May 11 2012 by Donald Morton, Stirling Observer Friday
STIRLING Albion boss Greig McDonald has made a swift start to shaping his squad for the Third Division campaign after securing four key players for next season.
Skipper Brian Allison, midfielders Mark Ferry and Jamie McCunnie and forward Graham Weir have all put pen to paper. McDonald and his playing assistants Marc McCulloch and Shaun Fagan have also agreed new contracts.
Players under contract for next term are top scorer Scott Davidson, winger Josh Flood and midfielder Daly McSorley, along with Andy Hunter, Gary Brass, Danny Ashe and Gavin Macpherson, which means the Binos already have 14 players committed to the club for next season.
Youth team players Stephen Day, Ross McGeachie and Jamie Clark are expected to step up and new contracts have also been tabled to goalkeeper Sam Filler, midfielder Craig McLeish, full-back Devon Jacobs, supporters club player of the year Gary Thom and youngster Richie Kirwan.
There have also been a number of departures, with goalkeeper Callum Reidford and former Motherwell forward Darren Smith the most notable of the seven who will not be at the Doubletree Dunblane Stadium come August.
Winger Alan Cook has also moved on, as have left-back John Crawley, defender Shaun Dillon, who missed a chunk of the season through injury, striker Kevin Kelbie and Steven Nicholas, who began his career with the Binos in the late 1990s but featured only rarely in this latest spell.
McDonald would not be drawn on signing targets but a goalkeeper, a left-back and striker are likely to be priorities as Stirling bid to make an immediate return to Division Two.
He said: “I would like to thank all of the players for their efforts last season. Unfortunately it wasn’t a successful one for us but the application of the squad was never less than 100 per cent and I would like to wish all of those who are leaving the very best in their future careers.
“We are delighted to have signed up Brian Allison, Mark Ferry, Jamie McCunnie and Graham Weir. They are all enjoying their football and that was a big factor in them staying on. We want people to enjoy coming to training and to play with a smile on their face.
“We have 14 players signed up for next season so we are in a much better position than at this time last year. We wanted to do our work early so we can get on planning for the new season and we should have news on some pre-season friendlies in the next couple of weeks.
“We are looking to a have a core of quality experienced players, balanced by the youngsters coming through.
“We have to be pragmatic. We can’t expect these young guys to play 36 games a season but we will nurse them through and you saw the quality from the U19 team against Albion Rovers.”
McDonald, who celebrates his 30th birthday on Saturday, added: “We will put a deadline on the guys that have been offered new contracts for next season as we don’t want things to drag on.
“We also have our eye on a few quality players who we hope to bring in. We have made a couple of offers so we need to wait and see what happens now.”
A replacement for Reidford is one of those positions the Binos boss is looking to fill: “We are looking to sign another keeper but I’ve said to Sam Filler that if he stays then it will be between him and the new guy to fight for the jersey in pre-season training.
“They will both be starting on the same level and whoever does best in training and the friendlies will start the season.”
The Scottish Football League confirmed that the new season will begin with the first round of the Ramsdens Cup on July 28. The League Cup starts on August 4 and Stirling Albion kick off their Third Division campaign on August 11. The fixtures will be published on June 18 and the players return to training on June 19.