O’Neill Relishes His New Stirling Albion Challenge
NEW Stirling Albion manager John O’Neill is relishing the challenge of the forthcoming First Division campaign after being named as Allan Moore’s replacement at Forthbank.
Moore had been in charge for eight years but has agreed a three-year deal with Morton, realising his dream of becoming a full-time boss, and Binos chairman Peter McKenzie has moved quickly to fill the gap left by the man who led Stirling to the title.
O’Neill, who has been Moore’s assistant for the past two seasons, will have ex-St Johnstone striker Roddy Grant as his number two and the pair are set to sign one-year contracts.
The 36-year-old former Celtic, St Mirren and Queen of the South midfielder has no previous managerial experience but Albion have gone down that route a number of times in the recent past, with Jim Fleeting, John Brogan, Kevin Drinkell and Allan Moore all proving successful, although John Philliben’s time in charge was less fruitful.
O’Neill said: “Roddy and I get on well and we know the players, which I think is a benefit.
“Management is always something I have wanted to do and I didn’t have to think about it too long when the chairman made the offer. I’ve got a job outside football and a young family but my wife is supportive and said I had to go for it.
“It came as a bit of a surprise and it has all happened very quickly. Allan did a great job here and we wish him well at Morton – except when they are playing us.
“Going with him was never going to be an option because of my job and I’m delighted to have this chance.
“We have still to sign our contracts but hopefully that will happen this week. There is a lot going on and we need to sort out a few things before the start of pre-season training on June 22.
“We have our own ideas about the way the game should be played and I wouldn’t have taken the job if I thought we would be cannon fodder in Division One. We want to put together a team that can compete and it is important that we are well organised and as fit as we can be, although I think you could see that wasn’t a problem last season.
“We are under no illusions about how tough it is going to be because pretty much all the other teams are full-time. Even Cowdenbeath have some full-time players.
“I think we need to be a bit more resolute and improve our home form because it wasn’t the best last season.”
Michael Mullen and Greig McDonald have become the first two players to sign contracts for next season but O’Neill expects the rest of those recently offered deals to follow suit.
“I don’t think Allan leaving should change things,” he said. “Michael and Greig were able to come into the club on Monday night and sign their papers but I would expect the others to do so soon. Michael finished the season strongly and Greig is raring to go after missing last year because of injury so having him will be like a new signing.
“We have spoken to a lot of other potential new players and some of the conversations have been quite encouraging but I don’t expect anything to happen at the moment. I do think there will be a lot of players available and it’s up to us to find the right ones.
“As regards Andy Graham, nothing much has changed. He has been invited to Hamilton for pre-season training and there are also one or two other clubs interested but I spoke to him on Saturday and said we would be happy to have him back if things don’t work out.
“I don’t think he would sign for another part-time team. Put if that way.
“Stewart Devine is due to see the surgeon this week. He has been struggling with a groin injury that won’t clear up but we have said that if he can get himself fit then there will be a contract for him. A fit Stewart Devine is a good player, there is no doubt about that.”
Midfielder Paul Murphy, who was released by Stirling at the end of the season, has signed for Keith Knox’s Third Division Stranraer.
ALBION have fixed up a pre-season friendly against Grimsby Town for Tuesday, July 20, kick-off 7.30pm. Managed by former Rangers midfielder Neil Woods, the Blundell Park outfit have just been relegated from the Football League and will be based at Stirling University for a training camp.