East Stirlingshire are approaching their first competitive game of the season in just over a week knowing that some key players will have not taken part in much of the pre-season build-up.
Of John Coughlin’s summer signings only Jordan McKechnie and Ross O’Donoghue will have played in all of the friendly games while Chris Townsley – seen as the main close-season capture - will not have participated at all.
Former Berwick Rangers captain Townsley has however completed his first full week in training with Shire following injury, and aims to be available for selection in the early weeks of the season.
Both Michael McGowan and Iain Thomson are back from holiday and are putting in the hard yards and should be in the squad that travels to Highland League Formartine United in the first round of the Ramsdens Cup next week, along with Michael Bolochoweckyj who has been nursing an injury.
McGowan came straight back from holiday in Turkey and into the starting 11 for last Saturday’s win against Craigroyston and Thomson was back to pre-season for the first time in a fortnight at Little Kerse on Tuesday night.
The finishing touches to the preparations will be made when Shire face St Mirren away in their final warm-up game on Tuesday night.
The Shire coach accepts his preparations have been far from ideal but knows this is modern part-time football.
“Each year you know that when you start pre-season some guys will not have had their holidays yet,” he said.
“With players like Iain Thomson, who are tied to jobs that limit when they can get away, it is something you just have to live with. Football doesn’t pay the mortgage for these guys and you have to make allowances for their lives away from the game.”
Shire also have a number of youngsters training with the club right now hoping to win a berth. The club plans to run a reserve side in the new league structure partly as a vehicle to allow players returning from injury to get games but also to encourage good young players.
“We have guys like Nathan Shepherd and Rhys Devlin coming back from long-term injury and they are going to need somewhere to play to get match fitness,” said Coughlin. “It will also give an opportunity for us to look at kids out there who could be the future of the club.”
The early season cup draws have given Shire plenty of incentive to do well. Coughlin will have the Highland League runners-up from last season, who are managed by ex-Aberdeen boss Steve Paterson, watched in the run-up to their trip a week on Saturday. He appreciates it will be a difficult tie but a winnable one as well.
Meanwhile, last week’s League Cup draw paired Shire with Dunfermline Athletic in a game that will go ahead at Ochilview on August 3. The financially-stricken Pars have more worries than just playing football matches right now and the Shire coach says they will give it their best shot.
“It should be a good day for us,” he said. “It will attract a fair-sized crowd and Dunfermline are a top side. The game itself is one I am sure all the players and fans are looking forward to.”
The clubs have yet to agree gate prices for the Dunfermline game but an announcement is expected soon.