Future’s in good hands says new chairman at Ochilview

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East Stirlingshire chairman Tony Ford is telling the club’s fans he is “broadly optimistic” for the future of the club.

The top man of a newly-appointed Shire board has been reflecting on a traumatic year which saw the club face a winding-up order from the taxman over an unpaid VAT bill, which in turn forced the club to sell its derelict Firs Park home simply to survive.

Shire also lost manager Jim McInally in the summer and were forced to slash the wage bill simply to pay off debts and put the club on an even keel.

Mr Ford says it has been a baptism of fire for the club’s supporters’ trust which took a controlling 46 percent stake in the Shire in June, making it one of just a handful of fan-owned football clubs in Scotland.

However, he says while it has taken longer than he would have liked to get a grip on things, he feels the club is now reaching a position where it can move forward.

“The scale of the problems which faced us took us by surprise,” he said. “We knew that change had to come but it has not come as quickly as we would have liked.

“I know we have faced questions from people about the future of the club since the summer but, in all honesty, we have not been able to give them an answer. Slowly, though, we are getting there.”

He accepts that the club has faced accusations of a lack of information about its current situation but says now that will be rectified and he wants more of the club’s loyal fans to take an active part in running the club.

“People have been asking me what is happening at the club with reference to a lot of the things that have taken place off the pitch,” said Mr. Ford. “In truth, many of those questions are unanswerable by the current board because none of us were party to them.

“We faced months and months of delays in lodging our last set of accounts which again raised fresh questions. Only now have we reached a stage where we feel we have gained enough control over events to start dealing with concerns from fans and shareholders.”

The Shire chairman revealed the members of the club will be placed in the unusual situation of attending two AGM’s in 2012, with one for the late 2009/10 accounts taking place in the early part of the year.

A seven member board of directors was finalised only in early December but Mr Ford says it is up to everyone with the Shire at heart to put their shoulder to the wheel if they want to steer towards less choppy waters.

“Everyone connected with the Shire will have to play their part if we are to have a successful future. It is not simply down to the board of directors to ensure the club is here in a year’s time or in ten year’s time,” he said.

“The board is putting in a lot of time just now planning a way forward. But that plan requires the involvement of supporters. People have been keen to make offers of assistance but now is the time to make those promises good.

“That said, I am broadly optimistic that we can have a sustainable future.”

Shire’s first match of 2012 is on Monday when they face local rivals Alloa Athletic in their New Year derby at Ochilview.