Shire Luke to the future in Berwick

Luke Donnelly is staying on at Shire
Luke Donnelly is staying on at Shire

East Stirlingshire have confirmed Celtic youngster Luke Donnelly will return to the club on a new loan after the transfer window opens.

The 18 year-old Scottish youth international has been a star performer for the team since arriving on an emergency loan at the start of November and talks between the clubs produced a positive result.

Shire coach Craig Tully admitted that taking Donnelly in November untried and untested was a gamble but it was one that has paid off and he is keen to extend the player’s stay as long as possible.

“It’s fair to say we didn’t know too much about the boys before he came here,” said Tully, “But he has made a big impact. He’s big and strong and can certainly play a bit as well. He’s a good lad and has fitted in well in the dressing room which is important too.

“It is certainly a deal which has worked out well for us and it seems to have been good for Luke too because the coaches at Celtic tell us playing at our level has helped his game enormously,” said Tully.

Shire are now looking at the possibility of finding ways of brining more talented kids from Premiership clubs if deals can be struck during the window. Donnelly’s success has proven to Tully that there might be more out there who could do with the chance to play senior football.

“We have been out watching games in the Under-20 league and there are a few good players at that level,” he said. “But it’s fair to say that the games aren’t really all that competitive and there’s no doubt in my mind that clubs and these players would benefit from sending them out on loan.

“We have seen the difference it has made to Luke in terms of development. They can play all the fancy football they want in the under-20s but no-one makes a tackle. Playing at our level means they have to grow up quickly or they simply won’t survive.”

Tully is hoping some clear-the-air talks with his players this week will get a positive response when they travel to Berwick on Saturday for their first match of 2015.

Three defeats have stalled Shire’s November comeback and left them once again close to the bottom of the table. After last weekend’s 4-1 defeat against Albion Rovers his patience finally snapped.

“The goals we conceded were just horrendous,” said Tully. “Opposition teams aren’t even having to work to score because we are just gifting them opportunities on a plate. On Saturday it was just mistake after mistake and it’s not acceptable.

“I am a winner and the players need to have that kind of mentality too. If they don’t then they might find out they aren’t at the club very much longer. They all know the situation and we will be looking for improvements starting on Saturday,” he said.