A case for and against Graham Turner

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

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