East Stirlingshire have set down a marker for the new season by capturing the services of Berwick Rangers captain, Chris Townsley.
The experienced centre-half is the latest in a line of new signings by coach John Coughlin which the club hopes will get them climbing up the league after two successive wooden spoons.
Townsley was not the only arrival at the Bainsford club over the last week but news of his signing raised eyebrows among other clubs at the lower levels and excited fans almost as much as the previous week’s announcement that Michael Bolochoweckyj would be returning to the club.
With former Annan Athletic pair Michael McGowan and Jordan McKechine also committing themselves to Shire next term, Coughlin was able to head off on holiday this week assured that his new squad was all but complete and ready for the start of pre-season training on June 20.
“These new signings have brought a real surge in enthusiasm,” said Shire secretary, Tadek Kopszywa. “The evidence is in the number of people who have already bought a season ticket or who say they are going to. We are already on course to surpass last season’s level, which itself was a 100 per cent increase on the year before.”
Two years ago club officials spoke of some hard years ahead as they attempted to bring financial stability to the Shire and they now feel significant progress has been made.
The evidence, says the club secretary, is the ability to entice players like Townsley, who turned down the chance to stay at Berwick and joined up with Coughlin and former teammate David Greenhill.
“There is no gain without pain and that has been our story over the past couple of years,” said Kopszywa. “It has told in results on the pitch. But while we suffered many defeats we knew it would be worth it if we could improve the club’s financial health and make it possible to fund a competitive team.”
Shire bosses say expectations have been raised but they are still urging supporters not to get carried away with unrealistic ambitions. The long-term future of the club will always come before pursuing immediate success, if that means getting ahead of themselves.
“Someone looked at our recent signings and asked me if a board member had just won the lottery,” joked the Shire secretary. “The truth is that while we have been able to attract a quality of player beyond us a couple of seasons ago, we have done it at the right price.”