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