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Rough guide to... Shrewsbury Town
11 June 2004
In a nutshell
Que sera, sera, whatever will be, will be, we're going to Shrewsbury. The perennial ironic chant of the lonesome Town supporter on cold January nights at Crystal Palace. And now it's true.
What's it all about Alfie? Coracles on the Severn, public schoolboys raising their toff boaters to the plucky lads in the Gay Meadow, the worst ladies' toilet in footballdom. Hah, we may scoff, especially their balti pies, but foe and friend, we're all equal in the end, or at least at the start of every season.
Over 100 years old, been in the league since 1950, went out of the league in 2003, came back again. There you are: a shell nutted.
Their finest hour
They've won the Welsh Cup five times, and they aren't even Welsh. That's more than what Arsenal have done. Or Real Madrid. They were third division champions in 1978–79 and won the second division in 1993–94. That's more than what Arsenal have done as well. But everyone remembers that time they beat Man City when it was the only FA Cup game that wasn't postponed. So it has to be then, for the Great God Futcher was playing for City. Or if you're young, then their defeat of Everton a couple of seasons ago courtesy of Nigel Jemson, one of few playing links 'twixt the Two Towuns.
Some would say their greatest moment was when they signed Victor Kasule. No, not one of the bad guys in The Maltese Falcon, but "an armoured car of a winger with a cannon for a shot". What a guy – an extravagantly gifted but ludicrously ill-disciplined Glaswegian Ugandan with neo-Rabelaisian tendencies, it says here. And his finest moment? Take your pick. He was once booked for singing a George Benson song to a referee and he also wrecked John McGinlay's new sports car on a trip to the beeroff after training.
Telford, Wrexham and Walsall are the most likely candidates but they have a rational hatred of Chester, the "hoofing clodhoppers from the Deva" who can "bask in the adoration of their fans knowing they won the league by playing rubbish football and cheating." I get the feeling they don't like the cut of the Deva jib. Sounds like we won't either; the barbarians are at the gates of home. Last season was a shock, for their thoughts of Telford were akin to the average Grimbarian's to Scunthorpe: a smug, condescending sympathy towards an awkward, nay backward, little brother.
What a cracker. Resisting the temptation to pucker lips and stare at their ill-fitting shoes, the fans, the whole club, rose to the challenge magnificently. Season ticket sales higher than the previous year; a new manager, a new hope. Third meant a play-off place, and promotion followed thanks to two sets of penalty shoot-outs. Forensic examination of the league table suggests that their home form got them there. They don't concede many at the Meadow.
All in all they were jolly pleased with themselves.
Who's the Dadi?
When Quinn the Eskimo gets on, everyone in blue and yellow is going to jump for joy. Yes, the Methuselah of pump-action shotgun strikers, Jimmy Quinn, came out of semi-retirement to act as the catalyst for the promotion push. That'd make him the catalystic converter, wouldn't it? Let's hope he really does retire; I'm fed up of him scoring against Town. It'll be Luke Rodgers though, won't it. We've heard of him – always enough to strike terror into the heart of whichever pregnant hippo Town play at centre-half. It ain't going to be Colin Cramb, euphemistically described on the official site as having a "languid style". Slow and useless then – our kind of centre-forward.
Come on, who knows that! They don't know, so how can we alien visitors, crash landing from above? Their squad seems a bit bare at the moment, and there was unease at who the best strike partner was for Luke Rodgers, with the Mighty Quinn having to wheel himself out. Sudden impact injuries and mad reffing could see them blown away. So, erm, twelvtieth place. Probably nearish the lower mid-table, possibly. Maybe. I'm shrugging my shoulders and making a "pfft" sound. [You always are – Ed.]
There's an Aga shop in Shrewsbury town centre and a dead posh public school where such footballing giants as Michael Heseltine attended. But if we're talking football we're talking Arthur Rowley. You don't know who he is? Look him up on that shiny, happy rinky-dinky little computer of yours. Nobody has scored more goals in English football than Arthur. Just the 434. I don't think Town have scored that many in total since we changed our name from Grimsby Pelham. Now there's a personal target for Flash Mansaram, the human octopus. Challenging, but achievable.
Gay Meadow was named so because of its former use as a fairground. Why, what did you think? Like so many clubs they have half nebulous plans to move to a cardboard cut-out on the edge of town. From Gay Meadow to Bored Cul-de Sac: which name is more evocative?
Famous players? You want them? You can't have them, 'cos there haven't been any, apart from Arthur. Don't mistake well-known for famous; that's the difference between a Big Brother loser and Frank Sinatra. They've had a few notable managers: Asa 'Hole in the' Hartford, Alan Durban, Graham Turner, John 'Sheepskin' Bond, Fred Davies. Fred 'Parrot-Face' Davies? The old comedy snooker player? Surely not. Don't mention Kevin Ratcliffe without inserting at least three Anglo-Saxon expletives of the foulest kind between first and second name. A cross between Lyons, Laws and Law, he was the Frankenstein's monster of Shropshire management.
Extensive googling has revealed their celebrity supporters to be Mr Phoenix, who bakes cakes, Chris Hawkins (who?) and Peter Postlethwaite. It's better than a drunken snooker player and a failed Chancellor of the Exchequer, I suppose. Here's the biggie, the most important fact about Shrewsbury Town Football Club, the only one you'll ever need to know to impress socialites and socialists at those chic dinner parties you keep being invited to. Derek Smalls wore a Shrewsbury shirt during the scene at the metal detector in This is Spinal Tap. Like, that's an eleven on the pantheon of knowledge.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, official site, blah, blah, blah... Rivals yabba dabba do... Footymad yawn yawn yawn. There's not one but two Scandanavian sites dedicated to the Shrews: one for the Swedes and one for those desperate Danes. Clearly there's a marketing opportunity in Finland and Norway. You're better off going to fans' sites such as News of the Shrews and The Mighty Shrew. They tell you what you need to know with a little invective and humour. They really hate Chester.