A new mood of optimism is blossoming at East Stirlingshire, according to the club’s chairman, with fans dipping into their pockets to buy season tickets and help the club financially.
Coach John Coughlin’s summer signings have made a big impression with the Bainsford side’s faithful followers and, according to Tony Ford, there is a fresh feeling about the Shire.
“There is no doubt that the terrible end to last season left everyone feeling really down,” he said. “We went from a position in February when we seemed to be on the verge of the play-offs to ending up losing our last 10 games. After ending up bottom I think we just needed to put everything behind us and find fresh focus and we have done that, especially over the last few weeks when we started to get players to agree to come here.”
Ford admitted he was surprised by the quality of player on Coughlin’s summer shopping list, and perhaps even more taken aback when every single player the coach had identified agreed to put pen to paper. He says some of those who will start pre-season training next week could have opted to go elsewhere and, if they had he might not have been surprised.
“We have to say that coming to the club that has just finished bottom of the Third Division might not have seemed an attractive prospect to some,” he said. “Yes, we have a bit more money in the kitty but we are certainly not paying fortunes, so to get the calibre of player we have is a real coup.
“I like to think that our reputation for treating players with respect and looking after them as more than just employees or footballers, but as people might have helped sway some decisions.”
Now Shire are hoping to reap the rewards on the pitch and the response from the fans to the new signings has been overwhelmingly positive. The club chairman had little doubt that the return of fans’ favourite Michael Bolochoweckyj would whet the appetite for the new campaign, but he says it goes beyond that.
“Our fans are immensely loyal and they understood that the disappointments of the spring were down to factors often beyond anyone’s control. They also knew where our problems lay on the pitch and they have trusted the coaching staff and the board to try and sort out those issues.
“Bringing Michael back was a big signing for us because, in one single swoop, it meant the return of one of the most popular Shire players of recent years and also helped strengthen our defence which was an area of weakness last year. It is great to speak to supporters who pop in to the shop to buy their season ticket and find that they are hungry for the season to start and their enthusiasm has been rediscovered.”
Ford will come face-to-face with the club’s fans next Wednesday when he holds another open forum for supporters at the Creamery in Bainsford. A similar event at the start of May was well-attended and the Shire chairman says it is important the people in charge of the club remain in some way accountable to the fans.