Old memories of the far right

“Hope not Hate …. warned of a particular potential flashpoint on Saturday in Leeds, … as well as in towns such as Shrewsbury, which is home to a Clive of India statue as well as the English Border Front, a football hooligan firm of the League One club Shrewsbury Town” – from the Guardian, 12th June..

A bit surprised by this and a bit disappointed. Our most popular fanzine site is a tad bemused. 
Have to be careful to dismiss what I may not know enough about, but I think Shrewsbury fans are not tied in with the far right.  
I remember the EBF turning up for a match at Fulham in the ’80s and the Police deciding they had grounds to evict them before the match even started. “You came looking for trouble and you got it” was the shout from some Salop fans stood in front of me.

Now, there are issues of racism to deal with in football. We have come a long way from the gorilla chanting deemed a legitimate tactic to put opposition players off, to a long-standing realisation that the club depends on the success of all our players, including our black players.  
A relegation from the Football League was staved off by the attacking flair of our first black player hero and I believe that we had the first black captain of any English club in a competitive Wembley final.  

This season, BBCtv coverage of our tie with Liverpool featured our current very special link with Grenada – we have 4 of their internationals – my sister stood by the President of their FA whilst he was interviewed on tv and I was shown showing their flag during the game.

The club was very quick to declare support for Black Lives Matter and blacked out its Twitter logo on that Tuesday.

As for the Clive of India statue, maybe retaining it for display is now an issue for the people of Shrewsbury to discuss (I’d replace it with a statue of Hilda Murrell who developed the world famous “Peace” rose). 

My point here is not to address all the issues that BLM raises or the other issues raised elsewhere including the struggle of black players to be successful in club management.

Simply to say the assertion that Salop fans are associated with the far right is a misjudgement and is unfair.

Salop finish 15th

Going up one place based on the PPG system, which at 53.06 can’t mean points per game can it?
I hadn’t expected play-offs to be retained, but can understand that they are games that can command TV revenues.
Apparently Peterborough United are distressed at not being awarded 6th, to which I can only say, get a grip.

Postscript: and then the farewells to players and offers to others.

Negotiating the end of the Football Season

It seems much more likely now that the football season cannot be completed.
So how to decide the outcomes? By discussion and negotiation it seems. Unprecedented. Subject to legal challenge!
Yet a finish has to be negotiated.
Otherwise Liverpool have to be told they were not the champions of the current top tier despite their brilliant season.
OK, “Leeds were due to fall apart again before the end of the season as normal”! Joke.
If you apply the principle of deciding by points per game, enabling the return to normal size leagues to make up for the loss of Bury, and not allocating the play-off places, a reasonable set of outcomes drop into place.
(Play-offs kinda run against the grain of football justice in the first place, but the competition for those extra places happened to have been very close this season.)
So these are my recommendations –

\Premiership – Liverpool;
Relegated- Norwich, then Aston Villa;
Champions – Leeds and promoted – West Brom;
Relegated Luton, Barnsley;
League 1 champions – Coventry, promoted Rotherham;
Relegated – Southend and Bolton;
League 2 champions – Crewe & Swindon as joint champions, promoted Plymouth;
Relegated – Stevenage;
National League Champions – Barrow; promoted Harrogate. 
(Note – this is based on a posting in Facebook I made on 2nd April.)

This is harshest on Aston Villa, cos they had a game in hand – the most debatable of all the calls.  (One analysis of predicted results suggests Bournemouth would fall below them.)
(And maybe Swindon would be declared Champions – it’s just that they’re currently 2nd.)
(I also wonder if prizes for place finishes need to be evened up given the uncertainties of where clubs might have finished.)

And perhaps the FA Cup can be finished as a pre-season tournament …
FA Cup 2019-20 – Quarter-Final Draw
Sheffield United vs. Arsenal
Newcastle United vs. Manchester City
Norwich City vs. Manchester United.
Leicester City vs. Chelsea

Alf Wood and Ricky Moir

Salop squad from 1972.
Alf Wood is front row centre; Ricky Moir to his left.
Photo from Shropshire Star.

From this squad was the Salop team drawn that I first saw in October 1971 and in April 1972.
The following September, I was old enough to go to watch them on my own.
Front and centre was Alf Wood, who joined us from Manchester City, and who Harry Gregg famously transformed from centre-back to top scoring centre-forward. And he became a Salop football legend. Someone you talked about with your school mates, especially when they beat Blackburn Rovers 7-1. (And he was sold in the summer of 1972, so I can’t remember him playing.)
He has died after a long-illness, from a condition that his family has described as football related; his ability to dominate in the air was special.
Next to him, Ricky Moir who has also died from dementia, 3 days previous.
Both from an era when Salop were seen as entertaining. And even though this was 48 years ago, I am probably more able to name these players than the current squad. The kit too was special, cos it was the first kit to carry the county’s loggerheads and the second kit not to use any white – a consensus after all these years has now settled on blue and amber with loggerheads.

Squad photo features –
Sandy Brown, Jim Holton, Peter Dolby, Tony Gregory;
Geoff Fellows, Ken Mulhearn, Gerry Bridgwood, John Moore;
Dave Roberts, Geoff Andrews, Alf Wood, Rick Moir, Alan Groves.
(Underline indicates I remembered!)

Harry Gregg

Harry Gregg at Shrewsbury; died 16th Feb., 2020

Harry Gregg was the manager for the first Shrewsbury Town games I saw.
I remember the shock that he resigned over the sales of Alf Wood to Millwall and then Alan Groves to Bournemouth.

Remembered of course for his big achievements with Northern Ireland and Manchester United. 
On tragedy, worth reflecting upon how he lost his first wife very early, and a daughter.
And on his role in the aftermath (saving 2 players, and expectant mother and her 1 year old baby of the aeroplane coach at Munich Airport) George Best remarked that not only was it the act of bravery, but also an act of goodness.

BBC: Former Manchester United goalkeeper Harry Gregg, hailed as a hero of the 1958 Munich air disaster, dies at the age of 87.
Shropshire Star.
Interview with Coleraine Times.

Salop Goal Disallowed for Offside

It’s not VAR that’s wrong, it’s assuming the technology can be that accurate or that it interprets the spirit that was intended

Liverpool’s Under-23s beat Salop and it emphasises again how clubs like Liverpool have 70 time Salop’s turnover. So Klopp could comfortably decide not to use the first team, or even there reserves.
Salop’s manager didn’t defend the players after the game, so why should I?
But there was a period after Udoh coming on when we finally looked like we could be a threat. And the build-up to the disallowed goal was pacy, skilful, imaginative and high-impact – Udoh making the telling penetration. And now having seen VAR in action, it is the shock when you realise the goal is even being checked when none of the Liverpool’s players had appealed. But the video frame shows a full-back, running back to knock the ball back before the lob to Udoh, had his right foot in offside position. Yep, unlucky.
Unfortunate too, that Salop’s keeper, who’d been excellent came for a cross way out when the centre-half (being shadowed by a forward) just had to deal with it.  The resultant own goal was embarrassing.

Salop come back from 2 down against Liverpool Reserves after playing The Joker

Jason Cummings is known as The Joker and he scored 2 goals after coming on as a sub

I predicted a dismal occasion expecting even a Liverpool Reserves side to outmatch us. And was correct for 46 minutes.
So what did we learn?
01. Bill Shankley said, all those years ago, that there were only 2 teams in Liverpool – Liverpool and Liverpool Reserves;
02. the Liverpool Reserves did contain a number of first team players, either out of favour or recovering from injury;
03. (Post-match, we now know) Wolves shared the tactics they’d tried to use against Liverpool the previous Thursday, based on taking advantage of Liverpool’s use of a “high line”; but Salop missed a number of the resulting first-half chances;
04. when Salop conceded a second goal in the first minute of the second half, the expected soulless thrashing seemed on the cards;
05. Liverpool’s defence started playing around with the ball along their back line;
06. Lang had made some great runs, and the decision to replace him with Jason Cummings was booed;
07. Laurent’s runs were getting stronger and one of them led to him being chopped own in the box; Jason Cummings scored the penalty;
08. Salop’s on-loan keeper made an extraordinary save to both stop, and then pick-up, an on target long range shot, before booting a long ball down the field when …
09. Liverpool’s tall and experienced no. 32, Joel Matip, was outjumped by our much shorter winger, Whalley, and The Joker latched onto the flicked on header to beat 2 defenders and score the second;
10. the excitement saw Salop players run to the BBC studio, where Joe Hart was a guest and was picked out by Dave Edwards, acting team captain;
11. Liverpool brought on 3 first team players from the subs bench;
12. both sides had chances to win, and after the match the Salop manager chastised the players cos he sensed they’d wanted the reply rather than the win;
13. the on the pitch invasion was regretted by Joe Hart, but it was seen as harmless and highlight was an 8-year-old in bright Salop goalkeeper kit skipping off the field, head lolling from side to side, in exhausted exhilaration.

It was so much more of an occasion that I could have ever imagined, cos even though it was their reserves, their wage bill would still have been. much higher than for our players and we had gone 2-0 down.
Like last season, the FA Cup ties are likely to have been our highlights of the season. We know one of only 6 clubs will win the FA Cup, but knock-out football can bring something extra out from teams.
Watching the unedited football on TV afterwards, you can relate to the players so much more, and the character of Jason Cummings shone.
Good humoured – and calming explaining that the Old Firm Derby had been a bigger experience for him. Happy too to explain calmly that he was a sub cos he’s coming back from injury.
And he has this thing about The Joker – the Heath Ledger version is tattooed on his thigh, and a smile on the V of the back of his hand which he put across his mouth when he scored.
Fans had a banner proclaiming The Joker at the match, and he featured in 2 Guardian cartoons in the following days.

Salop and Grenada together on the BBC

The flag of Grenada on show at the New Gay Meadow

My sister met the President of Grenada FA just before his half-time interview with BBCtv.
My nephew saw the special relationship developing before many and bought the Grenada flag to show at Shrewsbury matches some time ago.
I made a point of displaying it during Salop’s attacks towards our end in the second half.

Salop and Grenada are 70 to 1 against

Here are the results from the forthcoming 4th round –
Shrewsbury Town £6.5m, Liverpool £455m.
Our respective turnovers.
(A factor of 70.)
Ah yes, but it’s 11 v 11 on the pitch and anything can happen. Hmmm.  

Liverpool came weeks late to the Gay Meadows in the nineties – our pitch had been waterlogged. Bob Paisley had just died and the ceremony on the pitch in a cold wind was poor. We were thrashed 4-0, which our manager described as a bit naughty.

Against these monsters of modern football, there is more a sense of dread than anticipation.
And to win the Cup, we were kinda hoping that someone else would knock Liverpool out before us.

vs Peterborough United, 5th November 2019

I have previously tried to explain how Salop have ended up with 4 Grenadan internationals (‘tho note, Wiki cite only 3 – Omar Beckles, Ollie Norburn and Aaron Pierre; others include Ro-Shawn Williams)). And that some time ago, my nephew, Thomas Miles Corbett, had bought their flag, which I was displaying at the Peterborough game.  
It now turns out that the President of the Grenadan FA is coming to the Liverpool match (FA Cup 4th round) and we’re meeting him before the match. Joy indeed.
He calls Grenadan players the SpiceBoyz.
The game is on the BBC on Sunday at teatime and we’ll be in the safe standing section (to the top left of the right hand goal as the TV cameras show it).

Friends keep suggesting a possible giant-killing. We have caused genuine shocks. Vs Everton, when we were fourth tier – the Gay Meadows was cold and muddy. Vs Manchester City, (“and what a revelation Shrewsbury have been”), when we were third tier but doing very well – the Gay Meadow was cold and hard underfoot. Vs Ipswich Town, in ’82 and ’84, when we had developed Fortress Meadows and they were regular top half of the top tier. More recently, knocking out second tier – notably Cardiff City (away), Sheffield Wednesday, Stoke City (away) and Bristol City, but not “giant-killing”. Clashes with Man U, Chelsea and Liverpool have been less pretty. So don’t bet on Salop winning – a scoreless draw is the best you might get.

Tired Premiership and Punditry

Chatted to a long-standing Salop fan and friend and we both found we don’t watch the Premiership.
It’s partly the terrestrial broadcasting – short highlights with no sense of how the game really pans out.
The commentating – too easily set to 11.
The manager interviews and the punditry. Little to no insight. Blaming VAR. Mourinho – once quite a wit – now managing the most profitable club’s team and blaming others’ stupidity for losing to a bottom of the table club.
The Premiership’s chance to show off at the European Cup Final was flat too. Kinda ruined by decisions whereby a cross hit a chest point blank and was deflected into an arm and a penalty was given. They should revise handball when a non-goal bound ball is deflected onto the arm.
The whinging about VAR. Some sympathy over the marginal nature of the offside decision – cos the technology is slightly out of step with reality – the precise moment of strike and the judgments against arms and feet implies a precision that isn’t there and ain’t in the spirit of being level – tolerances on the measurement should be introduced.
But don’t dismiss VAR, don’t revoke it and don’t go on about it.

Such tittle tattle.  Punditry used to be better.

I remember Brian Clough on TV, in response the total football of the Netherlands (1978 always playing for offside as a legitimate tactic to regain the ball, calling for offside to be abolished.  
Now there’s a real opinion.  
So the real challenge is not to explain how the offside rule works, but to explain why it’s needed.