TWO more long-serving players are to leave Auchinleck Talbot - making boss Tommy Sloan's task of rebuilding his squad even greater.

The Beechwood Park club have confirmed that Graham Wilson and Mark Shankland, who have a combined 19 years of service with the club, will not be part of Sloan's squad for the 2023-24 campaign.

For 34-year-old Wilson it brings to an end a remarkable 11-year spell at Talbot, who he joined from arch-rivals Cumnock in 2012.

Among the many highs of Wilson's time at the club was the goal he scored when Talbot beat Championship side Hamilton Accies 1-0 in the Scottish Cup in November 2021.

Wilson's Talbot honours list includes five Scottish Junior Cup winner's medals - including the 2018 final against Hurlford, in which he scored Talbot's injury-time leveller before Craig McCracken went on to net a last-gasp winner as Sloan's men won 3-2.

Shankland, meanwhile, also played a major role in that memorable 2018 final: after being brought on by Sloan as a substitute, he was responsible for the two set-piece deliveries which swung the game in Talbot's favour and brought the famous trophy back to Beechwood Park.

Shankland has often brought a spark when it has been most needed at Talbot since he joined from Ayr United in October 2014.

He joined as a Scotland under-17 international nearly nine years ago, having previously made history by becoming Ayr's youngest ever player, coming on in the Somerset Park club's final match of the season in 2011 when he was still two months short of his 16th birthday.

Shankland's departure comes after he spent much of recent seasons grappling with injuries.


Posting on social media, Shankland said: "I'm genuinely gutted that after eight years my time at Auchinleck is coming to an end.

"The last few months have been tough for me having been injured and struggling to get to the bottom of it which has meant, unfortunately, there is no contract there for me at the moment - which I totally understand.

"It's a shame it's came to this, but I will remember the eight years for all the trophies and memories that I have made, and all my teammates, friends and family that have helped along the way and supported me when times got tough.

"I've a lot more good memories than bad at Auchinleck. I'd have liked for it to continue but sadly it's not to be.

"The club will always have a special place in my heart as I grew up watching them from a young age. 

"Seeing them winning leagues and Scottish cups to winning them myself I feel truly lucky to have been a part of this club and I will never forget it for the rest of my life."

The news takes the number of players departing Talbot this summer to eight - with Lewis Crawford and Jamie Ballantyne released, Ross Taylor moving to Stenhousemuir, Chris Stafford leaving to complete a scholarship in the USA, Andy Leishman heading to Darvel, and Keir Samson looking likely to join East Kilbride.

However, the club has also announced the signing of Neil Slooves and Connor Boyd from Premier Division rivals Irvine Meadow - while Neil McPherson, Bryan Boylan, Nathan Lennox, Kieran Healy and Ally Park have all signed new contracts at the club.

The task of rebuilding the squad still looks a daunting one for Sloan - though the success he's enjoyed since arriving in the Beechwood hotseat 20 years ago with, in his own words, "only six fit players", suggests that Talbot supporters need not worry just yet.