The word ‘newco’ isn’t one particularly fussed over by the East Stirlingshire support.
After finishing bottom of the Third Division for the first time since ending their ‘dark years’ in 2008, there are more important issues to be dealt with at the Shire.
The first decade of the 21st century was certainly a mixed one for East Stirling, as from the 02/03 season the club endured a miserable spell of six consecutive years at the foot of the bottom tier of the SFL.
During this losing streak, the authorities put in place rules that would eventually lead to the result of the 08/09 season deciding whether the Shire would remain members of the Scottish Football League. In the style of a Hollywood drama, a win on the last day of the season proved enough to lift the club out of bottom place and secure their status as full league members.
A two year sigh of relief followed, as a brace of second place finishes saw the club qualify for the Third Division play-offs. But this commendable form was not to last, and after finishing ninth in the 10/11 season, the Shire were back at the all too familiar foot of the table at the end of last season.
So is this the start of another low flying journey for the men who share Stenhousemuir’s Ochilview Park? After a 3-1 win over Second Division side Ayr United in the Ramsden Cup, it would seem that this may not be the case, and Rab McDonald, chair of the East Stirling Supporter’s club, is hopeful for the season ahead.
“It is a concern that if we finish bottom again this year, the SFL might move to make us associate members, like the newco,” noted McDonald, “but I think most of us are optimistic that we will have a much more competitive team this year.”
“The difference now as opposed to the dark years is that we are no longer under the cosh of [former Chairman] Alan Makin. We are now effectively owned by the supporters trust.
“Last season the trust was more or less left with the club, with our major shareholder [Spencer Fearn] handing his shares over to the trust for a pound. The plan was that he would hang around and help financially while the trust got up to speed with running a senior football club. Sadly this did not happen. He left along with our manager, and the trust spent the summer and the early part of the season sorting out the problems they inherited.
“The uncertainty of our finances meant that our new manager was given a very small budget to work with, and very little time before the start of the season.”
With financial issues at the club now resolved however, McDonald believes the team can push on, whilst also adding that several new faces would greatly help the Shire rise up the table.
“I am lead to believe that the club is now debt free and will have a budget for players similar to some other teams in our league,” said the supporter’s club Chair.
“The manager John Coughlin has twice got teams with small budgets out of this division. We are quite a skilful footballing side, we are a young side and we have a good spirit.”
“The last few seasons we have had some good young keepers on loan but it would be good to have an old head back there. Same goes for a centre half. If we could get an experienced guy it would make all the difference.
“Last season we had [Craig Winter] at the end of his career come to us from Cowdenbeath. He only played a few games as they recalled him but what a difference he made. We just got harder to beat and we were able to see out games in relative calm rather than panicking as the final whistle got nearer.”
With just 38 goals scored last season too, it was with a breath of hope that McDonald finished by stating, “lastly, someone to score on a regular basis would be nice.”
A thought shared by supporters of most clubs in Scotland no doubt.
If their opening day Ramsden Cup win is anything to go by though, it seems the upcoming season could be a lot more enjoyable than the last for the East Stirlingshire support.
You can follow Stuart on twitter.
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