Thirty three 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 and 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