1990s

After the disastrous previous season 1990/91 proved to be another year of struggle on the pitch. The League campaign started with a 2-1 away win at Queen of the South and was followed up with a home 2-2 draw against Stenhousemuir. However, the results from the next 9 games were 1 draw and 8 defeats and the tone for the rest of the season was very much set. 3 games on and 2 more defeats left the Shire were firmly rooted to the bottom of the League. In a bid to improve matters in November Alan Mackin resigned as Manager and joined the club board after the becoming the major shareholder (he bought out  the shares of the former chairman, John Turnbull). A new manager, Dom Sullivan, was brought in to change the fortunes of the club. There were the occasional glimmers of improvement as the season progressed, the 5-1 home win against East Fife being the stand out, but in the end Shire only escaped finishing bottom in the League for the 2nd season running by 4 points from Arbroath. The 29 points from our 39 games, including only 9 wins, meant that we ended in 13th place. In the Scottish Cup we met fellow 2nd Division strugglers, Queen of the South, in a 1st Round Tie at Firs Park but lost 1-3. The League Cup was more successful when we reached the 2nd Round following a tight 1st Round home Tie against Dumbarton which we won penalties 4-1 after the game had ended 2-2 after extra time. The prize was an away draw to Rangers and although we went out 0-5 the club were happy with a share of the 25,595 gate. A new competition was started in 1990/91 called the Centenary Cup (this afterwards became the Challenge Cup) but we crashed out heavily 0-5 away to Queen of the South in the 1st Round. In the Stirlingshire Cup we reached the Final after home wins in the 1st Round and Semi Final; 3-2 against Stirling Albion and 2-1 against Falkirk respectively. In the Final we met Dumbarton at their home ground, Boghead, but lost out narrowly 1-2. Shire also played a pre-season Friendly against Port Vale of the English Second Division (the 2nd tier at that time), losing 0-5.  Behind the scenes in November the club announced a £450,000 redevelopment of Firs Park with work set to being in December. There was to be a revamped 450 seater stand with new changing rooms and a hospitality suite on either side of the side. The funds were to be raised from the sale of land adjacent to Firs Park to the new retail park being built next to the ground and also from the Football Ground Improvement Trust. It was also mentioned that £30,000 would be spent on new floodlights the following season and if any monies were left the club would consider seating part of the enclosure. The club also quashed rumours in December that Shire were about to move to Cumbernauld. In June 1991 it was revealed that the Shire were looking into the possibility of selling Firs Park and ground sharing with Stenhousemuir at Ochilview Park.

This is the East Stirlingshire Team photogragh from Season 1990/91

Back Row: Paul McLaren, John Griffen, Danny Diver, Colin Wilson, Andy McGraw, Gordon Russell, Brian Lawson

Middle Row: Paddy Carr, Harry Erwin, Colin McNab, Owen Lawson, George Watson, Paul Watson, John Workman, Des Walker

Front Row: Bobby McCulley (Assistant Manager), Martin McBride, Kenny Brannigan, Alan Mackin (Manager), Jim McNally, Jim Rooney, Angus Williamson (Physio)

 

The hard work that the new management team had been putting in saw good progression in 1991/92 when we achieved a top half 6th place in the 14 team League. Shire got off to a great scoring start in the League with 19 goals in our 1st 6 matches, resulting in 2 wins, 2 draws and 2 defeats. We continued with decent form as the season progressed but as we got into February the goals started to dry up and results suffered. As a consequence we had to settle for 6th place in the end of season League Table. There was disappointment in the 1st Round of the Scottish Cup when we lost 0-2 at Firs Park against Dumbarton. In the League Cup for the 2nd year running we won our 1st Round Tie on penalties after the game had finished 2-2 after extra time. This time we won the penalty shoot out 4-2 away to East Fife. The 2nd Round draw resulted in a Falkirk derby and a crowd of 2767 turned out to watch the Brockville Park encounter, though unfortunately we lost out 0-3. It was to be a 1st Round exit in the B & Q Cup (Challenge Cup) when went out 2-3 at Berwick Rangers. It was also similar 1st Round disappointment in the Stirlingshire Cup losing 2-4 away to Stirling Albion. At the club’s AGM in October it was announced that we had £300,000 cash reserves with £100,000 more available from a Football Trust grant, the majority of which would be spent on building a new main stand at Firs Park.

Before the 1992/93 season began the new stand at Firs Park was opened on the 25th July. After the promise of the previous season our 1992/93 2nd Division League performances turned out to be a real disappointment.  After defeats in our 1st two games we travelled to Arbroath for what turned out to be an incredible game. 2-3 down at the break we lost a further goal in the 55th minute before 3 late goals turned the result in our favour. Shire pulled 1 goal back in the 83rd minute and then equalised 2 minutes later. Paul Roberts then sealed a famous 5-4 win for the Shire with a goal in the 89th minute to win the game 5-4. The win was to prove a false dawn for the Shire as we only recorded 4 more wins by February and none after our 2-1 win away to Queen of the South on 7th November. During this spell we had two back to back results at both ends of the scale, suffering a 3-7 home reserve against Stenhousemuir on 10th October and then 7 days later wining 5-2 at Berwick Rangers. We did hit a mini purple patch of form in mid February with a 2-0 home with against Berwick Rangers and a 2-1 Stenhousemuir away win on consecutive Saturdays but after this the goals dried up. With the exception of the 4-1 Firs Park win against Queen’s Park we failed to record any other wins for the rest of the season, only scoring 1 goal in 4 of our remaining 13 games and drawing a blank in the rest. The season’s points tally of 25 meant the we ended in 13th place in the League only 3 points above bottom placed Albion Rovers. The Scottish Cup turned out to be a welcome distraction from our League struggles. After receiving a Bye in the 1st Round we played out a 0-0 draw away to Vale of Leithen in the next Round before winning the Replay 3-2 at Firs Park after extra time. In the 3rd Round we played out a draw 2-2 at Cove Rangers, only levelling the match in the 89th minute, before winning a just as tight Replay at home 2-1. This set up a Last 16 home Tie against Clydebank which we narrowly lost 1-2. In the other 3 Cup competitions we went out in the 1st Round; losing 0-1 at home to Alloa Athletic in the League Cup, 4-5 on penalties in the B & Q Cup match at Berwick Rangers after the game had ended 2-2 after extra time and 1-2 at Firs Park against Falkirk in the Stirlingshire Cup. Shire also played a couple of home pre-season friendlies, losing 2-5 to Chester City and 0-1 to Dunfermline Athletic. After the positive new about the club’s financial position the previous season things took a turn for the worst by the start of 1992/93 with rumours that the new stand costs had over run with the total cost being £600,000. This final cost was dismissed by the club saying that “Any overspend will be a very modest one.” However, by mid September Director and majority shareholder, Alan Mackin, was warning that the club could fold. It was mentioned that the club were looking at changing the club’s shareholders’ voting structure to 1 share 1 vote. At the club’s AGM in October Alan Mackin had his proposal to change the Club’s share voting system in return for a personal cash investment into the club rejected. The actual cost of the stand was revealed as £385,000 plus £118,000 in fees but the club did confirm that we were solvent. In March after losing a boardroom battle to hire a youth coach, Alan Mackin resigned from the board and said “Without a dramatic re-think on their part, East Stirling Football Club could be history in a couple of years.” He also stated that he has no intention of selling his major shareholding in the club.

This is the East Stirlingshire Team photogragh from Season 1992/93

Back Row: Paul Friar, Tom Woods, David Craig, Colin McKinnon, Michael Geraghty, Gordon Russell

Middle Row: Chris McMillan, Paul Roberts, Steven Barclay, George Watson, Paul Imrie, Scott Tierney, Steven Thompson. Alan Auld

Front Row: Bobby McCulley (Assistant Manager), Brian Kemp, Peter Houston, Dom Sullivan (Manager), Brian Ross, Des Walker, Sandra Togneri (Physio)

 

 

Season 1993/94 saw the Shire turn the corner in the 2nd Division and although in the end we only achieved a 9th place in the League we did win a 3rd of our matches and reach the 37 points mark. 1993/94 was a season of change in the Scottish League and with the Leagues moving to a 4 Division set up for the following season all clubs in the 2nd Division were aiming for a 6th place or higher to avoid relegation to the new 3rd Division. In the end Shire nearly avoided the drop, being only 5 points off 6th place and safety, although winning only 1 point from our last 4 matches had killed our survival chances. During the season Shire had had bursts of form including a 6 game unbeaten run during November and the start of December in which we had recorded our biggest win of the season, 5-1 away to Albion Rovers. There was another good spelt in March which included a 4-0 home win against Cowdenbeath but it just wasn’t enough to ensure our survival. In the Scottish Cup we again received a Bye in the 1st Round and came up against Cove Rangers at Firs Park in the 2nd Round. A comfortably 4-1 win resulting in a 3rd Round home tie against Aberdeen. The match was switch to Brockville Park and in front of a mid-week crowd of 3853 (the original game had been postponed) we lost out 1-3. In the League Cup we had a good 1-0 away win at Montrose in the 1st Round before travelling to Dunfermline Athletic for the next Round. In a close Tie the game was still 0-0 after 90 minutes but the home team scored 2 goals in extra time to win 2 nil. We again met Montrose away in the B & Q Cup 1st Round but this time the Angus club were the better team and we went out heavily, 0-5. In a change from tradition the earlier Rounds of the Stirlingshire Cup were played in Groups in 1993/94 with the Shire being in Section A. However, we failed to progress when after wining our away match against Stenhousemuir 1-0 and drawing 2-2 away to Falkirk we then lost the 3rd match 1-2 away to Dumbarton.

The new 4 Division set up was introduced to the Scottish League for season 1994/95 with two new teams, Ross County and Caledonian Thistle, elected to increase the total number of teams to 40 and allowing 4 Leagues of 10 teams to proceed. At the same time, after over 100 years, the League changed its’ points system of 2 points for a win to 3 points. The new 3rd Division proved to be to the Shire liking and by 15th October an 8 game unbeaten run had taken us to the top of the table when we won 1-0 away at Arbroath. We had a slight stumble after this but then roared back with a 4-1 win at Ross County on 5th November, our 1st visit to Dingwall since January 1892. The Shire continued to be in the mix for promotion but the rails came off our challenge in April losing 5 of our last 8 matches to end the season in 4th place with 59 points, 6 points off 2nd place and promotion. The Cups were a disappointment in 1994/95 going out in the 1st Round of all the major Cups. In the Scottish Cup we lost 0-3 away to Stenhousemuir, 0-2 at home to Caledonian Thistle in the League Cup in what was their 1st ever competitive match and 2-4 on penalties at home to Ayr United in the Challenge Cup after the game had ended 1-1 after extra time. Shire were drawn to play in Section A of the Stirlingshire Cup and got off to a winning start with a 4-3 home triumph against Stenhousemuir but then lost 2-4 on penalties at home against Alloa Athletic after the match ended 1-1 in 90 minutes. The last game in the Group was away to Clydebank but we lost out 1-2.

This is the East Stirlingshire Team photogragh from Season 1994/95

Back Row: Lennie Reid (Assistant Manager), Glen Millar, Sam Dempsey, Derek Yates, Jim Moffat, Paul Imrie, Gordon McDougall, Robert Lee, Mungo McCallum, John Dodds

Front Row: Sandra Lawlor (Physio), Jamie Loney, Gordon Russell, Billy Little (Manager), Brian Ross, Lee Cuthbert, David Watt

 

 

The following season Shire got off to a terrible start in the 3rd Division when it took until our 9th match to win our 1st game, 2-1 at Albion Rovers. After this we were fairly competitive in the League recording a further 10 wins. We also had a great end of season run which included wins against the teams who would finish 2nd to 4th in the League (Brechin City, Caledonian Thistle and Ross County) and drawing 1-1 with the Champions Livingston away. However, due to that poor start we ended up in 7th place in the League with 44 points. We received a Bye in the 1st Round of the Scottish Cup and then met Stenhousemuir in the 2nd Round at Firs Park but lost 0-1. The League Cup 1st Round saw us defeat 2nd Division Clyde 2-1 at Broadwood before we met Dundee at Brockville Park in the next Round (the Tie being switched from Firs Park to accommodate the 1163 crowd). Dundee overwhelmed us on the day winning 6 nil.  There was a 1st Round exit in the Challenge Cup when we lost 0-3 at home to St. Mirren. The Stirlingshire Cup1st Round saw us defeat Falkirk 4-2 on penalties after the Brockville Park game had ended 1-1 after 90 minutes. In the Semi Final we edged past Clydebank 2-1 at Firs Park before travelling to play Dumbarton at their home ground in the Final. Once again we narrowly lost out on winning the Cup, this time losing the Final 1-2.

Season 1996/97 wasn’t a vintage one for the Shire with a season long struggle with Arbroath to avoid bottom place in the 3rd Division. Only 3 League wins had been achieved by the end of January but gradually after that Shire started winning more points. It all came down to a last day shootout with Arbroath on the 10th May at Firs Park to decide the bottom 2 League positions with Shire having to win. We were 1-0 up at half time and scored twice in the 2nd half to avoid the wooden spoon and finish on 33 points, 2 points ahead of Arbroath. After a 1st Round Bye Shire met Brora Rangers in the 2nd Round of the Scottish Cup winning a close match 4-3. The next round took us to Premier League Kilmarnock and we put up at decent performance but went out 0-2. Kilmarnock would go on to win the Cup that season defeating Falkirk in the Final. In the League Cup we suffered a 1st Round home defeat to Alloa Athletic losing 1-3. Our Challenge Cup 1st Round Tie in 1996/97 was away to Clydebank at Boghead and after 120 minutes without scoring we went through on penalties 3-2. In the 2nd Round we travelled to Montrose but lost out 1-2. In the Stirlingshire Cup we lost at home in 1st Round to Stirling Albion 2-4 on penalties after the match had ended 2-2 in 90 minutes. At the start of the season Shire played a friendly away to neighbours, Camelon Juniors, drawing 2-2.

1997/98 was to be a more positive 3rd Division Campaign for the Shire with a great 1st half of the season. Although we lost our opening 2 matches we won 11 our next 17 League games before the turn of the year including back to back 4-0 home wins against Cowdenbeath and Berwick Rangers in November. The lack of depth in our 1st team squad then took its’ toll when key players weren’t available and we lost touch with our promotion rivals. At the season end our 57 points total was good enough for 4th Place although we were 11 points from 2nd place and promotion. After receiving a bye in the 1st Round of the Scottish Cup we met Edinburgh City at Firs Park in the 2nd Round, drawing the game 1-1. The Meadowbank Stadium Replay was goalless after 120 minutes and we failed in the penalty shoot out, losing 3-4. Our League Cup 1st Round match was at home against  Stranraer (who would go on to win the 2nd Division Title that season) and we recorded a good 3-1 win. The prize was a 2nd Round trip to play 1st Division Dundee (who also won their League Title that season) and we went out narrowly, 0-1. In the Challenge Cup we travelled to Station Park for our 1st Round match against Forfar Athletic but lost 1-2. It was back to Groups for the Stirlingshire Cup in 1997/98 and in our Section B games we lost 0-1 at home to Clydebank and won 1-0 away against Falkirk. We also played a couple of pre-season friendlies winning 1-0 against Heart of Midlothian Youths and travelling north to meet Buckie Thistle drawing the game 2-2. Behind the scenes the club’s major shareholder, Alan Mackin, returned to the Shire and an EGM was held in June 1998 to again put forward his plan to sell off Firs Park and split the profits between the shareholders. The motion was defeated.

The following season Shire failed to push on from the promise of the previous campaign and although we did win 40 points it was only good enough for an 8th place finish, 10 points above bottom team Montrose. It took until our 7th match to win our 1st League win of the season.  However, we then went on an unbeaten 8 game run which included 3 wins and a memorable 4-0 triumph on 26th September at the National Stadium against Queen’s Park. However, after this form dipped and apart for a purple patch of 4 wins in a row from the end of January right through to the end of February there were too many games that we just missed out in taking the points. In the 1st Round of the Scottish Cup we travelled to play Dalbeattie Star and won a close match 2-1. The 2nd Round was also a long trip South, this time to 1st Division Stranraer where we just lost out 0-1. We also had an away draw in the League Cup 1st Round, though this time it was the short journey to fellow 3rd Division rivals Stenhousemuir where we lost out 0-1. There was no Challenge Cup competition in 1998/99 but we did play in the Stirlingshire Cup (in what was an U18 competition that season) progressing from our Section A Group after a 4-2 away win at Stenhousemuir, a 2-2 home draw against Alloa Athletic and a 2-0 home win against Clydebank. The Final was played at Ochilview Park against Stirling Albion but it wasn’t to be our year losing 1-4. Shire played 4 other matches in 1998/99, 3 pre-season friendlies which including a 0-2 defeat against Motherwell at Grangemouth Stadium. The other game was a Testimonial match for long serving Shire Legend, Gordon Russell, which took place on the 15th March at Firs Park. The opposition on the night were Heart of Midlothian and John Robertson of Hearts played for the Shire Team which lost 2-3. Gordon would go on to become the Shire’s all time record appearance holder playing 513 games in total. Off the pitch at East Stirlingshire there were a lot of disagreements regarding the way forward for the club. At the club’s AGM in November the club’s major shareholder, Alan Mackin, saw a further attempt to get his proposal to sell Firs Park and share the profits with the shareholders defeated. The Shire board themselves were also looking to sell Firs Park and use part of the proceeds to share a new ground with Falkirk at Westfield. After the meeting the club received a £1.5 million written offer from a retail developer for Firs Park. Mackin then threatened to take out an injunction stopping the club using the proceeds of the proposed ground sale. In January Mackin had his request to transfer his shares declined by the board and he then threatened the club with legal action. In April it was still Shire’s 1st priority to share with Falkirk but there were concerns over the timescale it would take to get the new ground built. Stenhousemuir then asked Shire to have ground sharing talks with them. On 13th May Shire pulled out of the venture to share a new ground with Falkirk at Westfield claiming the project was taking too long to come together, believing it would take 3 years to complete the 15000 all seater stadium. The Shire now looked certain to share with Stenhousemuir at Ochilview from 2000/01 with a new stand being built opposite the existing one. It was reported that if the Shire were putting Firs Park up for sale it would be worth more now than in 3 years time due to the various developments going on at that time in the retail park. Alan Mackin, the club’s major shareholder, vowed to block the club’s plans to share with Stenhousemuir. The deal to ground share with Stenhousemuir was to be signed on 27th May. A Letter of Intent to ground share was duly signed by both the clubs with the deal being formally announced on 2nd June and Firs Park put up for sale for £1.5 million. This was the 1st deal in Scotland for two clubs to share a ground permanently. The Shire would buy half of Ochilview Park and built the 2nd stand from the sale proceeds of Firs Park. Alan Mackin then requested an EGM for the club’s shareholders to agree to the deal with Stenhousemuir and this was held on 16th July. Despite Alan Mackin’s  resolution was that the shareholders should agree to the deal he stood up at the meeting asking the shareholders to vote against his own resolution. However, the shareholders voted to agree to Alan Mackin’s resolution to agree to the ground share with Stenhousemuir.

1999/00 saw us reach exactly the same 40 points mark in the 3rd Division as the season before.  Shire only won 2 games in the 1st 3 months of the season but a spell of 5 wins in 6 games in the next 3 months took us clear of the bottom of the Table. Despite a real struggle to score goals from the end of January 4 more wins were recorded which meant a final 7th place in the League. Shire travelled to Strathbogie for our Scottish Cup 1st Round Tie against Huntly winning 1-0 with an 88th minute goal. The 2nd Round took us to 2nd Division Partick Thistle and in front of a 2262 crowd we went out of the Cup 1-2 on the day. The League Cup 1st Round match against Clydebank was played Cappielow Park, Greenock. Shire recorded a great 2-1 win against the 2nd Division team but the game is best remembered for the headlines of a crowd of only 13. This was the figure that a number journalists chose to detail when in fact the crowd was officially 69 (29 paying and 40 complimentaries) with a large number of the Shire fans getting into the game via complimentary tickets. The game had been boycotted by the Clydebank fans as part of a protest and took place amidst of an unbelievable ½ Million people who were in Greenock that day for the Tall Ship Race. The 2nd Round was a home derby against Falkirk which was switched to Ochilview Park to accommodation the 1201 crowd. Shire took our 1st Division neighbours to extra time after the game was tied 0-0 in 90 minutes but 2 extra time goals by Falkirk saw us bow out of the Cup. We met Clydebank again in the 1st Round of the Challenge Cup, this time at Firs Park, but after the game was tied 1-1 in 90 minutes we lost 1-2 at the end of extra time. Shire were in Section B of the 1999/00 Stirlingshire Cup, losing our home match against Falkirk 1-2 and winning 3-2 away at Stenhousmuir. There were also 3 pre-season friendlies at the start of the season including a 2-0 win against League of Ireland 1st Division club St. Francis. The off field issues continued apace during 1999/00. An EGM requested by Alan Mackin, with the motion to remove the current Shire board and take control of the Club, was held on the 9th October. The meeting was supposed to take place in the Lesser Town Hall but due to a mix up the hall was locked and the EGM then took place in the car park. Alan Mackin’s motion was rejected by 1281 votes to 1085. Falkirk Council’s investigation into why the hall was locked indentified that a caller alleging to be from East Stirlingshire FC had cancelled the booking citing that “not enough people were going to be able to attend the meeting”. The Shire board believed the cancellation to be “sabotage”. The club’s AGM quickly followed on 25th November and 2 days prior to the meeting Alan Mackin raised a successful court action at the Court of Session in Edinburgh contesting previous share transfers made by the club board at a time when he had been denied the right to transfer his own shares. The court ruled the club’s share transfers were ineligible for the AGM which meant that Alan Mackin was in a position to win control of the board. As a result of the court’s decision the club’s chairman, George Ronald, resigned. At the AGM, as expected Alan Mackin and his supporters won control of the board and re-iterated that “I want to see East Stirling in the First Division in five years.” The new board issued a press release on 2nd December which said; “We have found that the club’s finances are in a shambles. At this stage the club is not in a position to pay the salaries due at the end of the week. Drastic cuts to the wage bill will have to be made if the club is to survive. We estimate that the club has debts of almost £100,000.” The ousted old board disputed these figures stating that “The actual debt is less than £30,000 as was shown to the shareholders at the AGM less than a week after they took over.”  Manager Hugh McCann then resigned citing he was unable to work with the new board. Also the club cancelled its’ planned overnight stay that weekend for the Scottish Cup match at Huntly, saving £2500.  By the end of December Alan Mackin took over as Chairman of the club. In March Alan Mackin announced that the club were now looking into the possibility of moving the Shire to Grangemouth Stadium and both the Falkirk and Stenhousemuir ground sharing options had stalled with the Ochilview deal on hold and the Westfield option dead. He also raised the spectre of the club changing our name. Reports that the club were also considering a move to East Kilbride were denied by the Chairman. It was also noted that the Letter of Intent signed by both Shire and Stenhousemuir in March 1999 regarding the ground sharing deal only applied in connection with the persons who had signed it and as the Shire old board  who had signed the letter of behalf of the club were no longer in control of the Shire Alan Mackin the option to walk away from the deal.

This is the East Stirlingshire Team photogragh from Season 1999/00

Back Row: Neil Ramage, John Hamilton, Jamie McKenzie, Stuart Jaffa, Michael Fitzgerald, Khalid Abdulrahman, Craig Lynes, Gary McMillan, Stuart Easton, Gary Osborne, Alan Connor

Middle Row: Paul Green (Physio), Andy Scott, Brown Ferguson, Murray Brown, Scott Morrison, Jim Butter, Gary McDonald, Tony Barr, Andy Scott, Tony Elliott, Gerry Walker (Coach)

Front Row: Stevie Laidlaw, Kevin Gordon, Davie Muirhead (captain), Hugh McCann (Manager), Brian Ross, Gordon Russell, Scott Donnelly