East Stirlingshire fans will be able to catch a glimpse of their team’s pre-season action in their own backyard for the first time since 2008 when they take on Highland League Inverurie Locos at Grangemouth Stadium on Saturday.
Since leaving Firs Park Shire have never used Ochilview as a venue for ‘home’ summer friendlies and have, instead, wandered all over the country tasking on teams in games designed to prepare the players for the start of a new campaign.
But this season the club has booked out Grangemouth Stadium for the next two Saturdays and as well as facing the Aberdeenshire side will take on League Two champions Peterhead on July 19.
Shire say the decision to break with past practice has many reasons, not least the chance to give the team’s fans the opportunity to have a look at how things are shaping up for the new season.
“We were conscious that our supporters were always having to travel, sometimes quite long distances, to see the friendly matches in pre-season,” said club secretary Tadek Kopszywa. “In many instances the first time fans saw the team play was in the first competitive game of the new season, which wasn’t the same for followers of other clubs.
“Also, it was always difficult to persuade clubs that they should host the game rather than you. We have had to turn down games in the past because of venue problems and that can have an impact on the team’s build-up for the official start of the season.”
Shire’s first game of the pre-season was only a short trip to Alloa and although last Saturday’s game ended in a 2-1 defeat there were many positives for coach Craig Tully and his players.
He should be able to welcome back a couple of his players who missed last weekend because of holidays but is still missing midfielder Neil McCabe who is suffering from a knee injury picked up in a training match.
The game against Inverurie should be challenging enough for Shire, who again will be fielding a number of young trialists, but coach Craig Tully says they have nothing to fear.
“The young lads did really well against a very good Alloa side,” he said. “They certainly fitted in well and there were some good individual performances. We have mixed them in at training with the experienced first team players and that has helped bring them on.”
Tully’s squad building for the new season is continuing although the coach is quite prepared to play a waiting game to see what becomes available. His priority remains finding another centre-half and a striker in time for a mouth-watering opener against Falkirk at Ochilview in the first round of the Petrofac Training Cup on 26th July.
“It should be a big occasion for the players and the fans, playing your local rivals in front of what we hope will be a big, noisy crowd,” he said. “It’s just the kind of thing you want to start your season.”
Holidays have caused some disruption to Tully’s plans with key players like Chris Townsley and Paul McGowan unlikely to feature in many of the warm-up matches.
However, the coach is philosophical about the impact of lives outside of football on part-time players.
“It’s just something you have to learn to live with. People have lives awawy from football and you have to accept that will have an impact on what you do.”
Shire are hoping for a decent crowd against Inverurie on Saturday. The game kick-off at Grangemouth Stadium at 3pm. Admission prices are £6 for adults and £3 concessions.