John Sludden got a great Christmas present this week when East Stirlingshire’s three-pronged, 50-goal strike force all agreed new deals.
Goal getters David Grant, Andy Rodgers, and Paul Sludden signed up with the club for the 2017/18 season with the minimum of fuss after being offered new deals. The news comes just a week after the head coach accepted a contract to secure his own future at Shire along with his entire backroom staff.
With the team still 10 points adrift of Lowland League leaders East Kilbride, Shire are going to find it hard to overhaul them although they still are full of public optimism.
But the knowledge that key players are willing to stay even though the hoped-for automatic return to the SPFL is by no means a sure thing is very encouraging for the head coach.
“It’s great news,” said Sludden. “It also shows the ambition of the board of directors who have given the green light to start talking to the players we want to keep for next season.”
The coach is by no means finished and is understood to be talking to other players who are currently contracted until the end of this season. He’s hoping that by announcing these deals, others will be tempted to stay.
“When people see these guys are happy to commit to the cause then it sends out a message. Hopefully it should make it easier to trying to encourage some of the others as well.”
Sludden wants to avoid the last-minute scramble to sign players of last summer when circumstances forced the newly-appointed head coach to assemble a squad over just a few weeks.
“I think when we came here there were just a couple of players and we had to go out and source guys,” he said.
“That had an impact at the start of the season when you are playing competitive games with a team who are only just getting to know one another and are still learning.
“If we can get guys signed up now for next season then that’s not going to be a problem.”