East Stirlingshire coach John Coughlin will give even more of his successful youth team a chance in the senior squad now Shire have been confirmed as this season’s Third Division bottom side.
Already Jamie Glasgow, Kyle Gillespie and Steven Tart have become familiar to fans since being elevated from the under-19s, but they can expect to see more over the closing three games of the season.
The emergence of the three kids was prompted by injury and suspension but the Shire boss says he is ready to see if more can make the jump.
“I have watched the under-19s recently and come to the view that there might be a few more who could do us a job. The ones we have brought in so far have not let anyone down and we have now reached a stage in the season where there is no pressure associated with giving them a game.
“It has been a disappointing end to the season because we thought there was a real chance we might avoid finishing bottom, but now that has gone it would be good if we could salvage something by maybe identifying some youngsters who could do us a job next season,” said Coughlin.
The coach will have his selection problems for this weekend’s trip to Montrose. Graeme Ramage suffered a muscle injury during last weekend’s match against Clyde while Scott Maxwell and Jamie Benton have also been on the treatment table.
Michael Hunter will return to the squad having served a two match ban and that will bolster the midfield, but Alex Lurinsky looks unlikely to feature again this season.
He tried a comeback to training last week but had to pull out and now the coach reckons Lurinsky will be hard pressed to see any action in the final three games.
“Alex was playing really well just prior to picking up the injury,” he said. “But he did not give it enough rest and was set back a few weeks. We tried him again in training last Thursday but he pulled up not long after so we do not expect to see him on Saturday and, if we are honest, his season might be over,” said Coughlin.
The future of a number of this season’s Shire squad will now be decided over the next three games.
The coach has already warned his squad that the last month has not improved their chances of being offered new contracts. All the first team players have contracts which run out in May and Coughlin admits some of them will not be renewed.
“At the moment I would say about half of them will not get a new deal,” he said. “Too few of them have shown enough quality to get another deal.
“What I am wary of, though, is ending up in the situation we were in last summer when we had to sign an entire squad of players in just a few weeks. Despite the fact that we have ended up bottom of the league we have some players here who are worth keeping and could form the basis of a better squad next year.”
Coughlin and his coaching staff have already started casting their nets looking for players who might improve Shire’s fortunes next season, although he accepts there is not going to be a war chest suddenly opened after a year of financial austerity.
“We will get a bit more money to spend but we know we are still not going to be able to buy success,” he said. “There are players out there who will be better than we currently have and not entirely motivated by money.
‘‘They are the ones we have to target.
“We have been out in midweek looking at games and we are starting to put down names of players,” he said.
But a more immediate target is trying to end the season on something of a high note. Coughlin admits his team’s performances over the last month have been disappointing but wants them to try and strike back, starting at Montrose on Saturday.