Craig Tully could be forgiven for casting an envious glance at clubs around the SPFL and comparing their circumstances with those he has as head coach at East Stirlingshire.
The fact that he doesn’t give that even the slightest thought indicates that Shire have the perfect man running their football operations. He may have had a reputation of a tough, no-nonsense defender on the pitch but as a coach he is quiet, reflective, a serious student of the game and, above all, a realist.
I have to laugh when other managers complain how low their budgets areEast Stirlingshire boss David Doherty
He knows the circumstances of the club he will lead for his second full season and rather than complain he plans a way forward based on confounding expectations using the best resources available to him.
Tully knows it’s tough at the top but says it’s even tougher at the bottom.
“You always end up having conversations over the summer with managers at other clubs,” he says. “And that mostly means people complaining at how low their budget is. Sometimes I have to laugh when they complain about player budgets that I would love to have.”
He was under no illusions about the job when he took it on and there are certainly no regrets on his part. But the summer has been spent trying to mould together a squad where Shire have been excluded from the usual dealings in high finance.
That has had some consequences; where in previous years Shire fans have been used to spending the first few weeks of a new season getting familiar with a host of new faces, this time round they knew who most of their 2015/16 squad would be before the old season finished.
Tully moved to re-sign 12 of the players who had served him in 2014/15 and discarded only a handful. He would have had even more continuity if others had opted to stay rather than sign elsewhere. That was another dose of financial reality.
“We wanted to keep others but they chose to move to other clubs,” he said.
“That’s just down to money and when you hear how much they are being offered to move then you just have to wish them all the best because there’s no way you can compete.”
Tully’s summer mantra has been ‘quality before quantity’ and that has limited his main arrivals. Former Peterhead centre-half Reece Donaldson fills the spot on the roster vacated by Michael Bolochoweckyj while midfielder Kris Faulds has joined after being released by Stenhousemuir.
“Both players will be key men for us this season,” he said. “Reece is strong and good in their air but, above all else, he is quick and will give us the pace at the back we will need.
“Kris is a good quality passer of the ball and his deliveries are good as well. He has had quite a bit of experience of playing at a much higher level and that will help us.
“Maybe the last couple of years haven’t been great for him but we want him to come here and enjoy himself and get back to where he’s been.”
One other avenue Tully is keen to exploit is the development loan system that allows full-time clubs to send players down the divisions to get experience. It worked for Shire last term with Celtic’s Luke Donnelly and Partick Thistle striker Kevin Nisbet helping the club to the fringes of the promotion play-offs before a loss of form saw Shire slip to ninth.
This term he has brought in two strikers, Alistair Roy from Hearts and young Raith Rovers frontman Jonny Court, an area he wanted to strengthen.
“I think the guys we have up front need some support and these two young kids will provide that,” said the Shire boss. “We benefitted from the loans last year and I’m keen for these two young lads to succeed.”
It’s not something that bothers Tully that once again the bookies will make Shire favourites for the pyramid play-off. If anything it motivates him.
“We were in the same position last year and we know that’s more about people’s perceptions of the club from the outside,” he said. “But they got it wrong last year and we are confident of surprising those people again.”