2000s

There was a lot of positivity at the start of season 2000/01 with Manager George Fairly bringing in a number of new faces from the Junior ranks, who had all represented Scotland at Junior Level, together with a number of players with Scottish League experience. Also joining the club was a young forward from Easthouses Under 21 called Stevie Hislop. The Shire would compete well in the League throughout the season but it wasn’t until February that a run of results was strung together and we went unbeaten for 7 games. In March and April Shire did record good results against the teams who would be promoted. A credible 2-2 away draw was achieved against Hamilton Academical who would win the Title on goal difference (they had been relegated to the 3rd Division the season before following a 15 point deduction for failing to fulfil a fixture). Also with Cowdenbeath also aiming for the Title we won a memorable match against them at Central Park 3-1 in April. The season ended with Shire on 37 points from 10 wins and 7 draws which meant an 8th place in the League, 15 points above 10th. In the Scottish Cup 1st Round we had the honour of being the 1st team to meet Dumbarton at their new ground in the Premier Cup competition, coming away with a 1-1 result. Despite dominating the Replay at Firs Park we lost out to a solitary 2nd half goal.  In the League Cup 1st Round we had a great 2-1 home win against Hamilton Academical before putting in another good performance at Premier League Dunfermline Athletic, when in front of a 2691 crowd we narrowly lost 0-1 to a 2nd half goal. Our 1st Round Challenge Cup match at Firs Park against East Fife saw us in superb form winning 3-0 and we followed this up with another great performance at home, shocking 1st Division Greenock Morton 3-2. This set up a home Quarter Final Tie against Stenhousemuir. On the night Shire blew our neighbours away 4-0 to take us into the Semi Final of the competition for the 1st time and also our 1st ever Semi Final in any of the National Cups. Our opponents in that Semi Final were 1st Division Livingston who would go on to win the Title that season and gain promotion to the Premier League for the 1st time in their history. On a rain swept night at Almondvale Stadium Shire got off to a great start going into a early lead but a controversial penalty decision allowed the home team to equalise. A further Livvy goal just behalf the interval finished the scoring and saw us disappointingly miss out of the Final, 1-2.

The Stirlingshire Cup in 2000/01 was to be our year. After losing out in our last 3 Finals since our last Cup triumph in 1984/85 it all came good. Like the League Cup and Challenge Cups the Stirlingshire Cup took place in the 1st two months of the season in what already was a very busy schedule. Shire met Stirling Albion and Falkirk at Firs Park in our Section A group matches,  comfortably beating Albion 3-0 before recording a 3-1 win against a young Falkirk team. The Final against 1st Division Alloa Athletic took place at Alloa’s Recreation Park on 6th September. Shire were the dominant team on the night and were twice in the lead only for Alloa to draw level. The game ended 2-2 in 90 minutes and the resulting penalty shootout was an exciting one which eventually went into sudden death with Gordon Russell being the Shire hero, hitting the winning penalty high in the top right hand corner of the net to give us a 6-5 win on penalties.

Before the season started Shire played 4 friendlies including a trip to Lossiemouth where we won 4-0 and also a 3-2 win against Musselburgh Athletic at Edinburgh Academy. Whilst the season progressed there were still background problems at the club. The club’s AGM at the end of 2000 was explosive with Director Lex Miller announcing publically that minutes prior to the meeting that he was told that he was being voted off the board by Alan Mackin and his fellow Directors because he refused to “toe the party line.“ Lex Miller duly lost his place on the board at the meeting and as a result he went onto to transfer his football interest to Sauchie Juniors where he provided investment to help them build a new stand. In January the club’s board agreed not to sign any deal to sell Firs Park without first calling an EGM. Shareholders had been due to take out an interdict to stop the sale without Shareholder consolation before this concession was agreed. The club had said that they were currently in talks with an interested party regarding the sale of the ground. This later turned out to be Grantchester Development.

The Following season Shire got off to a good start in the League for once, winning 6 out of our 1st 10 games including impressive 4-0 wins away to East Fife and Albion Rovers. However, the wins then dried up and it wasn’t until 9th February that another win was recorded when we defeated Stirling Albion 3-0 at Firs Park. In April another two great home wins were achieved against the two teams who would gain promotion; 1-0 win versus Dumbarton and a 2-0 triumph against Champions Brechin City. By the end of the season we had won a 3rd of our matches but we only gained 40 points and 7th place in the League. In the Scottish Cup, following a 1st Round Bye, we met Forres Mechanics at home in the 2nd Round drawing 0-0. The Replay at Mosset Park was a disappointment as we crashed out of the Cup 1-3. There was also no success in the other Cups as we lost our home 1st Round League Cup against 2nd Division Queen of the South (who would win the Title that season) 0-3 and our Challenge Cup 1st Round at Firs Park against Alloa Athletic 0-1 (who also would gain promotion from the 2nd Division that season). Shire lost both of our Section B matches in the Stirlingshire Cup, 0-1 away to Stenhousemuir and 2-5 away to Falkirk. Behind the scenes, at the end of 2001 club AGM, Chairman Alan Mackin defeated a challenge to remove him from the club’s board after opponents had accused him of trying to asset-strip the club. At the start of January club Alan Mackin held a press conference outside Grangemouth Stadium to announce that the Shire board wanted to sell the ground and relocate to Grangemouth, at the same time changing the name of the club to “Grangemouth or something or other.” Falkirk Council were unhappy that he had jumped the gun with the press announcement as they had yet to give approval to the club moving to the local authority Stadium and wrote to the club to say so and they also said that holding a press conference about the matter without their consent was “unacceptable.” Alan Mackin again stated that he wanted the Shire to be a 1st Division club within 5 years and that he believed that the move to Grangemouth would happen for the start of season 2003/04. He also stated that he hoped on moving to Grangemouth Stadium the crowds would immediately increase to 800 and that from the total sale proceeds of Firs Park to Grantchester Development (for retail development) £500,000 would be used to for improvements at Grangemouth Stadium. In April the Shire board make the cataclysmic announcement that the players wages would be cut by 2/3rds for the next season to a flat £10pw with a conditional bonus being paid if the Shire were among the top 5 teams at the end of the season. It came as no surprise that this was the final straw for 14 of the squad, including all the senior players at the club, who all left the Shire.

The decision to announce the £10pw wage structure had a profound effect on the team in 2002/03. New Manager, ex-Shire player Danny Diver, struggled to sign any players of the required experience and quality to compete in the Scottish League and was forced to pull together the team from the remnants of the scrapped Under 18 Shire team, free transfers and amateur players. It therefore came as no surprise that the Shire had a terrible season, but how bad it turned out was beyond the worst nightmares of all those that held the club close to our hearts. The results from the League campaign were truly awful, we failed to win any game at home the whole season and only recorded 5 home draws. Away from home, we somehow managed to win 2 games, both against Queen’s Park, but apart from a solitary draw every other game was a defeat. The last 16 games overall failed to produce a win and only a meagre total of 13 points was gained during the season which resulted in a bottom place in the League, 15 points off 2nd bottom and a minus 73 goals difference. Our final League match of the season, away to Albion Rovers on the 10th May, had been a remarkable one as the Shire used 4 different goalkeepers in the same game. We started the game with our regular keeper Chris Todd who then had to go off injured in 6 minutes. His replacement was our listed substitute goalkeeper Scott Finlay. Scott then received a red card in the 55th minute and defender Graeme McLaren took over in goals before he himself was dismissed in the 65th minute. This meant that a 2nd defender, Kevin McCann, went between the sticks and even saved a Rovers penalty. It was no surprise that with 9 men we lost the match to a Rovers team who themselves missed out on promotion that day by only 1 point. It is also worth noting that by a quirk of fate the referee that day, Andrew Hunter, had also sent off another 5 Shire players in our matches during the season, including reducing us to 8 men in a match at Peterhead. In the Scottish Cup Shire crashed out in a 1st Round Replay at Threave Rovers 1-2 after the original Tie at Firs Park had ended 1-1. There were also a 1st Round defeat in the League Cup, a 0-1 loss at Queen’s Park, and a heavy 7 nil reverse at 1st Division St. Mirren in the Challenge Cup 1st Round. In the Stirlingshire Section B Shire recorded a surprise 3-0 away win at Falkirk but the result was later declared void as Shire’s other game away to Dumbarton was not played and it was Falkirk who progressed to the Final. Shire played 3 pre-season friendlies, the 1st two were at Grangemouth Stadium where we lost 1-3 to Berwick Rangers and then won 4-2 against Dalbeattie Star. The weekend before the season started the Shire team had a few days away at the National Sports Training Centre in Largs, whilst there we played a match against Largs Thistle on the Saturday, losing 0-4. Off the pitch by January Falkirk Council had rejected Alan Mackin’s proposal for the club to relocate to Grangemouth Stadium and help up grade it. One month later on the 28th February Shire Manager, Danny Diver, make an ill judged statement in the Daily Record saying “I don’t think East Stirling supporters deserve anything because their attitude to the club is appalling. In all my time they haven’t done anything constructive. They mump and moan and are happy to be third. That’s not a supporter.” He also infamously added “I have to say that I don’t think there is any great point in East Stirling.“ Although the manager did say later that his words had been taken out of context for many fans at the club this was the final straw and there was genuine fury. At the end of the previous decade when the Shire boardroom battles had been at their height a number of fans had gotten together to form a protest group called “Save our Shire”. Shortly after this the current East Stirlingshire FC Supporters Club was formed in 2000 which continued to carry the torch against the incumbent board. After this incredible statement by our own Manager the Supporters Club voted to stage demonstrations against the manager and the chairman for their attitude to the club. These were the 1st protests against the club by the Supporters since the ES Clydebank saga in the 1960s. A month after the protests at our home games began the Shire Manager resigned citing that he was “unable to give sufficient time to the post because of his other job.” The fans protests against Chairman Alan Mackin and his friends on the board continued until the end of the season. Also in March the club’s option agreement to sell Firs Park to Halladale Developments (previously referred to as Grantchester) ran out.

This is the East Stirlingshire Team photograph from Season 2002/03

Back Row: Robert Goldie, Robert Jack, Jordan Leishman, Scott McAuley, David Grant, Roddy Mauchan, Andrew O’Neill, Billy Struthers, Chris Todd, Graeme McLaren, Stephen Oates, Jamie MacKay, James Drummond, Jimmy Wilson, Laura Gillogley

Front Row: Chris Baldwin, Gerry Boyle, Chris Dunbar, Steve Morrison, Graham McGhee, Danny Diver, Brian Fairbairn, Sean McAuley, Derek Ure

 

If the Shire fans thought it couldn’t get any worse on the pitch sadly season 2003/04 proved us all wrong and gained the club worldwide notoriety. For the Shire it was to the worst season in the club’s long history and also one of if not the worst by any club in the British Professional Leagues of all-time. Going into the start of the League campaign the small optimism that 2003/04 would be better than the previous season very quickly evaporated as the 1st 3 months of the campaign went by without a win. After a particularly poor 1-5 defeat at Montrose on 25th October, including the 16 game spell at the end of 2002/03, the run of League games without a win stretched to 26. This spell included an unwelcome club record 23 home League games without a win. Then against all the odds the Shire pulled off a long sought after win when we defeated Elgin City 3-1 at Firs Park. Unfortunately it was very much a false dawn as we then embarked on the worst ever losing run in British Senior football losing our next 25 games in a row (24 in the League and 1 Cup match). The truly terrible run included 13 games where we lost 4 or more goals and in two of the games we lost 1-7 and 1-8. The 1-8 home defeat against 3rd bottom Albion Rovers was particularly bad is it equalled our worse ever home defeat in the Scottish League. With 1 match to play we were marooned off the bottom of the League with only 5 points from 1 win and 3 draws, a chasm off 9th place, and staring down the barrel of the worst every points total in British Senior League football. On the eve of the match former Shire Manager, Alex Ferguson, was asked to give suitable words of encouragement to the Shire team, he replied, “Just win.” Also the legendary spoon bender, Uri Geller, got in on the act asking everyone to touch their radio and envision a Shire win. In that last League game of the season against Elgin City at Firs Park it was an own goal which swung the game in the Shire’s favour and we went onto win 2-1 to end the long barren run. However, the end of season statistics were not pretty with Shire 17 points adrift in the last place with only 2 wins and 2 draws over the whole campaign and a terrible minus 88 goal difference. We failed to take even a single point away from home. The 8 points we won just eclipsed the worse every lowest points total in a League but was on par with Abercorn’s record in Scottish Division One in 1896/97 when they only won 1 and drew 1 of their 18 games. The Scottish Cup brought no cheer to us either as we lost heavily 5 nil at home to Cowdenbeath in the 2nd Round after receiving a 1st Round Bye. In both the League Cup and Challenge Cup we also went out in home 1st Round defeats; 1-2 to Ross County and 2-5 to Raith Rovers respectively. There was better news in the Stirlingshire Cup; after losing our home Section B group match against Stenhousemuir 3-4 on penalties after the game had ended 1-1 in 90 minutes we lost our away group game to Alloa Athletic 0-3. Fate then smiled on us for once as the Alloa defeat was declared void when our opponents were disqualified for fielding an ineligible player and because Alloa had done the same in their 1-0 win against Stenhousemuir that result was annulled as well. It was decided that Shire and Stenhousemuir would play a 2nd match to decide who went through and it was Shire who triumphed in that game winning 2-0. This meant that against the odds Shire went through to the Ochilview Final against Stirling Albion but we lost out 0-3. The Shire Supporters were still busy off the field and a one off protest was held in May against the way that Alan Mackin and the board were running the club. Also a letter was sent that month by the East Stirlingshire Supporters Club to the Scottish Football League asking for an enquiry into the way our club was being run. The Supporters cited 3 main grounds for an investigation:-

1) The league is spending money on a club that has caused embarrassment to the governing body and other member clubs

2) The league should consider penalising member clubs who deliberately do not appear to be trying to compete with their divisional rivals

3) Are those in charge of a member club, who apparently don’t care how bad results are, fit to run that club ?

A reply was received from the League Secretary, Peter Donald, saying that no rules had been broken but that the league was looking at ways to keep football in the SFL competitive. Indeed there was press speculation that the SFL were looking at making a team that finished bottom of the 3rd Division 2 years in a row subject to re-election. The fans decided to take matters further and in June 2004, at an open meeting, it was agreed to create a Shire Supporters Trust to gain positive influence at the club.

The only way was up for the Shire in 2004/05 and the “meltdown” of the previous 12 months and although we did ultimately end up in last place in the League for a 3rd season in a row the results did improve. During the season we won 5 and drew 7 of our matches, accruing 22 points which left us 12 points off 2nd bottom. It had been another terrible start to the season not winning until our 13th match, a run which including heavy 0-6 and 1-8 defeats. That 1st win came on the 6th November in the rain at Elgin City when a 3-1 result saw us win away in the League for the 1st time since 18th January 2003, our 1st win in 32 overall away competitive matches. In fact it had only been 2 away games earlier that we finally ended our British League record runs of 29 away defeats in a row when we drew 3-3 at Albion Rovers. The win at Elgin took us on a 4 game unbeaten run, the best since the Autumn of 2001. After this, Shire continued to pick up the occasional win and draw as the season progressed. Once again Shire failed to win any games in the National Cups losing in the 1st Round of each. In the Scottish Cup we went down 1-3 at Greenock Morton and narrowly lost 2-3 away to Peterhead in the League Cup. In the Challenge Cup we met Berwick Rangers but in a close game we went out 1-2. We lost both our Stirlingshire Cup Section A matches, 3-0 at home to Dumbarton and 0-5 away to Falkirk. In our two pre-season friendlies in 2004/05 we lost 0-1 to a Clyde XI at Grangemouth Stadium and won 4-0 against Cumbernauld United at the same venue. Off the park Shire benefited with a 6 figure shirt sponsorship deal with pools giants, Littlewood though the club did not change the player £10pw wage policy. The supporters’ shiretrust was formed and approached the club to assist the club in various ways in return for some shares in East Stirlingshire FC, the club failed to reply. At the Start of August East Stirlingshire FC agreed the provisional sale of Firs Park to Ogilvie Homes for an undisclosed amount, believed to be around £1.5m to £1.6m. Firs Park was zoned by Falkirk Council for Leisure and the deal was subject to Ogilvie Homes receiving planning permission for housing. Shiretrust raised their concerns about the proposed sale saying that 70% to 80% of the sale proceeds would be given to the shareholders as a dividend. The club board replied that nothing has been finalised yet. In October a story appeared in the Metro that the Shire had asked shirt sponsor’s Littlewoods Pools to look into the availability of England Internationalist Paul Gascoigne signing for the club and the Pools company paying his wages. “Gazza” would later decline the offer. On the 27th May the Scottish Football League voted, along with a play-offs between the Divisions, that a club finishing bottom of the 3rd Division in consecutive seasons would be reduced to a non-voting member of the league and then if that same club finished the following two seasons bottom there would be a vote to decide if the club would remain a member of the SFL. shiretrust then launched a campaign against the League’s plan for the bottom club due to the lack of information where any expelled club would go due to the lack of a pyramid. shiretrust’s concern was that the only people who would benefit from the potential expulsion of the Shire from the League would be the Directors of East Stirlingshire FC, who could, within a period of four years, be freed from the expensive business of running a football club allowing them to concentrate on their main aim; selling Firs Park and pocketing the profits. Instead, shiretrust wished to see all professional, semi-professional and amateur clubs combine their efforts in an all-encompassing Scottish pyramid, which would be able to resolve any question over a team being consistently allowed to remain uncompetitive.

During Season 2005/06, for a while, it looked like Shire would finally avoid the bottom spot in the table at the end of the season but only 1 win our last 11 League games put paid that wish. In our opening 8 matches we recorded 2 wins and a draw but then we went on a very poor form slump failing to win any of our next 11 games and only gaining 2 draws. Included in that was as a depressing 2-7 away defeat at Arbroath. Shire then had a mini purple patch of 3 wins in 5 games before returning to our end of season collapse in which we only scored 4 goals in those last 11 games. The season’s tally of 22 points from 6 wins and 5 draws saw us finish only 5 points away from 2nd bottom Montrose. It was yet another season of disappointment in the Cups with 1st Round exits in all the National Cups. There was a close 2-3 away defeat to Stenhousemuir in the Scottish Cup, a 1-3 home defeat to Queen’s Park in the League Cup and a 0-2 away defeat to 1st Division Dundee in the Challenge Cup. Despite our troubles elsewhere Shire reached the Final of the Stirlingshire Cup after Section A group wins against Dumbarton 1-0 away and 2-1 against Falkirk at home. The Final was played at Firs Park and our opponents were 2nd Division Stirling Albion who won the game comfortably 0-3. Before the season commenced Shire played a friendly at Kirkintilloch Rob Roy. During the season shiretrust continued to actively help the club. In September, in agreement with the club, volunteer shiretrust members re-opened and manned the club shop after 4 seasons without one being open, helping the club to raise much need funds. In a bid to have more say in the running of the club Ian Ramsay, the shiretrust Chairman, stood for election to the Football Club board at the November AGM. Unsurprisingly, due to the large shareholdings of the incumbent Directors he failed to gain election. At the end of the AGM club secretary, Les Thomson, expressed his thanks to shiretrust and the Supporters Club for the assistance that both provided to the club this season. Relations that had been rock bottom between the club and the fans had started to improve.

The next season, for a change, saw the Shire have a more positive 1st half of the season and for once it was Elgin City in the bottom League place instead of ourselves. By the 13th January Shire had amassed 19 points from our 1st 19 games, including 6 wins and our never to be forgotten 5-0 home win against Stenhousemuir in August. At one point we had a 9 points margin over Elgin City and hopes were high that we would avoid last place in the League for the 1st time since 2001/02.  However, Shire went complete off the rails after this, failing to win any of our last 17 games and only drawing 2 in that run. With such a dreadful run of results it was no surprise that we ended up bottom of the League for 5th League in a row, 8 points behind 9th placed Elgin City. There was no cheer at all in the Cups in 2006/07 with the Shire losing every match, including 1st Round exits in every National Cup. Our Scottish Cup home Tie against Stirling Albion saw us go out 0-2 whilst it was to be a 1-4 away defeat to Cowdenbeath which saw us exit the League Cup. In the Challenge Cup 1st Round South and West Region we suffered a heavy 0-5 home reverse against Queen’s Park. In our 2 Stirlingshire Cup Section A group matches we lost 0-2 at Stenhousemuir and 0-1 at home to Falkirk. After a hiatus of 31 years Shire travelled to England to play pre-season friendlies against Lancaster City and Chorley, winning both games 2-0 and 3-0 respectively. On the administration front the club were still no nearer selling off Firs Park despite previous offers. shiretrust had no objection to the sale of the ground as long as it secured the long term future of East Stirlingshire FC with the prospect of a new major shareholder and investment. However the trust were seeking cast iron guarantees that there would be no long term ground sharing with another club and urged the board to pursue as it`s No.1 priority a new home of our own. A new club benefactor, Yorkshire business man Spence Fearn, entered the scene at the end of 2006 with plans to change the fortunes of the club. On the 19th April the Scottish Football League management committee held a meeting to consider the League status of the Shire given that the club would occupy last place in the 3rd Division for the 5th consecutive season, Shire triggering the ruling brought in 2 years before that the club finishing bottom for 2 consecutive seasons would lose its’ full membership of the SFL and be reduced to associate member. Shire Chief Executive, Les Thomson, attended the meeting and was told to provide reasons at the SFL AGM on 2nd May why this should not happen. At the League AGM we won our case for a stay of execution for a further 1 year after showing the club’s plans to improve the teams’ fortunes on the field of play. April also saw the potential buyer of Firs Park, Ogilvie Homes, make an application to Falkirk Council to clear the ground to allow housing. Firs Park was in an area of the town zoned by the Council for Leisure and non-food development. If the Council agreed to Ogilvie Homes’ application the sale of Firs Park would proceed and the East Stirlingshire FC shareholders would receive £1.6m. In June, shiretrust made a substantial contribution to the club to assist with the 1st player signing of any note that the Shire since the start of the of the decade.

After 5 seasons of total misery for the club 2007/08 was the season the Shire finally turned the corner. After an opening defeat Shire quickly ran off 4 League wins in a row which included our 1st League win since January and our 1st home win for 1 year. We weren’t able to keep up the blistering start as we failed to take a single point from our next 5 matches. After that Shire did win but it was sporadic and from February on we really struggled to score and as result had a terrible run of 10 consecutive defeats. Despite this with 6 games left to go we were in a small group of 4 teams at the wrong end of the table but for once we weren’t detached off the bottom. The team rolled up their sleeves and won 2 and drew 2 or our next 2 matches. Our penultimate match took us to another team in danger of the “wooden spoon”, Dumbarton, but we lost game 1 nil and it meant that Dumbarton were safe from 10th place but we had to go into a last day nail bitter at Firs Park against Montrose. In was to be East Stirlingshire’s last ever match at Firs Park (which had been confirmed only earlier that day) and we won comfortably 3-1 to reach the 34 points mark whilst Forfar Athletic, who had been 1 point ahead of us in 9th place before the game started, drew 1-1 against Dumbarton at home. This meant that Shire for the 1st time since 2001/02 had avoided finishing last place in the League by 1 point and more importantly avoided losing our full member status of the Scottish League. After years of nothing Shire once again had a run in the Scottish Cup. After benefiting for a Bye in the 1st Round we travelled to Meadowbank Stadium where we won a close 2nd Round Tie 2-1 against East of Scotland Edinburgh City. The 3rd Round saw us at fellow 3rd Division opponents Albion Rovers. On a day that everything clicked, we raced to a 3-0 half time lead and continued to push on in the 2nd half winning the Tie by the comfortable scoreline of 5-1. Our 2nd Round win had been our 1st win in the Scottish Cup since December, 1999 but the win against Albion Rovers was even more significant. The 5-1 triumph was our 1st win in the Scottish Cup against another team from the Scottish League in an incredible 23 seasons, our last win have been against Dunfermline Athletic 3-1 away in December, 1984. It was also the Shire’s all time highest win against a Scottish League team in the Scottish Cup. Our prize for reaching the 4th Round was a bumper pay day at Ibrox went we received our share from the gate receipts of the 34024 crowd which softened the blow of the large 6 nil defeat that we suffered at the hands of Rangers. In the League Cup we travelled to Hamilton Academical and in a very credible performance, against a team who would go on to win the 1st Division Title that season and gain promotion to the Premier League, Shire held the Accies to a 1-1 scoreline until the 76th minute before conceding a 2nd goal with took us out of the Cup. The Challenge Cup was a breath of fresh air to the Shire after years of Cup heartache. The last time that we had won a game in any of the 3 National Cups had been 7 long seasons before in September 2000 so when we defeated Dumbarton in the South and West Region 1st Round Tie 4-2 at Firs Park it was a huge fillip to the club. Better was to follow in the 2nd Round when we caused a Cup shock defeating 2nd Division Queen’s Park 1-0 at home. This took as to a home Quarter Final match against Greenock Morton but we were 2nd best on the night losing 0-4 to the 1st Division side. In the Stirlingshire Cup we competed well in our Section A group beating Falkirk 1-0 at home but missed out on the Final when we went down 2-4 at Firs Park to Alloa Athletic. Shire also embarked on an ill fated English tour in July with both games against Worksop Town and Alferton Town being called off due to heavy rain. Off Field, at the club’s AGM on 15th November a proposal to split the East Stirlingshire FC and Athletic Club Ltd shares into two, with there being an ‘A’ Share and a ‘B’ Share for every original Share, was passed. In at the start of April the Shire shareholders were issued with their new A and B Shares in the club and it was also confirmed that the Shareholding of A Shares of Chairman Alan Mackin and his associates would be transferred to Spencer Fearn. On the 26th April, the day the Shire avoided bottom place in the League on the final day of the season it was confirmed that the East Stirlingshire would be playing our games at Ochilview Park from the start of the next season. The sale of Firs Park had yet to go through as the Council had yet to decide on the application for Planning permission but the cost to increase the size of the playing area to the required League size was prohibitive so the decision had been taken to move now to save “lost” costs.  The long term plan was that the tenure at Ochilview would be a maximum of 5 years with the club looking to have a new ground of our own by then. By mid May the news came through that Spencer Fearn’s buyout of Alan Mackin and his supporters A Shares had been completed. This now meant that the football club Limited Company was split into two with the A Share holding representing the playing part of the club and the B Share holding representing the club’s assets including Firs Park. Alan Mackin and his supporters were still the major B shareholders. The new football club A Shareholders board then made the offer of a seat on the board to shiretrust.

This is the East Stirlingshire Team photograph from Season 2007/08

Back Row: Ian MacIver (physio), Gordon Moffat, Derek Ure, Paul McBride, Darren Hill, Carl Thywssen, Greig Mitchell, David King, Sean Simpson, Paul Brownlie, Robert Jack

Middle Row: Paul McIlwraith, Tom Loan, Ryan Carr, Alan Wilson, Gary Kelly, Paul Doyle, William McLaughlin, Scott Upton, James McShane, Jake McGregor, Stephen Oates, Scott McDonald, John Brownlie, Jimmy Wilson                                                                                                                                    Front Row: Alan Upton, Joe Savage, Kevin Struthers, Kevin McBride, Paul Marnie, Steven McBride, Gordon Wylde (Manager), Les Thomson (Chief Executive), Andy Brand, Craig Donaldson, Marc McKenzie, Barry Daniel

 

 

 

 

All with all the changes at the club at the end of the previous season the rebuilding of the team was not forgotten about and Vice Chairman and major shareholder, Spencer Fearn, started to invest in the team aiming for the top half of the League Table and potential promotion. The 2008/09 season was our 1st as tenants at Ochilview and it was a to be a slow start in the League as it took a bit of time for the new team to gel. The return from our 1st 7 games was only 1 win and 1 draw but at the end of September we saw the 1st signs of what was to come when we easily beat Elgin City 5-2. This signalled the start of a 9 match unbeaten run which included 7 wins which shot us up the table. Included in that run was other big wins, 5-2 and 5-0 at home against Dumbarton and Montrose respectively and 4-0 away at Elgin City. We then had a slight stumble in form winning 1 and losing the rest of our next 5 matches. However, unlike seasons earlier in the decade this time the team got back to winning ways, triumphing in 10 of our remaining 15 games of the season to reach 61 points for the campaign and a 3rd place in the League Table. The 3rd place took us into the 2nd Division end of season play-offs for the 1st time and our 19 games we won during the campaign equalled the most by any team in the League that season (champions Dumbarton also having won the same number). Shire had end up only 6 points off the top of the League. In the play-off Semi Final we met the team that finished in 2nd place in the 3rd Division, Cowdenbeath, who had only won 2 more points than ourselves. The 1st Leg was played at Ochilview and after being down 0-2 at the interval we pulled it back to 1-2 at full time to take us into the 2nd Leg at Cowdenbeath. In that 2nd Leg Shire scored in 3 minutes to level the tie on aggregate but it imploded for us in the 84th minute when Cowdenbeath scored to go 3-2 ahead on aggregate and then our player discipline snapped with 2 of our players receiving a straight red card for protesting the goal. The game ended shortly afterwards and it was to prove a disappointment on the day that we hadn’t progressed to the Final and also less than a couple of months later when it was decided that the losing Finalist would also be promoted to the 2nd Division following the late demotion of Livingston to the 3rd Division. There was 1 positive for the club in that our average League attendance had risen by over 100 to 450 in 2008/09, the 5th best attendance average in the Division.

This is the East Stirlingshire Team photograph from Season 20008/09

Back Row: Stephen Oates, Michael Bolochoweckyj, Greig Mitchell, Brian Graham, John Hillcoat, Andy Rodger, David King

Middle Row: Iain MacIver (Fitness coach), Robert Jack (Groundsman/Kitman), David Nicholls, Gordon Moffat, Dean Richardson, Paul Hay, Sean Anderson, Craig Tully, David Dunn, Jimmy Wilson (Groundsman/Kitman)

Front Row: Gary Kelly, Craig Donaldson, Colin Crambe, Martin Clarke (Assistant Coach), Jim McNally (Manager), Marc McKenzie, Derek Ure, Jimmy Gibson

 

We had another good run in the Scottish Cup in 2008/09, after receiving a 1st Round Bye we eased past East of Scotland team Preston Athletic 4-2 at Ochilview Park and then met Livingston at home in the 3rd Round where we secured a great 2-1 win against our 1st Division opponents. We were again drawn at home in the 4th Round where we were up against Premier League Dundee United. The 2153 crowd saw the Shire give as good as we could but the class of the Premier League team won the day and we went out of the Cup 0-4. We were also drawn against Livingston at home in the 1st Round of the League Cup but although we took the game to extra time we lost out 1-2. Our Challenge Cup 1st Round South and West Region Tie against Ayr United was our 1st home match played at Ochilview Park and we got off to a great start to our tenancy when we beat the 2nd Division team (who would be promoted at the end of the season) 2-1. Our 2nd Round Tie was against 1st Division Greenock Morton at Ochilview but we went out 0-3. The Stirlingshire Cup didn’t take place in 2008/09 due to a dispute between the Stirlingshire FA and the match referees. Another English tour took place in July 2008 when a 1-0 friendly win was secured at Boston City before a playing out a 1-1 draw at Retford United 2 days later. In July as the season was about to commence, shiretrust announced that they now held 10 A shares in the club and the trust’s selected member had now be registered as a board member of the club. In January the trust also may a large financial investment in the Shire to help the club bring in new players. At the club’s AGM on 17th April a healthy profit was declared though it was mentioned that keeping Firs Park open just to be used as administration centre for the club and for training was too costly and the alternatives were being sought as Firs Park still hadn’t sold.

The 2009/10 League campaign got off to the strangest of starts with the cancellation of our 1st game of the season with Livingston when our opponents refused to fulfil their fixture with us at Ochilview Park on 8th August. On the eve of the season the League had taken the decision to demote Livingston from the 1st Division to the 3rd Division following a breach of the League’s insolvency rules. Livingston decided to appeal that decision and choose not to play their game against ourselves and as a result they were threatened with a points deduction and a fine, both of which were quashed on appeal and ultimately the West Lothian Club accepted their position in the 3rd Division.  As a result of a 1st Division club playing in the 3rd Division it meant that all the clubs, including the Shire, who were aiming to gain promotion at the end of the season now had a harder challenge to achieve that goal. With the exception of a heavy 1-5 defeat at Forfar Athletic we got off to a good League start winning 4 and drawing 2 of our 1st 7 games. The last game in that run was a fine 3-1 home win against Livingston. By the time we met Livingston again in late February we had kept up our promotion form, winning 9 of the intervening 12 matches. The home match Livingston on the 20th February knocked us off our stride as we lost 2 nil and we went into a spell including the Livingston defeat of only 2 wins in 11 matches (though 1 of the wins was an impressive 4-0 home triumph against Forfar Athletic). This left us off the pace for the Title but we were still in with a great chance of a play-off place. 4 wins and 2 draws in our last 10 matches meant we secured 3rd place in the League with 61 points, 2 points behind 2nd placed Forfar Athletic who we then met in the 2nd Division play-off Semi Final. The 1st Leg took place at Ochilview Park where we narrowly lost 0-1 which left us chasing the match in the 2nd Leg at Forfar. Despite a gallant effort, going into a 2-1 lead in the 76th minute when Andy Rodgers scored his 2nd goal of the match, the home team drew level 6 minutes later and Shire were unable to score again to take the Tie into extra time. Our opponents won the Semi Final 3-2 on aggregate and then went on to gain promotion after winning the Final Tie. After 2 good seasons in the Scottish Cup our 2009/10 participation was over before it got going. We travelled to play Forfar Athletic in the 2nd Round after a 1st Round Bye but we went out 2-4. In the League Cup 1st Round went met Premier League St. Mirren at Ochiview. The game turned out to be eventful one when St. Mirren rushed into a 3 nil lead after 17 minutes only for the Shire to storm back to tie the match at 3-3 in 36 minutes. St. Mirren scored another goal before the break and 2 more in the 2nd half but the 3-6 scoreline was a bit harsh on the Shire over the 90 minutes. We received a Bye in the Challenge Cup 1st Round South and West Region before a 2nd Round away trip to Annan Athletic which was lost 0-1. The Stirlingshire Cup resumed in 2009/10 and we were in Group 2. In our 1st match we lost 4-5 on penalties at Dumbarton after the game had ended 2-2 in 90 minutes. Our 2nd match at home to Stirling Albion was not played. Before the season started Shire played Camelon Juniors in a friendly at Carmuirs Park, winning 2-1. Away from the playing side of the club, towards the end of 2009 Spencer Fearn entered informal discussions with shiretrust about the trust buying has A Shareholding in the club and the trust becoming the major shareholder in the club. The trust continued to help the club financially assisting the club sign a player in the January transfer window. In May Spencer Fearn sold his A Shareholding in the club for £1 and resigned from the board. The share sale was to Chairman, Les Thomson, who agreed to sell them onto the shiretrust in 1 year in for the same price subject to the trust’s agreement.