Even though avoiding finishing bottom of League Two may have been East Stirlingshire coach Craig Tully’s main priority for the season, the Shire coach says he would still be disappointed to finish ninth.
Tully’s frank admission was not intended to show a lack of ambition but, he says, was grounded in reality.
However, he always believed his players were capable of better.
Shire now need to win their last game of the season against already crowned divisional champions Albion Rovers at Ochilview this weekend for the chance, as the Shire boss sees it, to do themselves justice.
If they beat the Coatbridge side for a third time in four meetings this term they could finish as high a sixth. That, Tully says would be real progress.
“If we are being truthful then, at the start of the season, many people across football would just have automatically assumed we would be bottom of the league,” he said.
“Maybe that’s just common sense; we don’t have a lot of money and the players don’t earn as much as they do at other clubs. I always wanted us to aim as high as we could and get as close to the play-offs as possible and I still want that but just staying off the bottom was the first battle we had to win,” he said.
The 1-1 draw at Queen’s Park on Saturday has left Shire ninth after a winless run of four matches which scuppered their dream of making the promotion play-off.
Failure to take anything from this weekend’s game would confirm that position in the final league standings which, according to Tully, would be a travesty.
“I don’t think people outside the club expected very much from us this season,” he said. “But I always had faith that we could surprise those people.
“We were doing that until the last few matches when we just were a bit flat and couldn’t raise our performance levels when it mattered most.
“The annoying thing is that we know we have been able to match the top sides but are currently sitting next to bottom,” said the Shire boss.
“And what makes it worse is that the difference between being fourth and ninth is almost nothing at all, just a couple of wins.”
Tully is already setting his sights on next season and with this week’s news that Nathan Shepherd has become the sixth member of this season’s squad to sign up for another year, he says plans are already well advance.
“We are still talking to a number of players about staying for next season,” said Tully.