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