Tuesday 31st May 2016
ANDY STIRLING has played more than 200 senior games, having made his debut two weeks after his 19th birthday.
Not one of them has been in the top two divisions of Scottish football.
But now, at 26, that opportunity has come his way, just when it looked like it had slipped through his fingers.
The midfielder’s last action in football was as part of the dejected Stranraer side beaten by Ayr on penalties in the Championship play-off final.
However, last week, Dumbarton provided him with the lifeline to play in the Championship after all.
And some familiar company at the Cheaper Insurance Direct Stadium has made Andy glad it has worked out.
He said: “I’m delighted with the new challenge. I’ve also got a bit of security about it, having worked with Stevie Aitken and Stevie Farrell before.
“That was a massive factor, as I left Stranraer the first time to go to Dunfermline, which never worked out for me.
“It might look like another gamble for me to change clubs again, but I’m certain it’s the right one, with people I trust and can really rely upon.
“I had lots of different options after my first spell at Stair Park, but chose to stay in League One with Dunfermline.
“It’s the right time to take the step up and play against better players. I’m going to have to work a bit harder but I’m really looking forward to it.”
Although Stranraer just missed out on promotion, there is one aspect of last season that Andy hopes his new team can replicate.
At the midway point of season 2015/16, they were the last team anybody would expect to have a shot at promotion.
But they sprung a surprise to take themselves all the way to the play-off final – and Andy hopes that a similar shock is in store for Dumbarton’s opponents in the Championship.
There are two especially who he is keen to face – Dunfermline, who he played for two seasons ago, and his first club, St Mirren, for whom he never played at senior level.
He continued: “I was gutted to lose the play-off final, especially on penalties. Stranraer were bottom of the league at Christmas and I then broke my foot, but they always knew they were still in with a chance.
“It was an incredible run only for Stranraer to fall at the final hurdle, but signing for Dumbarton has made up for it.
“We’re in the Championship to win games and surprise people. You can’t go into games thinking that you’re not going to win today but you’ll win the next week. It doesn’t work like that.
“We’re strengthening the team, we’ve not got Rangers to deal with and we’ve got another part-time side in the division. Our first plan is to stay in the league and if we can do better then great.
“There’s nothing better than going back to one of your former clubs and proving people wrong. Obviously Dunfermline are in the division and I’m looking forward to facing St Mirren too.
“Many of the people on the football side have now gone, but the fans are still there and I know quite a few of them.”
Andy doesn’t have long to wait to work with his new team-mates, as pre-season training is only two and a half weeks away.
But with his work outside football, he’s got every reason to look forward to returning to business.
He added: “I’m a personal trainer away from the game, so fitness is a necessity for me. I’m in decent enough shape and my last game was only two weeks ago.
“I don’t mind pre-season and I’ll be ready to hit the ground running when it comes along.”