The last in a six-part series of articles looking at the new sides we’ll be facing again in the 2014/15 season, by Dale Hurman.
Shrewsbury Town were relegated back to League Two after two years in League One. They were promoted in 2011 but endured a tough campaign last time around which saw them finish second bottom of the table.
Some historians believe the town was the site of the capital of Powys in the early Dark Ages and in Anglo-Saxon times became a fortified settlement. Its significant medieval heritage dates back to the start of the 9th century with evidence to show it was home to a mint and its location has meant there have been a number of battles, particularly between the English and the Welsh.
Wool was a major industry throughout the centuries and it became a market town at the beginning of the 18th century. Unlike many towns, the industrial revolution did not bring with it a surge in population and in fact there was a decrease due to the lack of transport links and industry before the railway eventually arrived in 1848.
Shrewsbury suffered very little bombing in the Second World War which meant many of its ancient buildings survived and there was no necessity or desire to redevelop the town unlike many others (including High Wycombe) in the 1960’s and 1970’s. It is known as the “town of flowers” and the flower show saw the Wanderers' opening-day fixture at Gay Meadow switched to the Sunday back at the start of the 1996/97 season.
Naturalist Charles Darwin was born and raised in the town which has a host of famous alumni from Shrewsbury School, including the late radio DJ John Peel and Monty Python’s Michael Palin. Current England goalkeeper Joe Hart was also born in the town and started his career with Salop.
Salop is an alternative name for the town and also the nickname of the football club. They were formed in 1886 and won the Welsh Cup for the first time in 1891. They moved to Gay Meadow in 1910 where they stayed for 97 years before leaving for the New Meadow in 2007.
They spent most of the time in the Birmingham and District League before being elected to the Football League Third Division (North) in 1950 when the Football League was expanded to 92 clubs. Their best ever finish came in the 1984/85 season when they finished 8th in the old second division with 65 points under the guidance of manager Graham Turner.
The low point came in 2003 when the Shrews were relegated from the Football League following a dismal run of form under manager Kevin Ratcliffe, who resigned once relegation was confirmed. Former Northern Ireland manager Jimmy Quinn was handed the task of taking the club straight back up at the first attempt and they finished 3rd in the Conference Premier but beat Aldershot Town in the play-off final at Stoke City’s Britannia Stadium. The game ended all-square at 1-1 after extra time and goalkeeper Scott Howie saved three successive penalties to win the shoot-out 3-0 and seal an immediate return to the Football League.
The first ever meeting between the two sides came in October 1993 in the Wanderers' inaugural Football League campaign. Striker Keith Scott ran onto to Steve Guppy’s through ball to coolly beat visiting goalkeeper Paul Edwards midway through the first half but the visitors snatched a point with an equaliser midway through the second when midfielder Mickey Brown fired high past Paul Hyde from a tight angle.
The last meeting between the sides is unlikely to be forgotten in a hurry. Both sides were chasing automatic promotion from League Two in March 2011 and met at the New Meadow. The hosts took the lead on the half hour when striker James Collins raced clear to fire past Nikki Bull.
There was huge controversy just six minutes into the second half when midfielder Lewis Montrose’s shot was blocked and looped up into the air for Gareth Ainsworth, who sent a header towards the bottom left-hand corner of the net. Shrews goalkeeper Ben Smith scrambled back to scoop the ball away but assistant referee Richard Wigglesworth raised his flag in the mistaken belief the ball had crossed the line and the goal was given.
The game ended all-square at 1-1 and the Chairboys finished in the season in 3rd place in the table, a point ahead of Shrewsbury, and celebrated promotion to League One. A year later Shrewsbury were promoted themselves as runners-up and replaced Wycombe, who were relegated from League One.
Last season was one to forget for the Salopians who slowly slipped down the table before Graham Turner resigned as manager in January following a run of six successive home defeats. Defender Michael Jackson was handed the task of keeping the club up but the rookie boss won just three of his 19 games in charge. They were relegated on the penultimate weekend of the season when they were beaten at home by Peterborough United.
The club’s board took responsibility for the relegation, identifying an over-reliance on the loan market following a failure to recruit the right players. Former Fleetwood Town manager Micky Mellon was appointed as their new manager in May, with Jackson staying on as his assistant.
Mellon enjoyed a lengthy playing career which saw him come up against the Wanderers with the likes of Blackpool, Tranmere Rovers and Burnley. In his first managerial role he took Fleetwood Town from the Conference North to the Football League, with the Cod Army crowned as Conference Premier Champions in 2012.
He has been very busy since taking over last month as he builds a brand new squad capable of challenging for promotion. More than a dozen players have left the club including goalkeeper Chris Weale, midfielder Luke Summerfield and former Wanderers defender Dave Winfield. Player of the season Joe Jacobson has also surprisingly been released.
Mellon has already made a whole host of new signings to date with goalkeepers Jayson Leutwiler and Mark Halstead joining from Middlesbrough and Blackpool respectively. Defenders Nathaniel Knight-Percival, Mark Ellis and Mickey Demetriou and midfielders Ashley Vincent, James Caton and James Wesolowski and striker Scott Vernon have also arrived whilst striker James Collins has re-signed from Hibernian for a second spell.
The likes of defender Jermaine Grandison and midfielder Dave McAllister have been retained and if the new signings can all gel as a team then the Shrews will certainly be ones to watch next season.
We will travel to the New Meadow on Sunday 28th December 2014.
We host the Blues at Adams Park on Saturday 14th March 2015.