Jul 18 2012 by David Ogilvie, Stirling Observer Wednesday
STIRLING Albion head north this weekend for a mini-tour of the Highlands.
Greig McDonald’s side take on Strathspey Thistle in Grantown-on-Spey on Friday evening and face Brora Rangers on Saturday afternoon as they prepare for the first competitive match of the season against Falkirk in the Ramsdens Cup on Saturday, July 28.
The Binos followed up Thursday’s 2-1 win in a closed-door game against Airdrie United with a 2-2 draw away to Second Division Stenhousemuir on Saturday.
Stirling will be expected to get the better of Strathspey and Brora, who both struggled near the foot of the Highland League in 2011/12, but McDonald is more concerned about ensuring his squad are in good shape when the real action gets under way.
He said: “At this stage of the season it’s important that all the squad get game time so it was good that we managed to use a lot of players against Stenhousemuir. They missed a few chances in the first half but once we got to grips with the game I thought we were excellent.
“We’ll mix things up again in terms of the team in the two games up north. Basically what we are doing is making sure everyone gets a certain amount of minutes in the pre-season matches. All of the guys are staking a really good claim to play against Falkirk in the first game.
“The trip up north is a good one for the supporters and hopefully the players will enjoy it. We’ll look to do well in the two games but it’s also a chance for the squad to bond and do something different because we have worked them very hard in the last few weeks.
“Results at this stage are not important. It’s about getting comfortable with the style of play that we want. I thought we showed that in spells against Stenhousemuir but we probably did it even more in the game at Airdrie at the end of last week.”
McDonald is also keen to tie up trialist goalkeeper Mark Peat ahead of the new season. The former Aberdeen, Arbroath, Berwick and East Stirling number one has looked good in the friendlies and there is a gap in the squad after the departure of Callum Reidford, who joined Stenhousemuir last week after leaving Forthbank in May.
Stirling’s last pre-season tour was in 2003/04, when Allan Moore’s team played Keith and Buckie Thistle before going on to win promotion from Division Three as runners-up to Stranraer.
Albion have appointed 28-year-old Blair Cremin as head of youth (coaching).
Cremin, who played five times for the Binos in 2001/02, replaces Greg Miller, who left last season to take up a job with the Scottish FA.
Stewart Taylor, head of youth (admin), said: “We are delighted to welcome back Blair Cremin to our youth development programme.
“Blair is well known to many of us, having been a product of the youth set-up from the late 1990s. Unfortunately, due to a bad injury sustained in a pre-season match, Blair had to give up his playing career prematurely but he was soon cutting his teeth as a youth-team coach at the club.
“His ability and potential was recognised by Falkirk FC and he has further developed as a knowledgeable, well-qualified young coach with our local rivals. He returns to the post of head of youth (coaching) at the club and I am sure he will work really well with our young players and the other excellent youth-team coaches we have operating in our programme.
“We have ambition to expand and develop our youth programme and I am both convinced and confident that Blair will be a fantastic addition and drive that progress forward.”
Prices for the Ramsdens Cup tie away to Falkirk on July 28 have been set at £12 for adults and £6 concessions. Albion fans will be housed in the North Stand.