East Stirlingshire have put the finishing touches to their pre-season preparations with the announcement of two friendly matches.
Grangemouth Stadium will play host to the games against Highland League Inverurie Locos on Saturday, July 12 and League Two Champions Peterhead a week later.
The use of the athletics venue solves what has been a problem for Shire every pre-season since the club left Firs Park in 2008; where to play warm-up games prior to the start of the season.
“It has been an issue which has cropped up every pre-season,” said club secretary Tadek Kopszywa. “Organising matches in terms of finding opponents has never been a problem.
“But other teams always want to come to you, which has sometimes created a bit of a headache in the past. This is one way round the issue. We played a reserve game at the stadium last season and everyone was impressed with the quality of the pitch and the facilities so we had no hesitation in considering it as a possible venue,” he said.
“There were some logistical things we had to sort out but they have been overcome and we are looking forward to welcoming both teams to the stadium,” said the club secretary.
Shire coach Craig Tully was more than happy to accommodate his old club for what is sure to be a tough work out a week prior to the start of the official season, while the game against the Highland League team a week earlier will be something different for the club and its fans.
“I think the games give something for everyone,” said Kopszywa. “The Peterhead match will be a good final warm-up for the players ahead of the first competitive match against a team we know will be quality opposition.
“And I think the fans always like to have a pre-season match against opponents they would not normally meet in the league and the Inverurie match satisfies that requirement.”
Shire have also organised a short trip to Championship side Alloa Athletic on Saturday July 5 which will be the first opportunity for the club’s supporters to see Tully’s new-look team play.
A good number of those supporters took advantage of an open invitation to the first day of pre-season last Saturday to quiz the new Shire management team about their plans. Tully and his coaches fielded questions at a meeting which broke the ice on a new relationship between those in the stand and the dug-out.
“It was nice to see so many people come down to meet Craig and his coaching staff,” said the club secretary. “The questions were quite gentle and there seems to be a very strong sense of togetherness about the place.
“I think everyone is really looking forward to the start of the new season already. There is always a sense of optimism at this time of the year and you are never sure whether that is misplaced or not, but from where we are things are looking hopeful.”
Shire officials have been encouraged by the number of season ticket renewals and remain optimistic that last season’s tally can be exceeded by the time the new season comes round.
“We have increased season ticket sales for each of the last three years and we remain hopeful that we can manage a fourth year of growth,” said Kopszywa. “Already we have seen a fair number of people buy a season ticket either for the first time, or for the first time in a few years. Given that we have over the past couple of years had a renewal rate among existing season ticket holders of over 90% it gives us hope,” he said.