Shire go back to the future

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East Stirlingshire are preparing move back into the heart of the community that gave birth to the club more than 130 years ago.

Shire will open a new permanent base in the centre of Bainsford within the next few weeks, just a long throw-in from the site of their former Merchiston Park ground which the club left in 1921.

While the new Main Street office and shop will not come with a home ground to play matches, club officials are hopeful it will give them the chance to re-engage with the local community and give the Shire a sense of identity it has not had since it left Firs Park four years ago.

“We have been a wandering club for the last four years and that has not helped at all,” said Shire chairman Tony Ford. “The Shire Shop is the result of almost a year of hard work to find ourselves a home.

“It makes sense to return to Bainsford. The club was founded in the community and its earliest years, and most successful ones, were when it was associated with the area.”

The new Shire base will not be officially open for business for another few weeks yet but the club chairman says the signs are encouraging and thinks local people will welcome the move.

“Several older Bainsford residents have told us stories of how their grandfathers played for the Shire or went to matches at the old ground, so the reaction has been positive.”

And Shire are hoping to use that to not only build their own local identity but also to encourage locals to come to matches. A new strategy is being drawn up to find ways of making Bainsford people see the Shire as their team.

Ford says the fruits of that will be unveiled soon and would love to see locals not just in Bainsford but also in adjacent Langlees take part.

“Community engagement is a real buzz phrase running through the Scottish League right now,” said the Shire chairman. “Former First Minister Henry McLeish produced a report just last month into how clubs fitted into their communities and it saddens me to say we lag behind what other teams are doing.

“Part of our problem is simply that we were homeless and did not have a community to engage with. We want to rectify that and will work with anyone in Bainsford and Langlees who can see the benefits of having a professional football club as part of their area.

“It is not just about getting people to come to our home games. It is every bit as much about what the Shire can offer people in these places.”

Ford accepts that one major issue is the lack of a place of their own to play home games, and he cannot offer any great hope at the moment that Shire might have a stadium in Bainsford.

“To be honest, the club is trying right now to take small steps in the right direction. A year ago the Shire was effectively bust, and while there has been a degree of stability since then we are not the kind of people to indulge in grandiose dreams.

“So we will continue to play our matches at Ochilview and then see what the next few years hold. We are grateful to the people at Stenhousemuir for helping us find a solution to our biggest problem in keeping the club alive, having a place to play matches.

“But that does not mean to say Ochilview is a permanent fix. We are certainly not averse to exploring other options,” said the Shire chairman.

Meanwhile, coach John Coughlin has spoken to three more players this week with a view to signing for the club next season.

Former Stenhousemuir player Paul Quinn is one who could link up with former boss John Coughlin. But the boss is playing a waiting game.

“I have been doing this long enough now to know that when you go and speak to a player he is very rarely going to sign immediately,” said Coughlin.

“However, talks were positive and we will just have to wait and see.”