07 August 2012

SFL3 Preview: East Stirlingshire FC


by Peter Ewart | Contributor

East Stirlingshire arrive at Ibrox for our first home game in SFL3 on 18 August, and it won't be surroundings that they are familiar with. While we did beat them 6-0 in the Scottish Cup in 07/08 that is our only recent meeting. It is a measure of our fall from grace that our first league visitor is consistently the worst team in the Scottish senior leagues over the past 30 years. 

And I mean bad. Famously bad. They finished bottom of SFL for five consecutive seasons between 2002-03 to 06-07, only snapping the run by finishing second bottom. They were an absolute banker – back against them every chance you had. Their dreadful run even prompted the Scottish Football League to review their membership and introduce rules for consecutive last place finishes.

I had the pleasure of watching them a few years ago in the midst of that awful run, at their old ground Firs Park in Falkirk. It was enjoyable atmosphere and there were a fair few neutrals there – football tourists and the wee club had plenty of merchandise to sell them. The ‘worst team in Britain’ had become a cult attraction. 

The form on the park was hardly a surprise. They were skint and had been for some time. The players were reportedly on (an unconfirmed) £10 a week. The Shire could really only provide a shop window for them to play in. 

By 2007-08 they had left Firs Park and become tenants of Stenhousemuir. There was brief respite and some investment for a couple of seasons to follow losing in two SFL3 playoffs, but a 9th and 10th place finish in the last two seasons has seen them revert to type. The Supporters Trust became the biggest shareholder in 2010 and without a sizeable financial backer their struggles look set to continue. 

SURVIVAL

So they are a laughing stock then? Well, not the way I see it. That they are playing at all is testament to the game we love. (And it doesn't hurt that there's no relegation from the third division). One has to have admiration for those that have kept a very old club (1880-81) going through it all, directors, fans, players and even a Norwegian supporters club playing their part. A lot of time and effort has been given to keeping their club alive and they are still going on. 

A slick website leads you to initiatives that are underway for 2012-13. It includes ‘Player pledge’ where fans pledge sums depending on goal, cards, clean sheets etc. And I hope that two visits from Rangers can also help them along the way.

SHIRE PUB TRIVIA

Sir Alex Ferguson was manager of East Stirlingshire for 117 days in the 70s before moving on to St Mirren. 

It is one of the answers to Scottish League Teams that start and end in the same letter.

THE GROUND

They are groundsharing on the artificial surface at Ochilview, home of 2nd division Stenhousemuir. Ticket chances don’t look particularly good. Ochilview has a capacity of around 3800. Although the Shire may allocate us around 2750 - 3000 tickets, we are in the heart of some staunch Bear country in Falkirk and Stirling and less than an hour from Glasgow so demand will again be high. 

Away ticket chances (5 out of 10)

A lottery once again. 

VIEWS ON THE RANGERS SAGA

“East Stirlingshire Football Club feels no ill-will towards Rangers FC in all of this. We wish them all the best and, furthermore, hope that the Rangers Supporters Trust is successful in securing a major stake in the company which now owns the club, for we believe fan-owned clubs is the right way to go.

“Their supporters have suffered and from what we have been able to observe seem to accept the culpability of those in positions of responsibility within the organisation. We hope everyone has learned an important lesson for Scottish football as a whole; that hubris is normally followed by nemesis and instead of, in the first instance, trying to reach for the stars clubs should strive to ensure no more than the continued existence of important and valued institutions within their own communities.”

Read full statement here where they explained reasons for voting to SFL3 rather than SFL1: www.eaststirlingshirefc.com/2012/07/14/sfl-special-meeting-why-we-voted-no/

Are they going to do much in SFL3 this season? I don’t expect them to. But that’s not the point. That they are playing at all is the real story.

More can be found at: www.eaststirlingshirefc.com

Twitter: @theShireFC