New signing can make Shire tick, says Coughlin

John Coughlin will hand a debut to Jamie McKernon
John Coughlin will hand a debut to Jamie McKernon

There were mixed blessings this week for John Coughlin as he aims to shake-up his East Stirlingshire team ahead of this weekend’s clash against Peterhead at Ochilview.

The Shire boss will throw on-loan St Mirren midfielder Jamie McKernon straight into the team for his debut but will have to do without another of the players he planned to introduce in the wake of their 3-1 defeat at the hands of Montrose in their last outing.

New signing Philipp Züfle is back in Germany completing his university studies and will miss the game on Saturday. Coughlin says it is a case of swings and roundabouts.

“Ideally both Jamie and Philipp would have gone straight into the starting eleven for the Peterhead game,” he told Heraldsport. “After what I saw against Montrose there is no doubt we needed to freshen things up in the middle of the park.

“Philipp played the second half of our last game and that 45 minutes were enough to convince me he should be in the team. I had pencilled him in for a starting role but circumstances have dictated that we will not have him for Saturday.

“It is a disappointment because I really liked what I saw of him when we put Philipp in against Montrose.”

Against that Coughlin will be able to add 20-year-old McKernon to his plans after completing the paperwork on a three month loan deal from the SPL side.

The midfielder has already been part of St. Mirren’s Premier League plans and spent part of last season on loan at Ayr United where he made 17 First Division appearances. Coughin says he has had his eye on the player for some time.

“It has taken us longer than we thought to bring Jamie here,” he said. “We had been alerted to his availability some time ago but it originally looked as though we would miss out on him.

“However, circumstances have changed and we are delighted Jamie has agreed to join us. He is the kind of player I think we have been crying out for. I have said for some time we need to improve our passing ability in midfield.”

The Shire boss is hoping that the supporters take an instant liking to McKernon, who will remain at the club until the middle of January, and says he is the kind of player who the club’s fans have been used to seeing over the past few years.

“He is a good player to watch, he has lovely touch and can pick out a pass,” said Coughlin. “In many ways he reminds me of Paul Weaver who Shire had at the heart of the midfield a few seasons ago. I always thought that Weaver was the player who made Shire tick and I am hoping we can get a similar contribution from Jamie.”

By coincidence, the manager who brought Weaver to Shire, Jim McInally, will be in the visitors’ dug out on Saturday. His last trip to Ochilview with Peterhead ended in disaster as Shire recorded a jaw-dropping 6-3 win over one of last season’s promotion favourites. But Coughlin is under no illusion about how hard this weekend’s game will be.

“That was a one-off and what we have to concentrate on instead is getting a better performance out of the players than we managed at Montrose in our last game,” he said.

“We were not great up there and we really came back down to earth with a bump after winning three straight matches but perhaps some good will come with the lessons we learned at Montrose.”

Coughlin has tried to beef up his midfield since then but knows it is in defence that his side will need to be vigilant. “Rory McAllister will create problems for any team in the Third Division. I have watched games that he has virtually won on his own. He will be a real handful for us.”