East Stirlingshire players will get back from their summer break tonight (Thursday) with their first training session of at Little Kerse.
It will be the first opportunity for John Coughlin’s newly-assembled squad to meet-and-greet before getting down to some hard work. The Shire boss has surprised many people in the football word by attracting quality signings for the season ahead and there are hopes that will lift the standards at the club.
Shire chairman Tony Ford says it has been a productive summer and now the hard work starts in terms of turning good signings into a winning team.
“I sense that John has set the bar high this season,” said Ford. “The guys he has brought in from elsewhere over the close season so far all have a winning mentality and that is something we need to get right through the club.
“It has to be known that we are no longer prepared to be the Aunt Sallies of the league and that we mean business. The fact that the bookies are already making us favourites to finish bottom of the league has not been lost on us and I am sure it is something which will only drive the players, and everyone else at the club, to strive to do better.”
Coughlin has had a successful summer in terms of identifying players to hopefully solve some of the major problems which scuppered his improvement plan last season. The addition of the experienced pairing of Chris Townsley and Michael Bolochoweckyj at centre-half should, in the coach’s eyes at least, offer a potential solution to an inability to stop goals flying into the net at the wrong end.
Just as importantly, the signing of Iain Thomson from Stenhousemuir effectively gives Coughlin a coach on the pitch who can organise and encourage players during matches.
“Although we have brought in some really experienced players, a lot of people have asked me why we have kept so many from last year when we finished bottom of the league,” said the Shire chairman. “The answer is simple; they are all good players who will, we hope, get even better with a core group of new guys with the experience to get the best out of them.
“The board has made the funds available to go out and get some quality players on board. At a time of austerity across the whole country we must be one of the few clubs spending more than last season but that is relative and we are by no means throwing silly money around or doing anything we cannot afford.”
Coughlin starts the process of knocking his recruits into shape at Little Kerse tonight but knows that time is not on his side ahead of the first competitive game of the season which will be a Ramsdens Cup-tie on 27th July.
However, the club chairman has been re-assuring some of the new recruits that the bad old days of running up hills and round parks do not feature in the coach’s pre-season plans.
“I’ve been talking to some of the new boys and from what I have seen of John’s summer training schedule there is no old-fashioned hard slog. Yes, there will be a lot of fitness work but players will not be deprived of the ball either. I don’t think everyone will enjoy all of it but John is not an old-fashioned pre-season sadist,” said Ford.
Shire will start their league campaign with a trip to the National Stadium to face Queen’s Park on Saturday August 10th. Before that they will have played at least one match in the first rounds of the Ramsdens Cup and the League Cup.
The club has also added two more pre-season games to its schedule. They will play Stranraer in a closed-door game on Saturday 6th July and will fine tune their strategy just prior to their first competitive game with a friendly against a St. Mirren XI at the SPL club’s training complex on Tuesday, July 23 with a 7.30 p.m. start.