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Football: STEWART TAKES OVER AS BOSS WITH NO CLUB; Airdrie pin revival hopes on veteran Sandy.

Byline: IAN ORR

SANDY STEWART last night became the manager without a club, a player or a ground.

Stewart was named boss at defunct Airdrie by the group bidding to save the club.

And the former Diamonds player has been given just a WEEK to recruit a team capable of playing in Division Three next season.

Businessman Jim Ballantyne, the man behind the Airdrie resurrection plan, believes the appointment of Stewart will swing readmission into the league for the club which folded in Division One just weeks ago.

Already he has secured a groundshare deal with neighbours Albion Rovers and reckons signing Stewart and assistant Brian Rice on full-time contracts is the final piece in the revival jigsaw.

Airdrie's case to be re-admitted to the SFL will be decided at a league management meeting next Friday and Ballantyne said: "It was always seen as a crucial part of our bid to have a management team in place and we've done that.

"But we're going even further as Sandy has been told to go ahead and put a squad together by the end of next week. The new board of Airdrie are absolutely delighted to have secured Sandy's services.

"He's a guy who is very close to the town of Airdrie and who enjoys the respect of the supporters."

Stewart, 36, said: "It's a fantastic opportunity for me to cut my teeth in management but I've already got my fingers crossed that I actually get the chance to play for and manage the new club.

"I've gone in with my eyes open and know the risks.

"Mr Ballantyne was involved in trying to save the club before it went into liquidation so it's not as if he's waited for things to go belly-up. He has the community of Airdrie at heart.

"He and his colleagues are putting in a tremendous amount of work. They deserve a result for their efforts."

Stewart knows the uncertainty could hinder his attempts to assemble a squad before next week's meeting.

He said: "I've got a few players in mind that I'd love to have but they'll have to realise that nothing can be guaranteed until after the meeting.

"At least I've got one player because I'm still fit and want to keep playing for another couple of years.

"But I think a lot of players will realise it's a fantastic opportunity to be involved in something new and exciting."

It's likely that Stewart and Rice will be the only full-time employees with the remaining players initially placed on part-time contracts.

In addition to assembling a team, Stewart and Rice have an immediate remit to work with local schools, youth clubs and boys clubs.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:May 16, 2002
Words:448
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