlin.
“There were some understandable nerves but the young lad comes highly-recommended and we hope he does a good turn for us,” he said.