Season’s a success off the park says Shire chief

Good times for Shire
Good times for Shire

East Stirlingshire’s chairman has claimed their season has been a success despite the team finishing bottom of the Third Division.

Tony Ford says everyone at the Shire should take a pat on the back for making sure the 131 year-old club is still on the go.

And he is predicting they will be able to move forward from their Year Zero which they were forced into by the club’s perilous financial state.

“People will look at the league table and think we have had a disastrous season,” he said. “But the truth is there is a direct link between the financial problems of a year ago and where we now sit in the league.

“We had to make decisions that were based more of trying to ensure the club continued to exist rather than on winning football matches,” he claimed.

And he now says, one year on, the Shire who are controlled by the club’s own fans through its supporters trust, have made some headway.

Although he admits it has not been easy to preside over the shock therapy which has seen the team win only a handful of matches this season, Ford is reasonably confident it will have been worthwhile in the longer term.

“When the trust took control of the club last summer there were lots of bills to be paid and no money in the bank,” he said. “We reached the stage fairly early on when we went to the fans and explained things to them and asked them if it was worthwhile carrying on.

“They said it was and we took our lead from that. We know that some of the decisions we have taken to try and put things right have not been popular, but the choices we faced were not easy.”

Ford says that watching the team struggle has been difficult but is now hoping the worst is behind the Shire and they can start to move forward in a positive manner.

“One of the things we got right was to put in place an experienced coaching staff,” he said. “We have benefited greatly from John Coughlin’s presence and coaching staff. They have achieved real success at other clubs and have, to some degree, put their reputations on the line by coming here.

“But we could not have got through this without the experience and insight they have brought, especially when the board of directors are largely new to this kind of thing.”

The Shire chairman says it is not all doom and gloom. Once the season ends at Peterhead on Saturday he says there is a chance the club can look forward to a better future, although it will not be easy.

“Our watchword is sustainability,” he said. “As a club we have taken the view that it is better to try to achieve the best you can with the resources you have and ensure the club is still there for future generations.

“We will be able to spend a bit more on the team next season and we are hopeful that will see us move up the league table. But the recovery will not be overnight.”

Ford says there have already been a number of hopeful signs that people are once again backing the Shire, especially as the club tries to draw in badly-needed revenue.

“We have managed to secure almost all of last season’s sponsors for another year,” he said. “In addition a number of new sponsors have been found and that process is continuing.

“The fans have had to put up with a lot but they have remained loyal and their response to our appeal to buy your new season ticket early has been encouraging. We are certainly far more confident now than we were a year ago that the Shire has a future,” said Ford.

On the pitch, coach John Coughlin will have to do without the suspended Ryan Frances for the final game of the season at Peterhead. The centre-half is banned after being sent-off last Saturday.