David Cameron Walker

Posts Tagged ‘Shrewsbury Town’

Building A Better Shrewsbury

Sunday, June 22nd, 2014

Mellon
Ahhh, what a difference a month or so makes. Shrewsbury Town have undergone an amazing transformation and it’s time to embrace our return as a big fish in the small pond of League 2 with a certain swagger after a ridiculously positive few weeks. Simply put, the board is definitely putting its money where it wasn’t last season, i.e. the team, and new manager Mickey Mellon is assembling a oddly good squad. I’m trying to keep myself grounded but it’s hard not to get excited about who we’ve signed.

Identifying the main problem of last season straight off the bat, we’ve only gone and signed some bloody strikers – permanently. Excuse me whilst I type that again. Permanently. Mmmmm, it’s like stroking a mink! Yes, there’s been no mention of any loan players so far and long may it continue for at least another three signings. For all the talk I’ve done over the last couple blogs about James Collins, it had to be him who turned up again didn’t it? Coming back from a bad season at Hibernian, I am more than confident he can pick up the 15+ goals a season he previously used to with us at League 2 level (and also Swindon in the third tier). There’s been no mention of any fee involved but I feel it’s more than likely that Hibs wanted rid as he was the only non-Celtic player to actually have a fee last season in Scotland and as such I imagine he was on reasonable to good wages. Their loss, our gain, back to a place where he’s loved and the team will be built for him.

Also, we’ve signed former Aberdeen stalwart Scott Vernon. Perhaps not as sexy sounding as Collie’s return, but as a big man for him to play off he’s not terrible. He’s like a lower league Berbatov in the sense he doesn’t seem to score regularly (his hauls of 9 goals last season included 2 hat tricks) but he’s just picked up a Scottish League Cup medal and the club were massively unlucky to miss out on second place on the final day. Similarly, Mellon’s gone after players with experience and a history of promotions. Ashley Vincent from Cheltenham Town has experience of going up automatically and through the play-offs and hopefully will outdo the disappointing Paul Parry on the wings. Defender Mark Ellis joins us from Crewe and he’s done it all – going from the Conference with Torquay to League 1 with the Railwaymen. I also can’t wait to see Nathaniel Knight-Percival. One of those Darren Ferguson signings from non-League to Peterborough, he has a year of experience in the Championship before being slightly frozen out last season. Mellon clearly sees something in him as a unpolished gem from the Conference to give him a roll, to go along with the rest of the signings who either have a healthy track record or are hungry and have a point to prove.

On top of shifting expensive dead weight like Tamika Mkandawire and other notable replacement signings like Australian James Wesolowski from Oldham (my unofficial mascot – we need an Ozzie to go up!), things seem awfully rosy. The head thinking part of me wonders “well, what’s the compromise here?” since we’ve made a damn good start. I do half wonder is our new glorious leader (Shrewsbury Town’s new CEO) Matt Williams having a say in regards to transfer policy? I’m sure Mellon has the final say and what not on signings but we’ve signed 20 year old winger James Caton who hasn’t really had a run in anyone’s first team anywhere and similarly young keeper Mark Halstead has only had games at Conference level and below. What’s the connection? Well our new youngsters both come from Blackpool’s books, where Williams was before joining us. I mean, they could be good enough for League 2 which is all I want from these signings at the end of the day but it does smack me as a bit odd and kinda “jobs for the boys”. Even Halstead admits Williams “put in a word for me” to Mellon.

Still I can’t complain too much because at worse we’ll have squad players for positions we need filling. Jayson Leutwiler, a keeper some Middlesbrough fans were sad to see go, needs competition whilst we have a couple of young keepers coming through our youth ranks again. For all the chaos apparently backstage last year, there’s been a few quotes from players keen to say how well the club is run and how much more professional it is compared to previous teams they’ve played for already which is always nice to hear. The loss of youth graduate and creative force Jon Taylor is a bit gutting but he’s been making noises about leaving on and off over the years and if the fee involved is in six figures which Peterborough seems to pay out for lower league players, it’s win-win all around. I have faith that if the money involved doesn’t go towards (or has been put to) Hibs for Collie then it’ll be reinvested into getting in at least three more quality signings for League 2.

I guess the overall question to answer then is “Can we do it?” – Can the squad and Mellon show their credentials and again prove they can do it at this level with another promotion? Well it’s hard to see them NOT doing it. There’s so many new, fresh players who are hungry and with points to prove. The squad also appears motivated and have been saying all the right things already which is nice. The only stumbling block could be the fact that these new signings have not really had the time to blend together yet, but you imagine Mellon will be getting the players in early enough to work together before any pre-season ball is kicked – learning about each other, weaknesses, strengths and so on.

Last month, it was all about the hope. This month, it’s all about the excitement. The signings are flowing in. The fixtures are out. The magic on paper is coming back to Shrewsbury Town. It’s the pessimistic side of me that’s the only thing holding me back from predicting an instant return to League 1, but it’s hard not to see it happening with Mellon’s experience and the squad put together so far.

Written by Terry Lewis, We Are Going Up’s Shrewsbury Town blogger

Terry tweets at @lewisonlife

Hope of the Lions

Monday, May 19th, 2014

jon-taylor-shrewsburyWell, 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

A Case For And Against Graham Turner

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

GT

They say a week is a long time in football and for once, as a Shrewsbury Town fan, it’s reached a boiling point. That long time has written volumes in the club’s modern history with the stepping down and retirement of our manager Graham Turner.

Turner is something of a maverick despite his 65 years of age being the longest serving manager in English football. His 35 years of managerial and coaching service to the game is legendary and, on the basis of past achievements in the lower league of the game, Turner demands respect. Taking Shrewsbury to the second tier of English football and laying the framework for us to stay up there for 10 years will rank as his biggest achievement, although his work in transforming Hereford from financially poor Conference staples into Leeds United conquerors in League 1 deserves a close second mention. Throw in bringing Steve Bull to Wolves and them rampaging up the leagues in the late 80′s and his CV is certainly nothing to be sniffed at.

A worthy CV tempted Salop chairman Roland Wycherley to bring Turner back in a second time at the modern Greenhous Meadow as he seeked an end to Town’s toiling in the fourth tier, which our Graham finally ended with promotion at the end of the 2011/12 season. A great season with some fantastic young talent blended in worthy journeymen, it was one to remember for me, my friends and other Salop faithful. On the back of our best home record ever, it was a job well done with champagne being doused around by me and the boys round our regular haunts in Shrewsbury post games and after that final win to cross the line.

However, after keeping us up last year reasonably in the end, doubt began to creep in. I’ve voiced previously on WAGU that Turner may not be the man to take the club forward when his contract was up at the end of last season and he, put simply, has not. I feel that these extra 8 months at the helm has gone a very long way to damage both Turner and Shrewsbury. If we go down, he has to take a big slice of blame through his actions and hirings & firings (or lack there of) over the summer. With an eye on money I can only persume, the only “notable” signings were the aging Tamika Mkandawire and poor David Winfield from Millwall and Stoke reserves on frees. The rest have been short term loans just to keep us ticking over and haven’t contributed alot in their time.

His man management has been very poor, highlighted with the news this week that last season’s golden boy Darren Jones has had his contract paid up in full and sent packing for simple reason that management told him he wasn’t good enough and he would be third choice centre back despite looking solid at the start of this season. Throw in elder players like Paul Parry who you would have thought would be fine in L1 being benched constantly it seems and promising youngsters like Aaron Wildig rotting at the bench for most of the season and it makes you question Turner’s actions.

There were some warning signs at the end of the promotion season with alot of failings to tie down key talent before they could leave on frees. Granted, some chose not to stay in the search of more lucrative contracts (James Collins going to Swindon last minute still hurts as he was a top goalscorer for them, and they made a tidy sum for him moving to Hibernian in the Scottish Prem) but there were one or two who had something to offer at League 1 and 2 if we went down that first year who were refused more than one year in their contract renewals. This botching of keeping talent on still irks me, leaving us with a small core group of players left at this point.

Looking forward though, I can’t see a good state of affairs for whoever comes in next, if we can get them in before the transfer window shuts. There’s not a great deal to work with in an imbalanced and demotivated squad. There hasn’t been a goal at the Meadow for about 8 hours now and we’ve had 6 defeats on the bounce. We’re hurting badly and we’re in need for a miracle worker if we’re to keep our heads above water and survive this season. God knows what’s happening with the money the fans pump into the club either. It hardly feels like we’ve had a decent signing in ages to get me going. Probably Tom Eaves whose goals kept us up the last half of last year but he’s failed to spark into life his second time round this year.

Overall, I’m in two minds over today’s news about Graham Turner retiring. I am gutted because he has been a hero in pulling us to where we are. His hands for all I know could have been tied in regards to player signings and contracts and honestly I would have preferred him to stay in an upstairs role. With his vast knowledge of football and contacts, he is an asset still, even when he’s not in a coaching role. But at the same time, looking back over his watch the current squad has been dying a slow death to the point where morale amongst the team and fans is near dead.

All I can do now is look onwards and upwards with a blank slate for whoever comes in next. I just hope Roland backs his new man and gives him a few quid because we need a quick fix for now to stay up. What’s Paul Hart up to nowadays?

Written by Terry Lewis, We Are Going Up’s Shrewsbury Town blogger

Terry tweets at @lewisonlife

Come In Mr. Turner, Your Time Is Up

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

So the mighty Salop need but one point from any of Colchester, Oldham and Portsmouth to book our place in League One next season… what a relief! All that icky hope from my last check-in can now be washed away and I can go back to being miserable again with no football over the summer!

Only joking! It’s been a decent season of progression for Shrewsbury Town FC. My prediction of being a solid mid-table team and possibly play-offs may have fell down the wayside somewhat. Failing to take any points off some of the current big guns at the top is a bit awkward but doubles over established bigger teams like Preston and Coventry shows progress. It comes across as a season in transition, coming up as what was a big fish in a small pond to being the opposite, but Salop have easily given a good account of ourselves.

Shrewsbury Town finally settled down and enjoyed a superior second half of the season, starting with a great run at Christmas, but that first half certainly was troublesome. 12 penalties given away over the whole season and the ridiculous amount of times concede early/late on and ended up chasing/losing games are just about a distant memory now. The decent football we played last year when we won automatic promotion has gone a bit, with our style becoming a bit lumpy again. It’s kept us up which is fine but I prefer to be some improvement in the summer with a bit more skill and flair. We won’t take any points off the top teams (which we haven’t off the current top 6) playing the same average football next season.

Ideally Shrewsbury needs to get someone in on staff who can work on fitness and concentration. Whilst we have improved on these factors, we’re still tending to concede needless goals. Concentration is a key factor in League 1 – you want a squad who can focus attention for 90 minutes otherwise it’ll prove costly. We’d easily be more mid/upper table if we didn’t concede all these late/early goals and drop valuable points. Of course, fitness is something to be looked at given our mini injury crisis right here at the death of the season.

An argument can be made perhaps it took a fair while for squad to gel given the massive upheaval last summer. Well, it’s always hard when you have a new loan signing coming in every few weeks. Whilst we’re not Watford this season or Sheffield United a couple of years ago, we’ve had 15 loan players this season, which when you think about it is pretty much a whole squad. There’s hardly been any highlights out of them (although I’ll get to the diamond in the rough in a moment), leading me to think there seems to be a fear to spend what’s needed on a player if he fails. It’s surely not too much of a gamble to spend 100k on a good player at League One level. Me and my Salop going mates were talking about this and we all agreed that all this loaning in doesn’t really create much of a bond between players, the club and fans as we know he’ll be on his way soon.

Then again, not to say we haven’t had a good loan signing come in through the door. More rhapsody is due in the direction of young Bolton striker Tom Eaves. The lad delivered massively in the final third, both of the season and pitch. 6 goals in 10 games doesn’t exactly sound like setting the world on fire but he always worked hard including a peachy hat-trick against Crawley. A big boy who can pelt it into the box has given a focus of attack and I’d love us to get him on a permanent despite Bolton recalling him.

I can’t really say he’s our Player Of The Season though. Despite him turning around and admitting a soft spot for the club, being on loan again doesn’t create the same emotional connection to fans as a permanent contracted player. No, my Player Of The Season award goes to (dun dun dun!) Chris Weale.

Whilst not covering himself in glory in his early performances, Weale has improved leaps and bounds to become one of the top goalkeepers in the division. His positioning and bendiness are what needed to keep our marathon in staying up going and lord knows where we were be if he wasn’t at the Greenhous Meadow. The man has simple won games for us by himself without a doubt. I really wouldn’t be surprised if anyone coming down from the Championship or who doesn’t go up from the playoffs swoops in and picks him up as his level is the top of League One.

Now, you may have noticed my title of the article and my mini moan so far. Well Salop manager Graham Turner has done a remarkable job for the club. He took us up and he’s managed to answer back some of his critics (me included) with little finds here and there who can compete in League One. But time and football are moving on as always and I wouldn’t be too surprised if he was offered to move upstairs in the summer. Turner still has a decent footballing brain and a lot to offer the club, but some fresh, younger blood would be instrumental in taking the club forward I believe and I hope chairman Roland Wycherley realises this sooner rather than later.

Overall, a decent introduction to the third division with us realistically safe with three games to go. A few moans here and there but some lovely highlights for the memory bank but the future of Shrewsbury Town FC could be decided by some big changes this summer.

Written by Terry Lewis, We Are Going Up’s Shrewsbury Town blogger

Terry tweets at @thatterrylewis

Lord, Don’t Slow Us Down

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013

With the end of the season rapidly approaching I’ve come to a weird feeling. Shrewsbury Town can actually stay up. Gone is the misery from the start of the season, replaced by something more poisonous – hope.

No one can argue that Shrewsbury are in fantastic form. Gone are the stupid games from the first third of the season where we’d concede in the opening and/or final ten minutes. We’ve now settled into being an effective unit, gladly taking points out of games. Our counter attacking is superb with many of our games involved us getting a hiding the whole game then stealing points. Being more clinical in front of goal works better for us since we’ve lost possession battles in our last few games. Admittedly some of the football hasn’t been the best but if route one is the way to play to guarantee us safety, so be it. We’re more than happy to follow the Stoke model at a lower level.

Over the Easter weekend, we should have had a couple more eggs than what we had from our points haul. Two debatable penalties gave Carlisle a reasonably undeserved point from us. Again we had more of the lion’s share of shot on target and being sharp in front of goal, but the referee made a massive mistake giving the second penalty as I don’t have a clue how he can give one when he’s unsighted.

But then Monday came and Tom Eaves pretty much brought at least a massive Easter egg and cup with three chocolate bar deal for the whole crowd at the Greenhous with his hat-trick. Three good finishes against a Crawley side, who had double the amount of shots. If anything it highlights our current phase of the season – being more clinical than the other side.

Remember when I said Turner couldn’t find players to play at League One level? Yeah, well more fool me. Eavesy has been a revolution since arriving in Shropshire. Having been a decent goal scorer at League Two earlier in the year for Bristol Rovers after rotting in Bolton’s reserves, he’s actually improved dramatically in the third tier. He is a lovely finisher and works hard for the ball constantly, he’s admitted he’s got a soft spot for the club too. It’ll be a bit of a sad day when he leaves to go back to Bolton I must say.

The rest of the recent loan new recruits are, without being too harsh, filling in gaps. The bulk of recent loanees are plugging in defensive injuries. With the majority of them young, they’ve not been poor and kept us going but none of them have suggested they’d take the club forward if they hung around. Stephen McGinn and David McAllister have boosted the midfield on the other hand and given us some decent creativity and enforcement.

I doubt any of them, even Eaves, can compete with easily our signing and player of the season, Chris Weale. I’ve mentioned him before but I think he’ll be gone in the summer. The man can play at a top League One club, even in the Championship. He’s so good as a goalkeeper at this level and we’re lucky to have him. When our defence crumbles, which it has done on more than one occasion, we can rely on Weale to at least drag out a game and keep goal for most of the 90 minutes.

So, what’s next in Salop’s final five games? Well I fully expect us to not get anything out of Russian-rich Bournemouth who are in terrific form after a dodgy spell. They’re going for automatic promotion and with the top being so close, I can see them being a bit more motivated than us. Similarly for Yeovil but they’ve been throwing games away recently so we should take advantage of their bloodied noses a bit.

I think it’s going to come down to our final week until we’re guaranteed safety, despite only really needing one point so Bury and Pompey can’t catch us up. In an eight day period, thanks to bad weather, we’ll play Colchester away then Oldham home midweek then finally troubled Pompey make the trip up to the Greenhous. I can see us needed at least two wins out of that lot to guarantee having another year in the third division, given Oldham’s small backlog and the fact that Scunthorpe could have a late revival.

If you’re asking me on the spot are we going to stay up, I’m going to say yes. Scunny haven’t shown any sort of revival magic to get out of the mire. Pompey are due a points deduction. Bury have run out of steam at this level. I’m a bit worried about Oldham overtaking us due to their nice strikeforce, but the change of manager for Lee Johnson and a filled up fixture list might be a bit too much. Colchester are just there – I’m sure they’ve stayed in exactly the same numerical spot all season.

Not quite time to start planning next season for the mighty Salop but it soon won’t be long. Plenty of optimism to come but hopefully Turner will drill into the squad that we’re not there yet. Soon though my brethren, soon.

Written by Terry Lewis, We Are Going Up’s Shrewsbury Town blogger

Terry tweets at @thatterrylewis

I’d rather eat a sack of coal than be in a relegation battle

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

Twas the weekend before Christmas, not much was stirring at the Greenhous Meadow, not even a Lion. Twas a busy time in the Football League but not all was content for the Shrewsbury Town fans. They hurried and penned to their Mr and Mrs Claus, manager Graham Turner and chairman Roland Wycherley, their wishlists to get them out of the relegation mire and onto more stable footing.

One of their disgruntled elves, me Terry Lewis, has managed to compile a selection of the most requested presents from the givers for this year.

1. More than just fighting spirit:

Well actually this has come a bit early, but cheers all the same Santa. A bitter, grounded out victory over fellow strugglers Carlisle and great draws against clubs with more financial resources – i.e everyone’s favourite pantomime villains Crawley Town and M.K. Dons – will hopefully kick on and drive the club forward after a poor second quarter of the season. This all follows on from…

2. Stop conceding in the first 10 minutes or last five!

A lot of points have been dropped or missed as Town cannot defend for the full 90 minutes. We must be up there with Tottenham Hotspur as one of the clubs which throw away goals in the last few minutes of games!

Similarly, we just love to throw away a goal in the opening five minutes at least then perform better chasing a game with nothing to show for it. It’s simple mistakes which started on the opening day against Sheffield United and continued most game from there.

Expectations have come down and become more realistic of course since seeing how “well” we’ve got on since the last time I’ve blogged. I honestly think these spent and wasted points could cost the club big time towards end of the season. We’re only halfway but consider the teams with bigger crowds, revenues way above us gunning for top prizes, we have to make our plight more worthwhile than theirs and overcome these shocking mistakes.

3. Tie down the better players to new deals now:

This summer just gone we got absolutely run through by the slight ineptitude of both board and manager at letting players who could play in League One go. James Collins was developing into a terrific lower league striker for Salop before he went off to Swindon and, despite getting on, I never saw the point in offering our star defender and captain Ian Sharps a one year deal when he could have easily done the business in League One for a year at least, then become a decent squad player and possibly coach in second.

The ‘Man Mountain’ Marvin Morgan is still going good but doesn’t have a decent amount of time left. If Salop do go down he would be a more than capable weapon in League Two again. Since that’s becoming more than likely, it would be a smart idea to get his contract sorted. The lack of forward thinking is ridiculous. Roland has some deepish pockets with an okay football brain so seeing some of that would be appreciated.

4. Sort out the defence:

Whilst the strike force and midfield are decent to okay in a club for the stature of Shrewsbury in League One, I honestly can’t say the same for our defence. Cult hero Jermaine Grandison was shocking in League Two last year and to say he’s still struggling this season is an understatement. Michael Hector on loan was a bit of an abortion since he was howling everytime I saw him play. A few quid spent on better players or loanees in the upcoming window would be most welcome.

5. Get it right Graham or get out:

A bit of a harsh statement to make since Graham Turner finally has taken Shrewsbury out of League Two but the man can be infuriating at times. Putting players out of their preferred positions is a masterstroke of his. For example, I have not for the life of me ever seen the point of swapping a right full back and a right sided central defender. Never has worked tactically and considering they are two players who are already getting to grips with the quality of League One, it’s slightly suicidal.

Turner has managed to get in some decent loan signings. The problem is, they’re not exactly what we need. For example, Jeremy Helan was decent on the left and could go onto be better but at this stage of his career, but he’s no better than Paul Parry. Since the club were crying out for a decent goalscorer up front, it wasn’t what they were after.

As much as I love GT for what he’s done for the club in the past, he’s not doing the business at the moment. He’s got the upcoming Christmas rush to turn it around, but with the squad we currently have, well, it’s in his hands to keep us floating. If we’re not doing it right, the suggestion has to be made to get in someone who can at least get the team going.

So slight doom and gloom around the Mighty Salopia, and what festive treats are by the fireplace of relegation at this ‘magical’ time of year? Well an away trip for the “Bury” derby against, well, Bury in a massive six pointer. They will hopefully will be feeling low after some out of the blue cash problems. Then a tough three in a row against top half Brentford, Notts County and a turned around Coventry, before another couple of six pointers against Scunthrope away and Hartlepool at home. Shrewsbury must target and achieve 10-12 points on offer here to get on course with staying up.

I speak for fans of all relegation threatened teams when we’re eagerly awaiting the result of Portsmouth’s overlong running legal battle. The amount of time taken has now become a joke if you ask me, so much that any points deduction should be doubled. I’m not being harsh but this should have been put to bed during the first month or so of the season. I know their fans have been through too much but it’s not fair on 23 other teams in League One to not expect some sort of punishment over the farce it’s become.

There’s hardly any Christmas joy floating around Salop at the moment. With being out of the cups (don’t get me started on the Hereford game), it’s going to be a hard, long slog now towards April 27th, the last day of the season, in our bid for survival. On that day, we have Pompey at home. I get the awful feeling both teams staying up in this division will come down to that day. Some neutrals will wish for the other “hard done by” team over us, but we don’t care – long as the boys actually give us something to cheer about and TRY, that’s the most important thing.

Breathe on them Salop!

Written by Terry Lewis, We Are Going Up’s Shrewsbury Town blogger

Terry tweets at @thatterrylewis

Shrews won’t be forgotten men

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

What surprised me about listening to We Are Going Up’s League One preview show is that there wasn’t a mention at all for Shrewsbury Town. I don’t even mean for relegation, not even a shout for play-offs, mid table, nothing. So is that the be all and end all of the magic of Floreant Salopia? Not quite.

A great promotion push supported by an unbeaten home record for over a year saw Town finally cross the automatic finish line after being dogged by flirtation with the play-offs for three out of five seasons. The mastermind in all this was legendary club manager Graham Turner, back for his second stint in the daddy chair at Salop. A decent brand of football graced the Greenhous Meadow and other League Two grounds which hasn’t been seen by Shrewsbury for a few years, making them deserving winners of the runners-up spot.

Without being too cocky, the jump from being a big fish in a small pond in League Two to playing the likes of Sheffield United, Preston and Coventry doesn’t seem to faze Salop unlike a lot of teams that come up from the Football League basement. To coin a term I’m not too fond of, every game is a cup final and a lot of the Shrews squad appreciate the chance to mix with the ‘bigger’ boys of admittedly more well known clubs.

A character filled performance by Salop against a Preston side tipped for a good season is a grand start at home, where we’ve been undefeated for over a season. Coupled with a fantastic ‘never say die’ attitude against Sheffield United at Bramall Lane bodes well. Had Shrewsbury kept their concentration up and not conceded an 88th minute equaliser, a decent win over the measuring stick of Tranmere would have gauged where we are against established mid-table League One sides. Being honest, four points from nine against those three sides is a fair return, it’s just disappointing we dropped two against the Trannies and could have had the win in Sheffield. The style of football and level of performance against them does bode well for a good season though.

What’s remarkable is that we’re doing this after probably the biggest upheaval of a Town side I’ve ever seen. We’ve lost good League One standard players in Ian Sharps, James Collins and Shane Cansdell-Sheriff, after which a lot of fans would have the club nailed on for relegation. However, Turner has pulled off some decent signings, persuading ex-Cardiff City and Preston wigner Paul Parry to come to the Greenhous Meadow and start pinging in crosses and the winner against his former club. Ryan Doble is a player I’m excited by and I’m sure he’s glad to have the chance of first team football after his release by Southampton. Chris Weale is a big step up keeper wise and I’m sure he has a point to prove after his release from moneybags Leicester.

That’s not to say what’s left over from last year are schleps either. The ‘man mountain’ Marvin Morgan is a massive beast of a lad and an excellent target man for Salop to aim for. Mark Wright will be aiming to solidify himself as a League One player finally after two previous promotions on his CV, only to leave Walsall and MK Dons shortly after taking steps up to greener pastures. But Turner will undoubtedly look to take advantage of the loan market again as he did last season to boost a thin looking squad. I feel the team needs a decent spine – a pacy striker, solid central midfielder and a utility man to play across the back – to push on.

Realistically, I cannot see Town being dragged into a relegation battle this year. There are about four or five poorer squads on paper than them and that’s not including the Pompey situation. So maybe not so much the ‘forgotten’ team label we may have, but with the likes of Parry and company, I’d say we may be suited to mid-table safety. A sneaky play-off run would be nice but there’s just simply too many better teams in the third tier.

Personally, I’m just glad to be out of League Two and can’t wait for more away trips to the likes of the Ricoh, Deepdale and Fratton Park. Town are more than capable for laying down a marker this year with mid-table an easily achievable goal and my gut feeling is that they will end up better off than the ‘sexier’ more media friendly promoted sides in Swindon and Crawley Town. So if Shrewsbury are coming to you, catch us if you can!

Written by Terry Lewis, We Are Going Up’s Shrewsbury Town blogger

Same man, same result, 33 years apart

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

33 years ago this month, Graham Turner was celebrating a Football League Third Division win in his very first season in management as player-manager of Shrewsbury Town. His return as manager in 2010 created much optimism for success in the town once again, and only two years into his tenure he has provided. So what comparisons can be made, not only between Turner’s first & most recent promotion successes, but The Shrews’ prospects for retaining League One status for as long as they did in the 1980’s?

In front of a near 10,000 strong home crowd for the final home league game at the Greenhous Meadow, a solitary goal from James Collins in the 38th minute was enough to finally confirm promotion to League One for The Shrews. It was a match that Turner’s side dominated in the form of possession & chances, but it was Nicky Wroe who once again provided the opportunity for Collins to convert, with the final whistle sending the fans into pitch invasion pandemonium. Whilst Turner would have wanted the opportunity to go for the league title going into the final game, he was clearly in awe of his player’s efforts throughout the season…

“It was a surprise when we went up in 1979. And the expectations were greater this season, but we’ve got there in the end.” Turner stated shortly after claiming promotion to League One. “I’ve got to pay tribute to the players. They’ve been fantastic all season. For all the hard work they’ve put in, they deserve everything they’ve got.”

The League Two Manager of the Month for April also suggested that the art of being successful is to finish strongly, which is evidently justified in the fact that Shrewsbury were the most in-form side by winning seven & losing only once in their final ten games. Another stat, which has elevated The Shrews to promotion, is their unprecedented unbeaten home record this season in the Football League, only Manchester City look likely to match that out of all the English Leagues. Flashback to 1979 and you find one stand out similarity between both promotions. Under Turner’s first season as player/manager, The Shrews were also unbeaten at home throughout the whole season, a great credit to his coaching abilities over his career, in particular converting his playing experience into coaching as a solid defender. At no other club has he managed to lead a team to an undefeated home campaign, and as the River Severn literally and yet fittingly wraps itself around the town like his very own moat, under Turner’s helm Shrewsbury is known as ‘Fortress Meadow’.

As soon as the pitch invasion, the open top bus parade & town celebrations come to an end, preparations for League One commence. Several players have signed new contracts such as Shane Cansdell-Sherriff, Chris Neal, Nicky Wroe & most notably the skipper and one of the players of the season, Ian Sharps.

Players to leave the Greenhous Meadow already are Sean McAllister, Lionel Ainsworth, Carl Regan & Ben Smith, all have shown great promise but never on a regular enough basis to cement their place in an already strong starting eleven. Turner will hope that top scorer James Collins will sign a new deal offered to the striker some time ago, with the hope that the promising young talent will endeavour to prove himself at a higher level with The Shrews.

If we follow the performance of Turner’s winning formula of ’79, the Greenhous Meadow will hopefully be home to League One or better for the foreseeable future. When promoted to Division Two as it was back then, Town spent a decade at this level with Turner leaving his post for the dizzy heights of Division One with Aston Villa in 1984. With a combination of Turner’s previous experience in League One with Hereford and a team built based on a mix of experience supported by a string of exciting young players, Town will aim to not only retain their League One status, but grow as a club in all aspects in preparation to push for even bigger honours.

As previously stated in earlier blogs, it’s been seven years of near misses for the fans, but Town have finally snatched promotion, and once more Turner is the Pride of Shrewsbury, the Pride of Shropshire!

Written by Michael Aldridge, We Are Going Up’s Shrewsbury Town Blogger

Toppo’s Top Tens – FA Cup third round upsets

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

FA Cup third round day is a key fixture of the post-Christmas football calendar. Held on the first weekend in January, the third round is where the big sides from the top two divisions enter the competition.

In the earlier preliminary rounds, plus the first and second rounds teams from all over the country have fought to get this far, in the hope of securing a money-spinning tie and having a chance of upsetting one of the heavyweights.

League form goes out of the window on third round weekend as teams from the lower leagues take on some of the country’s most decorated sides. This stage of the competition has become famous for throwing up its fair share of shocks down the years, with underdogs upsetting the odds. Here’s ten Football League sides who did just that….

10: Liverpool 1 Reading 2 2010

In January 2010, Championship strugglers Reading forced a 1-1 draw against Liverpool at the Madejski Stadium to earn a replay at Anfield 11 days later – where it was expected the home side would win.

However Reading had other ideas. Despite falling behind when Ryan Bertrand unluckily deflected Steven Gerrard’s cross into his own net a minute into first-half injury time, the Royals held their own against Rafa Benitez’s side. With 91 minutes on the clock, a throw in led to Reading striker Shane Long being fouled in the Liverpool penalty area, winning a dramatic late penalty for the visitors. Gylfi Sigurdsson stepped up, sent goalkeeper Cavalieri the wrong way to force extra-time.

Having saved themselves, Reading then took the lead with ten minutes of extra-time remaining. Brynjar Gunnarsson nutmegged Emiliano Insua down the right hand side and sent in a cross which Long met with a glancing header into the far corner in front of the Kop. Liverpool were unable to find an equaliser as Reading held on to win 2-1 as Anfield was left stunned.

9: Manchester United 0 Leeds United 1 2010

When League One Leeds United travelled to Old Trafford to face great rivals and reigning Premier League champions Manchester United in the 2010 third round, a rivalry was rekindled. The tie evoked memories of the beginning of the century when the two were challenging at the top of the Premiership, but was also a reminder of how far Leeds had fallen since.

At the time of this match Leeds were seeking promotion to the Championship, with Jermaine Beckford’s goals keeping them in the hunt. The striker would produce the one crucial moment against United, as his goal in front of the Stretford End gave Leeds a memorable victory and progress into the fourth round. An historic result too as it was the first time United were knocked out at this stage under the management of Sir Alex Ferguson.

8: Burnley 1 Liverpool 0 2005

This game was memorable not only for Burnley’s unexpected win, but the comical own goal which gave them their victory. Liverpool travelled to Turf Moor for this third round tie but failed to put in a meaningful performance, and were punished.

After a first-half in which Burnley were the better side, the Clarets took the lead six minutes after the break when Richard Chaplow rolled a low cross into the Liverpool penalty area from the left, and Reds full-back Djimi Traore thought he was Zinedine Zidane, with disastrous consequences. The defender tried to turn as he controlled the ball, only to complete a dragback on the spin which ended up with the ball rolling into the back of his own net. A ridiculous goal which gifted Burnley a place in the fourth round.

7: Bournemouth 2 Manchester United 0 1984

In January 1984 Manchester United entered the 1983/84 FA Cup third round as holders, having beaten Brighton and Hove Albion in the 1983 final. Their defence of the triphy began with what seemed a straightforward trip to Third Division Bournemouth. The Cherries were near the bottom of the league and United had lost just once on the road that season, with the likes of Bryan Robson, Arnold Muhren and Frank Stapleton in their team. Bournemouth’s manager was Harry Redknapp, three months into his first managerial position.

United failed to offer much during the game and went behind on the hour after goalkeeper Gary Bailey fumbled a cross. Milton Graham was on hand to score and send 16,000 fans at Dean Court into raptures. Four minutes later Ian Thompson added a second goal and sealed a well-deserved 2-0 win for Bournemouth.

6: Sunderland 1 Notts County 2 2010

When former Manchester United team-mates Paul Ince and Steve Bruce went head-to-head in the dugout in January 2010, it was the former who earned the bragging rights, as Ince’s League One strugglers Notts County secured a memorable 2-1 success over Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.

It was Notts who took the lead five minutes in when Craig Westcarr’s flick was fumbled into his own net by Black Cats goalkeeper Simon Mignolet and despite some efforts at goal in reply, Sunderland could not find a goal and fell further behind with fifteen minutes to go. County striker Lee Hughes saw his first effort saved by Mignolet but tucked in the rebound from an acute angle to make the game more comfortable for the visitors.

Darren Bent pulled a goal back from the penalty spot on 81 minutes, but it was not enough as Notts secured an impressive victory.

5: Everton 0 Oldham Athletic 1 2008

Four years ago Oldham Athletic from League One pulled off one of the shocks of that year’s FA Cup by beating Everton at Goodison Park. Everton were flying-high in the Premier League and Oldham were mid-table in the third tier but it was John Sheridan’s team who prevailed thanks to a stunning 25-yard strike from Gary McDonald seconds before half-time.

Everton pushed for an equaliser, Yakubu hitting the post deep into the second-half, but Oldham’s lead remained comfortable and their strong rearguard display saw them through to the fourth round at the expense of David Moyes’ side.

4: Swindon Town 2 Wigan Athletic 1 2012

Paolo Di Canio’s Swindon Town side gave us one of the shocks of this year’s third round, as they came from behind to beat Premier League Wigan Athletic at the County Ground.

Callum McManaman looked to be setting the visitors on course for victory when he tucked home the rebound after Ben Watson’s penalty kick came back out off the post, but the League Two hosts fought back. Five minutes before the break, Alan Connell glanced a header into the far corner of the net from Matt Ritchie’s right-wing cross to level matters going into half-time.

Swindon continued to hold their own against Roberto Martinez’s Latics and got their reward fifteen minutes from the end. A 25-yard shot from Ritchie deflected off the legs of striker Paul Benson and rolled into the back of the net with Wigan goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi stranded. Swindon held on to defeat a side three leagues above them to the joy of the capacity crowd at the final whistle.

3: Stevenage 3 Newcastle United 1 2011

The 2011 third round draw pitted Stevenage against Newcastle United, rekindling memories of the time when the two met at the fourth round in 1998, where a goal from Giuliano Grazioli saw the non-league outfit secure a replay at St. James Park, which the Magpies won 2-1.

In 2011 Stevenage were playing their first season as a Football League club under the management of Graham Westley and were 13th in League Two as Alan Pardew’s Premier League Newcastle visited Broadhall Way. After a goalless first half the underdogs took the lead when Stacy Long’s strike deflected off Mike Williamson and sent Tim Krul the wrong way as it crossed the line. Newcastle fell further behind five minutes later when Michael Bostwick drilled a low shot in off the post to give the hosts a shock 2-0 lead.

Newcastle had midfielder Cheik Tiote sent off for a wild lunge on what would be an uncomfortable night for the visitors and despite Joey Barton’s outstanding 30-yard drive which halved the defecit two minutes into injury time, Stevenage extended their lead and sealed their place in the fourth round three minutes later, as Peter Winn clipped an effort over the advancing Krul after being played in by John Mousinho to send the home fans into raptures.

2: Shrewsbury Town 2 Everton 1 2003

In Jnauary 2003, Shrewsbury Town manager Kevin Ratcliffe, the most successful captain in Everton history, masterminded an FA Cup shock against his former club, knocking them out of the competition with victory at Gay Meadow. Shrewsbury, in the Third Division were 80 places below their opponents in the league standings but took the game to their more illustrious opponents, being denied on several occasions by Toffees goalkeeper Richard Wright.

However two goals from veteran striker Nigel Jemson either side of a Niclas Alexandersson equaliser – the second coming two minutes from time – sent the Shrews fans into delirium and humbled David Moyes’ Everton team which boasted the likes of Wayne Rooney and Tomas Radzinski in their ranks.

1: Wrexham 2 Arsenal 1 1992

At the Racecourse Ground in 1992, basement division Wrexham wrote themselves into FA Cup history with an unforgettable victory over George Graham’s Arsenal side. The Gunners were reigning league champions and expected to brush aside the Welsh outfit, bottom of the fourth division whilst Arsenal were near the top of the first.

Arsenal took the lead through a close-range finish from Alan Smith and looked to be going through, but with ten minutes to go 37-year-old Mickey Thomas, formerly of Manchester United and Chelsea, rolled back the years as he powered a superb 25-yard free kick past David Seaman to level the game.

With the crowd still in raptures after Thomas’ thunderbolt, the minnows from North Wales were not content with a draw as Steve Watkin squeezed an effort under Seaman’s dive to give Wrexham a 2-1 lead late on in the game. That’s how things stayed and at the final whistle, a pitch invasion ensued as the home supporters celebrated the most unlikely of FA Cup victories.

Written by Steven Toplis, We Are Going Up podcast member and blogger

Steven tweets at @steven_toplis

 

Now full steam ahead for a promotion push…

Monday, January 9th, 2012

It’s not been a great start to 2012 for the Shrews, but 2011 has certainly exceeded all expectations from the fans, media & the club itself. After narrowly missing out on automatic promotion followed by failure in the play-offs last season, it seemed the Shrews may have suffered from a post-promotion failure hangover. But after recovering from a sluggish start to once again find themselves lurking just behind the automatic promotion spots in this 2011/12 season, can the Shrews finally convert the ultimate goal of League One football at the New Meadow? Over halfway through the season, we look at the reasons why fans can be extremely optimistic of their club’s chances.

Let’s wind the clock back a year, Shrewsbury Town had just come off the back of two successive defeats in the league to Morecambe & Bury and were seventh in the table, just inside the play-off zone on goal difference. However, they went on to finish as strong as any other team in the division, losing only 5 of their last 24 matches. But as we all know it wasn’t quite enough to propel them into League One automatically. This season has been strangely similar to the previous, a slow start followed by an early season surge approaching the festive period. This season is no exception, topped off with their emphatic 7-2 victory at league strugglers Northampton Town. They lie 8 points off league leaders Crawley Town, and only 7 points off current automatic promotion spot holders Southend & Cheltenham, and with an almost identical run of form to the end of this season to that of last, it could prove more successful with the only difference last year being that winning the league is still very much a possibility.

Point taken, Crawley Town seem to be running the show in League Two, followed by two very strong contenders in The Shrimpers & The Robins. And with Paolo Di Canio weaving his magic around the County Ground in league and cup competition, Swindon appear to be the only outsider to take on the chase, based on current form. But is it such a bad thing to steer clear of the hype that surrounds the season run-in, and instead be allowed to clearly focus on a second half surge to outshine the efforts of last season? I believe this is Graham Turner’s best approach on a game-by-game basis to bring success to this club. This would, however, require the Shrews scoring goals.

Picking up only 2 points out of a possible 9 over Christmas was ultimately an untimely underachievement, especially after battling for a point at high flying Cheltenham. The bad day at the office at Bradford was immediately followed by a disappointing point at home to the team they beat 7-2 just a month beforehand. Only two goals were scored in this time despite Turner altering the system & starting line-up, but this provides the horrible unwanted new year headache for the Shrews boss; the January Transfer Window ‘stick or twist’ game.

Of course, we’re only talking free transfers and potential loanees, but does Turner take the gamble of potentially unsettling the current squad or stick with what he has at his disposal and regret this decision by March after realising that a playoff spot is their best case scenario. And with key midfielder Nicky Wroe side-lined for six weeks, it is up to the boss to fill the gap with the best option available be it a hot prospect from the training ground or on the market.

This weekend’s FA Cup 3rd Round tie with Middlesbrough would have been a welcome fixture in more ways than one for the Shrews. It was a chance to answer necessary questions for the rest of the season, in search of a new system, a new stand-out player, a new potent goalscorer, or just how to score. Cup competitions this season have proven to be somewhat of a helpful distraction as we saw against Swansea and Arsenal in the Carling Cup. Even after the loss at the Emirates, it would still be a fan’s favourite performance of the season, which gave belief to everyone involved and was no coincidence that a run of good form continued long after this defeat. Perhaps the festive season known as the ‘busy & important’ period for English football became the distraction to start the slump, and maybe the ‘beauty of the FA Cup’ albeit lasting barely into January for the Shrews, might just have been what they needed to refocus and regain form.

You couldn’t have asked any more from the team at the Riversid…apart from a goal once again. It’s saying something when at half time, Turner would have sent the players out to win a game they deserve to rather than holding on for a lucrative replay, despite being behind at the break. It was a game they dominated, but Lionel Ainsworth’s glorious opportunity was evidence of the Shrews’ current lack of confidence in front of goal. However, the positives from this game are there for Turner’s taking into the next dressing room with the ultimate goal of emulating the amazing run that started this time last year.

Let’s hope it’s a great second half of the season, a great 2012, and that my case for much optimism is proven.

Written by Michael Aldridge, We Are Going Up’s Shrewsbury Town Blogger