How’s it felt getting the boys back in for their first pre-season in a year and a half?
It’s been great to get them in. We’ve just been doing football sessions, getting them a touch of the ball, nothing crazy, just adding little bits to the sessions as we go. We’ve been working Tuesday nights and Saturdays, some boys have been four times a week as well. It’s been great to get the balls out again and we’ll hit preseason hard in the middle of June.
What has been your approach to recruitment for the upcoming season?
We kind of felt we needed a freshen up. We felt last season we had our strongest squad on paper we’ve ever had and I felt we probably underachieved. I do think we were getting there just as the lockdown hit, I think we would’ve climbed the table quite a bit. For this new season I just felt we needed some new bodies in the dressing room, some more energy. To do that we obviously have to let players go to recruit new players, so it’s never the easiest time of the year.
Alex Marshall, he was one of our goalkeepers last year, we let him go quite early, I think it was January. This Summer we let go of Alan Reid, he was our captain, we just thought it would be good for him to move on; David Sinclair, it’s sad to see Sinky go but again I didn’t offer him anything, I just felt it was good to freshen the midfield up; Andy Dowie is going to retire, so he finished at the end of the season; Jack Smith, our Striker from last year, we didn’t offer him anything; Blair Docherty is a younger one, good kid, good player, but he was travelling from Largs Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and it was just becoming difficult for him. We also had three guys return to their parent clubs who were on loan. I did offer Ross McNeil a deal, Rossco’s always been a goalscorer for us, but he got a good offer elsewhere that we couldn’t compete with, we wish him well. Another one is Neil McLaughlin who will be a big miss for us. I offered him something but unfortunately he chose to move to East Kilbride.
I wanted in the month of May to bring in as many players as I could (on trial). It’s difficult to keep track because we don’t really have many scouts out there. Speaking to some contacts I managed to find out what players are about. Some players got in touch with the club so I brought them in that way. So we’ve been assessing those guys, just to see if we can pick up any gems that maybe fell under the radar a wee bit. Other than that in terms of signings we’ve committed to quite a few, we’ve not got everyone over the line just yet but we’re working hard to do that. I’ve got an idea of who we want to bring in, one or two more established players, to strengthen up our young, energetic players.
Why did you feel that a freshen up of the squad from last season was necessary?
I felt our energy and fitness levels weren’t what they should’ve been. I’ve got an idea in my head what fitness levels should be and I don’t think we hit them last year. Obviously adding to that, the way we play is that we always try to play football on the ground if we can, it’s something I won’t shy away from, the ability to control the football in all areas of the park is important to me. We do need to be streetwise as well, I felt we’ve been naive over the last couple of years probably because we had a younger team. We want good people, we want good lads, who look at coming to Caledonian Braves as a big opportunity. I want that type of environment to be created and it’s often the experienced ones that can make or break that. So there will be a mix in the squad but we will definitely be younger than last year.
You were speaking about uncovering some gems. Have you uncovered any so far?
We signed a lad called Cole Starrs. He’s an under 17 Scottish International player, he’s got a great name for a start. He got released from Motherwell and there’s a lot of lads like that. He came in, he’s been training most days with the academy players with the view of him coming into the first team. I spoke to him and we managed to get him over the line. He’s only 18 turning 19 soon. He can really play, he needs a year or two in first team football. He can score goals, he’s quick, he’s strong and he just needs to build himself back up from his disappointment from getting released by Motherwell, which I think was in January. Sometimes you get that player out of the full-time game, they’re looking for an opportunity and if they have the right attitude, which I’m certain Cole has, he can use us to get his career back to a full-time level because you can see in his game that he has the capability to do that.
You also have a new assistant in Davie Winters. Does it make it easier for yourself when the new assistant has played for the Braves?
I don’t know if easier is the word. Davie was very well liked and very well respected by the players. He’s now a coach which adds a different dimension, he’s not one of the guys anymore but he’s a good go between. He’s got good contacts in the game and he’s going to bring some freshness. He’s a very positive guy and I really admire that about Davie. He’s always positive, always wanting to help players and like I said you can tell a lot about your team if the experienced are willing to help the younger players. Davie, when he played, was always looking to help those around him. He knows how we want to play, he knows we need to make it better. We’ve already had discussions about how we played the last couple of seasons and how we can improve. The good passing style of play, how can we make that more effective? How can we be better at the back? He’s been great so far and he’s looking to progress in his own coaching career, which is important.