It’s one of my favourite quiz questions; which five senior Scottish club’s names start and end with the same letter? East Stirlingshire always catches them out simply because most of us refer to them as the geographically incorrect East Stirling. As we know only too well names are important to football clubs and it’s annoying when people get them wrong, deliberately or otherwise. So lets do our guests the courtesy of calling them by their correct name.
Let’s be frank though, East Stirlingshire is a rubbish name, topographically misleading and always being confused with East Fife they should have stuck with the club's original name of Bainsford Britannia, now that’s a name. It was originally bestowed on them by the local cricket club, the Bainsford Bluebonnets; another superb name. I can’t help but feel they’d have had much more success had they stuck with one of those two names instead.
Bainsford is a suburb of Falkirk, East Stirlingshire’s hometown. Being the second best team in Falkirk isn’t really much of a claim to make, but, as we’re currently the fourth best team in Glasgow we’ll gloss over that. Ironically ‘the Shire’ lost their opening game to our near neighbours and divisional rivals, Queens Park, 2-0 last weekend. Losing is something East Stirlingshire have become sadly familiar with in recent years. They finished bottom of the league last season and look unlikely to trouble the play-offs this season either.
We should be far too strong for them, although we said that last week too. However, at home, with our current squad we’ll be firm favourites, and rightly so. It’s not being disrespectful to our guests to suggest that anything other than a Rangers victory will be one of the best results in the entire history of East Stirlingshire.
It’s difficult to even impart any knowledge of what formation East Stirlingshire will play. They normally line-up in a 442 converting to 433 formation and may choose that option on Saturday, they did when beating 2nd Division Ayr United in the Ramsden Cup earlier this season, however it also saw them thrashed by Morton in the League Cup the following week. A more defensive tactical switch won’t be a surprise despite enjoying an excellent 3-0 victory over first division Airdrie in the Ramsden Cup again this week.
There is unlikely to be anyone in the visitor’s team that’s familiar to many of us. Captain, Kevin Turner, was at Rangers as a youngster, but was playing amateur football until signing for ‘Shire last summer. That a recently amateur player is now captain should give us an insight into the experience and leadership in their squad.
Another area of uncertainty for Saturday is who will be the ‘Shire Chairman! Their current chairman is unable to attend this match so the club has ‘auctioned’ the position with all proceeds going to a local charity. It’s a nice gesture for a good cause; our guests seem to be that type of club.
Defensively Rangers looked suspect last weekend, despite being, on paper at least, our strongest area. That needs sorted and quickly. I imagine we’ll stick with the defence that started at Peterhead, we can only hope last week will serve as a warning to them. There can be no more second chances.
Our midfield also needs to start to dominate teams again, if we can dictate the tempo our greater fitness should start to show. If we allow the midfield to become a battle zone the gulf between the sides will narrow, keeping hold of possession will be more important than ever this season.
Up front Little and McCulloch will probably start but both know Sandaza is waiting in the wings, we can expect Kyle to appear at some point too, he needs match practice but is probably not fit enough to play a full 90 minutes yet.
Whether youngsters MacLoed and McKay have done enough to retain their places will be interesting and telling as to McCoist’s thinking. Both are inexperienced and physically under-developed, as you’d expect at their age, but they need to learn and this is the kind of game they’ll benefit from.
I’m one who believes this season will be much harder than some think, the gulf is not that huge, and football is a great leveler, that’s partly why we all love it. However, East Stirlingshire at home is a game we should win with a bit to spare.
Like us East Stirlingshire have suffered at the hands of unscrupulous owners. In their case it was the Steedman brothers of Clydebank fame who moved East Stirlingshire from Falkirk to Clydebank in the mid 60s to merge with the town’s Junior club. That move sparked outrage among East Stirlingshire fans and they went to court to have the club returned to them, missing a season in the process.
Can you imagine having your club destroyed by avaricious owners, being let down by the SFA and having to resort to law to protect your club? Thank God nothing like that could happen today…
Possible team (3-5-2):