East Stirlingshire coach John Coughlin will this week start the process of rebuilding his squad for next season.
Over the next few days the players who finished the club’s last campaign will find out whether or not they will be offered new contracts but Coughlin is already admitting there will have to be something of a clear out.
He knows full well that the league position does not lie and that a last place finish is nothing to celebrate.
“It is fairly obvious that we need to bring in better quality players to improve our fortunes on the pitch,” he said. “So it is inevitable that some of those who have been here will be going.
“But it has not been all bad news. We have uncovered more than a few who I think will be able to make the grade and we will be keen to keep those players at the club for next season.”
Coughlin is not the only person at the Shire glad to see the back of the season that ended with Saturday’s 2-0 defeat at Peterhead. However, he claims their final league position was in many ways dictated by the club’s off-the-field problems last summer.
“When I came to the club there were only three signed players and the place seemed to an outsider to be in turmoil,” said Coughlin. “The club had no training facilities and when I organised a bounce game to look at trialists we were struggling to get a set of strips for them to play in.
“But the strides the club has made since then are enormous. There is still a long way to go but in terms of organisation it is night and day since then. There is also a bit of financial stability and that is vital as well. There are all sorts of factors that determine where you finish in the league that go well beyond 90 minutes of football on a Saturday and people have to appreciate that,” said the Shire coach.
His first task in the next stage of the club’s re-building process will be to find a new crop of players who can improve the overall standard. Coughlin says, though, that progress will have to be measured and cannot go faster than the club can afford.
“I think there is a simple aim as far as playing personnel goes,” he said. “If we are letting players go then we have to find a person who replaces each of them who is better in that position.
“I am not saying there is going to be an overnight transformation of the club’s fortunes because I do not think there are the resources to do that. Yes, we need to progress but that progress has to be measured against what the club can afford.”
Coughlin has already set a date for the start of pre-season training and says getting that right, along with player recruitment, will be absolutely vital to enjoying a more successful season.
“When you look back the two biggest handicaps we had last year were a struggle to find players and the lack of a decent pre-season,” he said. “The financial situation imposed its own problems.
“On top of that the pre-season arrangements were not ideal with the club trying to sort out facilities at the last minute, venues would change week to week and it all left us massively under-prepared when the games started.”
This season Coughlin knows he has a permanent base for pre-season at Little Kerse, friendly matches in July are being organised will be announced soon, there is more money in his budget to attract some players who know the ropes, and he is hoping that all adds up to the promise of something better.
“There is no doubt that the club is moving in the right direction,” he said. “A lot of people are putting in a great amount of time and effort to improve things and you hope that it will all pay off when we are ready to resume next season,” he said.