Rough guide to... Shrewsbury Town

Cod Almighty | Article

by Pete Green

6 August 2007

Last season
Wasn't that final day for Town at Shrewsbury just about the most perfect conclusion imaginable? Nick Fenton equalising with just about the last kick of the season meant a happy ending not just for the Mariners' 2006–07 campaign but for Sir John McDermott's career, and the love just never ended with the home fans cheering Macca off, and us wishing them good luck in the play-offs, and all that sunshine, and the entire Cod Almighty team having a smashing weekend staying in some cottages in Staffordshire next to Helen Baxendale.

But enough about us! Though Fenton's strike would remain the last goal recorded at Gay Meadow, the Shrews went on to overcome Bastard Franchise Scum in the play-offs by following up their 0-0 at home with a hard-fought 2-1 win in the Buckinghamshire badlands – and were denied promotion only by a resurgent Bristol Rovers, who had become the division's form team after their defeat at Blundell Park in February.

As much as they deserved to go up just for duffing BFSFC and giving Macca a good send-off, though, the league table across the season clears its throat noisily to tell a different story. In 14th place at the turn of the year, the blue-and-yellow-throated warblers were never consistently on song until a nine-match unbeaten run spanning February and March lifted them to the stratospheric heights of seventh. Home defeats in April by earthboundBury and Wrexham grounded any lingering hopes of a rush to the top three, and had the Mariners scored once more on the last day, Shrewsbury's place in the play-offs would have gone to Stockport instead.

Ins and outs
If David Hunt turns down a one-year deal at third division Northampton for two years in the fourth with Shrewsbury, calculate his job satisfaction as a factor of Chester kicking the shit out of you. Midfielder Hunt is one of several players dropping a division to join the Shrews this summer, with Darran Kempson and Gay Meadow 'ex' Darren Moss joining from Crewe to strengthen the defence and Glynn Garner arriving from Orient to duke it out with Chris MacKenzie and Ryan Esson for the keeper's jersey, although how a garment composed entirely of nylon or polyester can be described as a jersey continues to elude me.

Other arrivals include Marc Pugh from Bury and two from Gary Peters' old club Preston: non-scoring forward Dave Hibbert and former Northern Ireland defender Colin Murdock. The latter made over 200 appearances for the Deepdale side and his experience should prove useful in holding things together at the back, but they probably thought the same thing atRotherham, who have just released the player after relegation.

Murdock replaces another experienced figure in Richard Hope, last season's skipper, who was sent on his way after the play-off final and joined Wrexham. Sagi Burton has gone to Barnet, but he was rubbish for my Ipswich team in Championship Manager (as it was still called at the time), and we all know how reliable that is. The Shrews' only major loss this summer is Wales u21 midfielder Dave Edwards, who moved to Luton after his contract expired. Shrewsbury are claiming to have received £400,000 in compensation, while the Hatters say they only paid £250,000, which all sounds a bit like when the police and the organisers report wildly different attendance figures after an anti-capitalism march, except without the media being able to dodge the issues by focusing on a Winston Churchill statue receiving a turf mohican.

Their expectations
Any club that loses a play-off final will naturally expect to go one better next time...

Our expectations
...but they very rarely do – right, Town fans? Shrewsbury showed tremendous strength to absorb so much pressure from BFSFC in the play-off semis, and resilience like that goes a long way in the fourth division – but over the course of a season it won't go quite far enough without a teensy-weensy bit of attacking flair to make the most of the ballwinners' good work. Our expectations are that the new stadium will be as appalling as everyone else's and Shrewsbury will escape the floods but tread water in finishing ninth.