Well, it happened. Shrewsbury Town FC went down from League One with a couple of fixtures to spare and scraped 23rd due to having a better goal difference than Stevenage on the final day. A complete shambles of a season and being honest the Shrews have deserved going out the long, slow, painful and inevitable death we’ve had.
A mid season promotion within of young coach Michael Jackson from retiring manager, the great Graham Turner, was always going to be a hard sell and it caught up finally. Whilst there was decent football on offer, the over-reliance of loan players and relative lack of reinvestment in the squad after a good & young promotion winning side was slowly dismantled is the overall cause of Town’s drop back into League Two.
However dearest reader, I actually see hope of a different sort in this current predicament. Through my previous blogs for WAGU, I have probably focused on more of the negatives and yet in the one or two weeks since the season has finished, there’s been so much in an attempt to turn the club around already I can’t help but feel good. It can’t get any worse of course, can it?
First, Jackson was quite honest and admitted there were issues behind the scenes which stopped Shrewsbury from progressing. As a big club for League Two level, I’ve always thought it would be tough but achievable for Town to become a staple of League One unlike a lot of fans on social media who seemed to think in the fuzzy mindset we had money to go do something like sign Messi or Ronaldo. I’ll hold my hands up here and admit I’ve written pieces for the club to invest again in the team but aiming for a League One standard and above.
I guess it’s understandable frustrations boiling over from a vocal bunch of fans but there needs to be some real world logic applied there. I want to put on record my thanks for Michael at his tough time because whilst his hands were clearly tied and there’s been some quiet agreement from the board in what happened next, the failure to stay up was largely not his fault and I preferred most of the football on offer compared to Turner’s last offerings, even if results were against him.
The admittance was at least refreshing as there’s not usually too much that comes out nowadays in football and from there the club drew up “a root and branch” review into the club’s failings this season. But then, any Shrewsbury fan can tell you in a couple of simple numbers – 39 players used this season. 20 of them loanees – that there was no solid cohesiveness, consistency and team spirit displayed at all. Also 14 different strikers used over the last nine months in a bid to find a constant stream of goals which failed miserably. Always the way isn’t it? Have one of the best defences in the bottom third but just can’t find the back of the net.
From there, Shrewsbury have a new CEO on the board – former Blackpool secretary Matt Williams. With experience in commercial and media ventures for Blackpool, not to mention having a year working at the level of the Premier League, he is not a man to sniff at footballing wise. He seems very passionate about the subject from what I’ve read about him so far and I doubt he would have left a decent standard club in Blackpool to come to Shrewsbury if he couldn’t progress the club.
The steak in this tasty dinner though is the managerial appointment of former Fleetwood manager Micky Mellon. I quite like Micky as he seems to have a good eye for talent from the lower leagues and transformed Fleetwood from a Conference North staple to a play off contender in League Two before being relieved of his duties in odd circumstances in the club’s maiden year in the Football League.
He’s also had experience with Championship coaching with Barnsley as David Flitcroft’s assistant. I’m not too sure whether it was wise on Salop’s end just to offer a one year rolling contract when he’s clearly a guy who can build a club up over a couple of years when given the chance, but we have to make do I guess. He’s kept on Jackson too which is a plus in providing continuity whatever happens.
Plus, I’m always inclined to think it could be so much worse. In these times of financial uncertainty thanks to Financial Fair Play, Salop don’t really have a debt at all. It’s not like we’re “doing a Leeds” and crashing down the leagues on financial fire or even our neighbours down the road in Hereford. Sure, you need to spend a bit on wages & the like to attract players and the board have responded that Mellon will be given that in the summer.
Such prudence perhaps over the last couple of years may pay off with a good summer’s recruitment now. There’s a core bunch of decent young lads available like Aaron Wildig, Jon Taylor & Ryan Woods but I do feel Mellon and Jackson will have to use their contacts and resources well to rebuild as we have just 10 senior players currently. Whilst they maybe good enough for the demands of League Two, it’s the future and a legacy I’m keeping an eye on beyond a quick fix attempt to get back into the third tier.
When the push came to shove, Shrewsbury Town by my own admittance deserved to go down but the board have responded well – very well in fact – with a big change with a big name on the board to go along with a damn good managerial appointment. For all the grief I’ve gone through this season watching Salop, I look at this summer with hope. And that’s not a lot I’ve had much of these past two years.
Written by Terry Lewis, We Are Going Up’s Shrewsbury Town blogger
Terry tweets at @lewisonlife