Shire keepers ready to do battle for starting slot

John Sludden this week signed up two goalkeepers for East Stirlingshire’s Lowland League adventure and told both players to fight it out between themselves for the right to wear the number one jersey.

The Shire boss dismissed notions that the re-signing of Darren Dolan, who ended last season in possession, meant that his other keeper capture, ex- Stenhousemuir stopper Dean Shaw, was destined for a spot on the bench.

Instead, Sludden says it is up to both players to prove to him that they deserve to be at the top of the team sheet in Shire’s Betfred Cup opener against Stranraer on July 19.

“I know Darren was here last season and that he finished the campaign as the starting goalie,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean any decision has been made about who our number one will be.

“Both players know they are going to have to work hard in pre-season and the position is up for grabs and who starts will be decided between now and then,” he said.

Although he has seen Dolan play, Sludden is more familiar with newcomer Shaw. The 21 year-old spent part of a season out on loan from the Warriors at Camelon Juniors when the new Shire coach was in charge at Carmuirs Park.

“They are two good keepers and I’m delighted to have both of them on board,” he said. “Darren played well for Shire last season and I know what Dean is capable of from his time at Camelon. He went back to Stenhousemuir ready to try and fight for a starting place in the team but then he picked up an injury which set him back.”

This week also saw the return of Graeme MacGregor to the club. The former Falkirk midfielder left Shire last summer after being offered a deal by East Fife. While he started the season in the starting line-up for the eventual League 2 champions, he drifted out of Gary Naysmith’s plans and ended up being transferred to junior cracks Linlithgow Rose.

Sludden knows MacGregor well from the player’s time at Falkirk as ateenager and he is hoping to set his football course back on track.

“Graeme is a smashing player but maybe he has had some setbacks and needs to find his confidence again,” said the Shire boss of the 22 year-old who once seemed destined for great things after earning a move to Bolton Wanderers as a kid when they were in the English Premier League. “We know what he is capable of and we will be doing our best to get the best out of Graeme. He’s a great lad and a very good football player.”