Who Are These Jobbers?
There are two things that naturally spring to mind when filing through the mind’s rolodex and picking out the card labelled ‘Shrewsbury Town’. Firstly, it is the image of a lion that has the pained helplessness look of someone who has returned from posting a letter to find their car being towed away adorning their club crest between 2007 and 2015.
Secondly, is the scene of a portly Nigel Jemson curling a sumptuous free-kick over the head of an acne-riddled Wayne Rooney in an FA Cup tie. As Delroy Facey was bodying a Sunderland reserve team in front of precisely 14 people at the Reebok Stadium, Jemson was carving his name into Salopian folklore.
The then third division (that’s League Two, for all you youngsters) side took a Premier League Everton team to task. Played on the ploughed field of The Shrews’ beloved Gay Meadow in freezing temperatures, Big Nige inspired the plucky lower-leaguers to triumph following up his delicious free-kick with a flicked header to send Shropshire barmy and embarrassed their former player and all-round charlatan David Moyes.
Naturally, Shrewsbury were due a slice of karma for this moment of delight and were swiftly leathered by Chelsea in the fourth round and were relegated to the Conference at the end of the season. However, the stay in non-league was short-lived as Trevor Challis’ penalty a year later returned Shrewsbury to the Football League.
In recent years, The Shrews have enjoyed a modicum of success under manager Paul Hurst, culminating in reaching both the Checkatrade Trophy and League One play-off final last season - losing both (lol). Hurst left for Ipswich Town and is doing absolutely terribly while Shrewsbury turned to one-cap England semi-pro legend John Askey.
While Shrewsbury may look like a charming historic town, there is a vicious underbelly as it is one half of the “nineteenth fiercest rivalry in English football”, according to the Daily Telegraph. What? You’ve never heard of the A49 Derby? You mean, you have never heard of the animosity between Shrewsbury and Hereford United/Hereford FC? Do you not remember the mass brawl in 2010 where 25 (TWENTY-FIVE) police officers had to be deployed?
You do not know what you’re missing.
In Shrewsbury’s illustrious history they have never managed to beat Sunderland. While they have not met in the league since 1989, they were felled by footballing wunderkind Adnan Januzaj in an emphatic 1-0 win for Davey Moyes’ red and white wizards in 2016.
What’s The Ground Like?
Like so many of brethren in this hellscape division, Shrewsbury Town decided in the late-90s that the best course of action to succeed was to up sticks and move to the outskirts of town. They swapped the unmistakable charm of Gay Meadow with its crumbling terraces, picturesque riverside location and annual flooding for a soulless Meccano-style abode in the middle of a car park.
While still not reaching the same incredulous levels of Coventry’s Ricoh Arena, the New Meadow (or Montgomery Waters Meadow) is as soulless as they come. Situated around three miles from the town walls, it shares its space with a Sainsbury’s Bank office, an Argos and a McDonald’s on the Meole Brace Retail Park.
It features four standalone stands ensuring that any atmosphere generated is lost to the elements (think a much smaller version of Stoke’s Bet365 Stadium). However, one thing that the New Meadow does have in its favour is that it is the first football stadium in England to introduce safe standing - an initiative we can only hope gains momentum across the Football League.
Our mad lads and lasses are housed in the DM Recruitment Stand where Jack Ross’ red and white wizards will be backed by another sell-out allocation.
How Do I Get There?
Now that the sweet sojourn to Bradford is out of the way, it is back to the absolute slog of getting to another footballing outpost of the British Isles. Many of you will have already had to look at a map just to know whereabouts Shrewsbury is, so I better guide you as best I can. Rev the engines, boys and girls, because we’re going to Shropshire.
Take the A1 (M) to junction 35 near Doncaster exiting for the M18 and subsequent M1 until junction 28 where you need to join the A38. Leave just after Lichfield for the M6 Toll (sorry, cheapskates) heading west until junction T8 when you need to take the A460 towards Wolverhampton. Join the M54 to Telford and follow this as it becomes the A5 heading into Shrewsbury. Take the third exit at the roundabout onto the B4380 and follow the signs for the Montgomery Waters Meadow. Parking is available at the ground for £7.
Should you get lost, plop SY2 6ST into your sat nav.
Shrewsbury Railway Station is a sweet, sweet two miles away from the stadium but is relatively well served by public transport (look and learn Coventry). From the station, you can catch a park & ride bus which will drop you off at Meole Brace Retail Park opposite the stadium.
Alternatively, you can take a Football Special Bus Service from the town centre bus station. The number 8, 16, 23, 25 and 544/546 all also stop by the stadium. If not, it’s a 40-minute walk.
Where Can I Get The Sesh Started?
Shrewsbury’s decision to plonk the Montgomery Waters Meadow in a field next to a railway line has made pre-match refreshment within striking distance of the ground problematic. The only near-ish pub is The Charles Darwin on Sutton Road and even that is a 20-minute walk away, although the club do now put on a fanzone outside the stadium where you can sup until your heart’s content.
As Shropshire’s premier township, Shrewsbury has plenty of alehouses for you to whet your proverbial whistle. Go proper posh and sup al fresco with charming views over the River Severn at The Armoury on Victoria Quay, enjoy a slice of historical Shrewsbury with a pint in The Hole in the Wall on Shoplatch which was built on the site of a 13th century mansion and was a favourite haunt of travelling performers in the 16th century.
Moments from Shrewsbury railway station is The Alb on Smithfield Road, a cosy traditional pub serving belting ale and belting-er food. Also close to the station is similarly named The Albion Vaults on Castle Foregate which is described as having a “pleasant atmosphere”. The Loggerheads on Church Street is also a delightful public house which has stood in Shrewsbury since 1780 and takes it names from the three leopard faces’ on the town’s coat of arms.
Another fantastic thing about Shrewsbury is that should you have too many jugs of Woo Woo in the town’s Wetherspoons, The Shrewsbury Hotel, you can even stay the night.
I’m Staying Owa Is There Owt To Do?
Shrewsbury is bloody lovely. From the Tudor buildings to the town walls, this Shropshire hamlet is just bloody lovely. Should you have been tempted by a stay at the nation’s first Wetherspoons hotel, then you are in for a hell of a treat when you arise on Sunday morning.
You can start your tour at Shrewsbury Castle which has been the focal point of the town since the 11th century. Wander the picturesque grounds, see where the big dawg William the Conqueror would hang out before slipping into the Shropshire Regimental Museum and see weapons, medals and uniforms dating back as far as the 18th century.
Trace the life of Salopian Charles Darwin to the father of evolution’s home of Mount House. Big Charlie’s abode has not changed a bit since he was knocking about in 1800s, you can tell by the offices that now take its place. However, you can still frolic through Darwin Gardens with willful abandon if you so wish.
You could also see the building where Darwin was educated - although it is now Shrewsbury Library - or you could swing by the iconic Old Market Hall, which has stood in the town since 1596 and now operates as a contemporary cinema.
You could see all these famous landmarks, you could. However, if you really are an elite Massive Lads Fans you will be making a beeline for Salop Leisure. This is the mecca of mobile homes you have been looking for. Spread over its state-of-the-art showroom and service centre you will touring caravans, motorhomes and static caravans in abundance. It is no wonder that the big hitters of ABI, Swift and Willerby are so horny to be featured on this iconic lot.