Coach John Sludden has surveyed the team’s now complete Lowland League season by admitting disappointment at not claiming the championship, but he balanced that out by reflecting on some “happy days” and maintained lessons have been learned for next season.
Shire finished in runners-up spot seven points adrift of table-toppers East Kilbride who John again praised as “worthy champions” but, despite that setback to pre-season plans, the coach says everyone can look back on a number of positives.
In some wide-ranging post-season comments the club’s head coach :
Admitted the team’s failure to compete for the title came down to the wrong results in just two or three games.
Thanked the club’s board of directors for their support as he assembled a squad from scratch in the summer ahead of their first-ever Lowland League season.
Praised the supporters for the way they encouraged the team from first game to last.
And thanked all of the clubs in the Lowland League for the friendly welcome they gave Shire following defeat in last May’s pyramid play-off final.
On the field, John says the aim in the summer was very much to try and win the league. Shire fell short by seven points and he says that the results of just a few important clashes made all the difference.
He admitted, unfortunately, when they needed a result most, especially against the other title challengers, Shire could not get the wins they needed.
“At the start of the season, we said to the supporters that we wanted to put together a team that they would want to come and watch and would excite them,” he said. “Hopefully we achieved that. Yes, we let them down in two or three games this season which were crucial games at the time but, hopefully, lessons have been learned from that.”
One of the most obvious lessons has been to try and have a stable squad of players in place for the start of the next campaign and John, along with the club’s directors, have worked hard to do just that.
When pre-season training gets under way later in the summer John will already know the majority of the players who performed so well this season will be back for another go. Again, he says the board deserve praise for buying into his vision when he arrived at the club last June.
“When you look at what we had last June with just one signed player to what we have now then that’s been down to a lot of hard work behind the scenes from the board of directors.
“One of the biggest things that helped us was convincing Derek [Ure] to come back to the club. We added quality with Barclay and Rodgers and that again was great work done by the directors in backing us.”
Also important to the coach was the backing round the ropes from the loyal Shire supporters, who he was quick to praise not just for their loyalty in coming to matches but also for their constant encouragement even when things weren’t going as planned.
“The supporters have been magnificent, not only at home, but away from home as well with the atmosphere they bring. They have added to it,” said John.
Shire’s first-ever Lowland League season has, in the coach’s own words, been “an adventure”. A key part of that, for John, was participating in the competition in the proper manner, respecting the club’s new circumstances and surroundings rather than resenting Shire’s demotion from the ranks of the SPFL.
“I spoke to the chairman of the Lowland League who said we had we had been a credit to the league this season,” said the coach. “For me that shows we have been doing it the right way.
“We have given all our opponents respect and we have received that respect back. The club has made a lot of new friends in this new adventure for us.”
You can listen to John’s full interview by clicking on the link below :