Some of the Partick Thistle players facing East Stirlingshire at Grangemouth Stadium on Saturday could end up playing for Craig Tully’s team when the season gets underway in three weeks’ time.
Shire boss Craig Tully, encouraged by the success of young Thistle loanee Kevin Nisbet last term, is looking to augment his first team squad with teenage players from Scotland’s top clubs and he’s not ruling out asking the Firhill club the question if any of their under-20 squad catches the eye during Saturday’s game.
Tully is under no illusion that the return of Nisbet, and also Celtic’s Luke Donnelly, for a second season may be difficult given the attention both players attracted while out on loan, but he certainly believes the development loan system is worth pursuing.
“It worked for us last season with Kevin and Luke and with David Bates from Raith Rovers,” he said. “They really were great additions and it would be nice to think that we could get them back. But the truth is they wrote their own headlines last year and other, bigger clubs will be looking at them and they may end up loaned out at clubs higher up the leagues. That’s a fact of life, but it won’t stop us building on the relationships we developed with these clubs to see if there are other players we could bring to the club.”
Tully is sold on the idea of the development loans, which allows clubs in the Premiership the chance to send young talent out to part-time teams for a season while still being available to play for their under-20 Development League team in midweek.
It worked well in the case of Donnelly, who got first team experience with Shire on a Saturday while continuing to help Celtic win the Scottish Youth Cup with important goals which made him the top scorer in the tournament.
“We can have up to four development loans a season under the rules and there is no doubt that we will be looking to see where we can make use of that,” said the Shire boss. “It may be the case that Partick on Saturday have a player who we like the look of and, if so, we would certainly ask the question.”
Holidays will have an impact with new signing Kris Faulds not featuring against Partick because of his summer break although central defender Reece Donaldson is back from his holiday in time for the first match workout.
“The result of these games is not important,” said Tully. “We have been working for over a fortnight on a carefully worked out fitness programme and the games are factored into that. What will be more important is making sure that all the players get the right level of game time as part of that overall programme. There will be a few trialists out hoping to win a deal and some of them have made a favourable impression so far.”
Saturday’s game at Grangemouth Stadium has a 2pm kick-off. It will be open to the public with admission set at £5 for adults and £2 senior citizens/under-16s.