East Stirlingshire this week welcomed back prodigal son Derek Ure to the club in a move which has delighted the club’s fans ahead of their first Lowland League season.
The 32 year-old, who made his Shire debut at 17 and went on to clock up more than 300 appearances in the black-and- white hoops, has agreed to link up again with his old Camelon Juniors boss, John Sludden, after leaving his first loves for a stint at Carmuirs Park five years ago.
And Shire’s new head coach has thrown Ure the captain’s armband and told him to spearhead the club’s campaign to get back into the SPFL at the first time of asking.
Ure’s return to the club he’s primarily associated with, and who gave him a testimonial in 2011, isn’t the only piece of positive signing news.
Central defender Ross Fisher, widely regarded as one of the success stories in a dismal 2015/16 which saw Shire demoted to the Lowland League, has signed a new one year deal, and Sludden has also brought his own son, Paul, to the club, a player with scoring potential and Lowland League experience.
There is now a nucleus of players starting to form into a squad.
Assistant coach, Martin Mooney, says things are coming together. “We now have core group of players and we are certainly looking to bring in a few others so that we can hit the ground running,” he said. “The book certainly isn’t closed on signings. You know at this time of the year there are always players floating about seeing what’s available.
“There’s still a month to go before the start of the season so there is still plenty of time to bring players in.”
This week’s three new faces are added to keepers Darren Dolan and Dean Shaw as well as midfielders Kris Faulds and Graeme MacGregor. There are also a few more waiting in the wings to be announced once contractual and registrations issues have been worked out.
“So far, most of the players we have targeted we have been able to sign,” said Mooney. “We know we need to add more, although not too many because you don’t want to carry too big a squad.
“We have an ideal number in mind and we will be looking to find good, quality players out there who are going to help us.”
From day one in the job, the new Shire management team has been open that their one central objective is to regain the club’s SPFL status in one go. They know that won’t be easy but Mooney is optimistic that the players they are bringing to the club will have what it takes to give them a sporting chance.
“There wouldn’t be any point in starting if you didn’t want to go out there and win as many games as possible,” said the Shire assistant boss. “First of all the priority is to win the league and get the team back up. Then you aim to have an adventure in some of the cups, and you never know where that might take you.”
Whatever their ambitions for their four Betfred Cup Group F games, which will start Shire’s competitive season, it’s unlikely results will feature too highly on their list of priorities.
Although Mooney has pinpointed the clashes with Annan Athletic and Stranraer as “winnable”, the encounters with Rangers and Motherwell are being described more in terms of a test of the players’ abilities.
“They are very much part of pre-season,” he admitted “It’s great to test yourselves against the bigger clubs, and also other teams the club has played over the past few years.
“It will certainly give us a benchmark to see where we are. But the league is the most important thing and we have a target to be up challenging after the first six to eight games.”