You used to like them. You used to relish the visit to Gay Meadow each year, glad at the opportunity to sit tight, close to the pitch, happily free of the identikit Lego seating of 21st Century football. You used to look out for their scores on the vidiprinter. A nice club. A small club. A harmless club.
Alas, all this no longer. Old Gay Meadow has gone, along with old gay football, and the new ProStar Stadium is here with its matching seating and no drainage problems. I mean, just look at it. It looks like it was made for Subbuteo, not actual-size football. This is the bottom league, Shrewsbury, with real men, real fans and real debt problems. Why don’t you find somewhere more rubbish to play, like Moss Rose or Underhill? Shame on you for having such a good stadium, Shrewsbury, shame on you.
Shrewsbury Town FC were formed in 1886, and played in the Shropshire & District League before abandoning that and joining the Birmingham & District, (the Shropshire & District have yet to recover from this). The Shrews spent a few years knocking around there before entering the Midlands League, (the Birmingham & District have yet to recover) and then finally the Football League proper, in 1950. On the way they also picked up the Welsh Cup, which in those days was rather more forgiving with trivalities such as geography.
Once in the League, Town remained largely unspectacular, spending 25 years on the bottom two rungs of the league ladder. However, in 1978/79, just as Margaret Thatcher began her reign of terror, Shrewsbury begun theirs. Well, reign of terror isn’t the right term at all, but you get the drift. They won the Third Division, pipping Watford and Swansea City by one point, conceding just 41 goals in a 46 game season, and were promoted for the first time into the Second Division. They spent ten happy, mid-table years here, finishing mainly 18th, before being relegated in ’88/89 with fellow Midlands teams Birmingham City and Walsall. A year later, the heartbroken Maggie Thatcher resigned.
In ’91/92 they dropped down a further level to the bottom tier, and have spent most of their seasons since then here (except three in the league above and one below).
Shrewsbury’s history then is solid if a little dull, (mind you it’s positively riveting compared to ours). A small town team with a small town club, representing themselves with pride and occasionally upsetting the big boys, most notably during the ’80s.
So why do we find ourselves not liking Shrewsbury at the moment? Well, they have that new ground of course, stealing from us one of the best away days in the league, but also they’ve acquired the media’s wet-dream Paul Simpson as manager, and accrued such a lot of money in the last two years that they’ve become the league’s big spenders. And nobody likes seeing people with money fail more than the Dale. And to top that off, they went and got Grant Holt for £175,000, our Grant Holt. There’s really not much left to like anymore.
It was a failure, really, it was. Money talks in louder volumes down in this league than in any other, as we’ve become so painfully aware over the years, and Simpson failed to get his expensively-assembled side to win away from home, winning only twice on their travels. It was this which hampered their season, turning a potential automatic promotion place into a playoff final, which they lost against the impressive Gillingham. As a side they were big, and tall, and all those good things, but strangely individualistic and prone to collapse at the same time. Holty was their star man, scoring 20 times in the season, including a belting volley against us at Spotland, but captain Ben Davies was equally as impressive with 12 goals from an attacking midfield position.
Well, Ben Davies has gone, drawn to the ‘ambition’ of Notts County, which means to say ‘they gave me a Porsche’. “It was really hard, one of the hardest things I’ve had to do.” said Davies, but that’s before he had to install his new hot tub. They’re tricky buggers those jacuzzis. Grant Holt’s future remains delicately in the balance; Colchester are after him but don’t look to have enough money to persuade the Shrews to part with him. So, Shrewsbury’s season could well be decided by events in the next few weeks. Keep Holt and they have a good chance of promotion, lose him and they’ll have to find someone equally as good to fill that gap. And having seen Holt’s arse, the gap is sizeable.
Shrewsbury the place?
Shrewsbury is nestled in a pleasant spot in the West of England, nine miles from the Welsh border, and built upon the River Severn. It’s good if you like organic muesli shops. If you’ve never been to Shrewsbury, imagine Hereford and you’ve pretty much got it. If you’ve been to neither of those, imagine Chester with a bit more class, (and if you’ve never left Rochdale, don’t leave now, you might never come back).
The most famous Salopian is undoubtedly Charles Darwin, the famous biologist who said that all men were born monkeys and lost their tails at the age of 13, or something. If you want to see a picture of Darwin, be prepared to take out your wallet; he’s on the back of a ten pound note, looking sternly at the hummingbird that’s stolen his magnifying glass, (he spent most of his adult life like this). Golfman Sandy Lyle also hails from Shrewsbury, but as yet his achievements have yet to be recognised on currency.
Shrewsbury Town in a word?
Written by Matt Boothman on 10th July 2009